Northern Plains Via de Cristo of North Dakota

Written by Rhonda J. Hawley

Who are we?

We are organized exclusively for charitable, religious, and educational purposes, including, for such purposes, the making of distributions to organizations that qualify as exempt organizations under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, or the correspondingsection of any future federal tax code.

The mission of this organization shall include:

1. To change our world based on the person and teachings of Jesus Christ.

2. To present a highly structured weekend experience based on Via de Cristo® Essentials and Methods to strengthen and renew the faith of individuals, strengthen and renew their families, congregations, communities and other people in their lives.

3. To provide and promote an on-going means of perseverance in the member’s life in the 4th Day following the weekend experience.

We provide encouragement and methods for Christians to strengthen their faith, grow as believers, renew with other Christians, and live the life that God has intended… in Grace and Love, with the purpose of being salt and light to our families, our communities and to the world. 

We ARE NOT a church… we are here to help strengthen and encourage faith WITHIN the church.

We ARE NOT here to take members away from any church… we are here to support and inspire through the work of the Holy Spirit.

We ARE NOT a religion… we are here to help build up and boost Christians from all walks of life to Live and Serve like Jesus in all areas of our lives… even OUTSIDE the church.

Our members are Children of God who have passion and compassion for All of God’s Children… and have the desire to GROW in relationship with God through Piety, Prayer, Study and Apostolic Action.

We exist to BUILD UP and help GROW Lay Leadership within the Church.

It’s this simple… be a friend, make a friend, bring a friend to Christ.

We are recognized as a part of the National Lutheran Secretariat of Via de Cristo.

We are recognized as an extension of Faith Formation by the Eastern North Dakota Synod of the ELCA.

by Rhonda J. Hawley

What does it mean to "belong"?

Have you seen the picture of a church building that has been shared often on social media, with the caption, "Church is not something you go to. It's a family you belong to."?  I like it, and I agree with its statement. But I have a question.  If you believe in the message of this picture, then how do you live out your faith? What does it mean to "belong to" the church family?

There are a lot of people now-a-days that are not involved with the church as a whole. Whether we talk about the "Nones" or the "Dones". They don't participate in worship regularly or very many other church activities and in some cases, none at all. They believe in God, but not in the institution of church. Or some say they are spiritual but not religious. And I often hear or see those same people using the statement in this meme or the statement "I'd rather be the church than go to church."

So, if people are not interested in attending worship and other ministries of the church, what does it mean to "be" the church? If the church is a family that you "belong to", what does "belong to" mean?

I like the church, it's traditions and being involved in the church. But I also believe in the statement of this meme and in "being" the church in daily life. I also understand and believe that the church has to be open to rethinking some of the ways that we "be" the church. The message of the Gospel hasn't changed and our mission from Jesus Christ hasn't changed, but how we live that mission out daily has. And for many going to church (which for most, means going to worship) or being involved in a church isn't relevant anymore, so what does this meme and others like it really mean to those who "like" & share it on social media?

As we celebrate the 500th year since the reformation, let’s think about how God is reforming the church now and for the next 500 years.  I think the word “belong” needs some thoughtful prayer, consideration and caring conversation by those deeply involved in the church, the leaders of the church and with those who are considered “Nones” & “Dones”.  As there was 500 years ago, when Martin Luther nailed his thoughts & questions to the church door, there are many people outside the church doors today who “belong” to a church, but are not “going to” or involved in a church family.  Or at least not in the way that those inside the church doors see it.  And many of them also don’t feel welcome inside the church doors.  The Reformation continues!  What does it mean to “belong” to the church family?  How does faith formation need to be reformed?  If you are willing to share your thoughts I would love to listen and have a caring conversation with anyone interested whether on our Facebook Group or in person.  Thanks.

Deacon Jamie Travers, St. Olaf Lutheran Church, Devils Lake, ND

Faith Formation Travel to the Holy Land

There are so many things in my life today that I never dreamed I would be doing.

I used to go for walks near the farm where we used to live. I would walk to a little country church and wander through the cemetery thinking, “Wouldn’t it be fun to pastor a church like this?” All while never believing it could be true.

I have a theory in my relationship with God. I think that if I say, “I will never (insert item here).” God takes it and makes it happen. I was never going to be a pastor (I have been one for 2 ½ years now). I was never going to live in North Dakota (I’ve been here since 1991). My kids were never going to play hockey (two of them did for a total of 12 years). I was never going to do foster care or adopt children (yeah, that’s happening too). And we won’t even talk about the Buick I used to drive and the split-level house I used to live in.

And when I say things like, “Wouldn’t it be fun to travel to the Holy Land?” I say it with such doubt. I never, ever believe that it is even a possibility. But God seems to have a sense of humor in my life.

By the way, that country church where I wandered through the cemetery? Yeah, I serve there!

I think that’s one of the most amazing take-aways from my trip to the Holy Land 4 years ago. God can do and does amazing things. I had to pinch myself every day while I was there to believe that it was actually coming true.

The trip itself was a whirlwind of sights and sounds and smells and tastes. From the bread of the Arab market to the sounds of singing in the ancient cathedrals to the smells at the Dead Sea, it all defines that place where Jesus stepped on the earth.

As I sat on a boat on the waters of the Sea of Galilee, I looked to the shore to the north of us and saw where Jesus fed the 5000 and preached the Beatitudes. I could see across the water to the shore where Jesus healed the Geresene demoniac and sent the demon-possessed pigs off the cliff. I could imagine a storm coming up quickly and the distant shores being erased by the clouds and rain. It all took my breath away. I could feel those stories changing inside me. They were so much more than the words in a bible on a Sunday morning. They began to come to life in front of me. They made Jesus come to life in front of me.

I know that not everyone is cut out to travel around the world and walk in the land of the bible (and the land of the two other Abrahamic faiths). But I want you to take a lesson from God’s work in my life. Amazing things are possible – even for doubters and naysayers like me. A friend of mine who just adopted two kids told me yesterday that her life was a beautiful mess. I think that is a great description of my life too. Once I surrendered the vision I had and admitted that maybe God’s vision was okay too, I can finally see the beauty in this crazy mess!

I hope God has a sense of humor in your life too. I hope that you find yourself in places you never dreamed you would be. And I hope that God uses you in ways you never thought were possible!

Pastor Sarah Raymond, Grand Forks Rural Parish

It was such a profound trip for me that I am planning to go back this fall. If you would like to find out more, click on the link below or give me a call, text or email! My cell is 701-740-1651

Recasting the Net

At one of our Synod Faith Formation Team meetings Luke 5:1-11 was read for devotions and as we were talking about faith formation in our churches and synod these are some of the thoughts that I had about what this text says to us about faith formation today.  I think Jesus is calling us to rethink how we do faith formation or in other words Jesus is calling us to "recast our nets".

Luke 5:1"…Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God"

  • Even though people are not physically pressing in on our church doors to be involved in our churches, crowds of people are still pressing in on Jesus to hear the word of God.  People are still longing for and searching for meaning, to be a part of something, to make a difference.  They are longing to be spiritual.

Luke 5: 2-3   "He saw 2 boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.  He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore.  Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

  • Jesus is still in our midst, among the people, active and teaching.  Are we going to join in, jump in the boat with him or are we just going to sit on the beach?
  • We not only need each other but we especially need God.  A reminder of our Lutheran faith, heritage and understanding.

Luke 5: 4-5   "When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, 'Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.' Simon answered, 'Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing.'"

  • We think we know how to fish and we tell God we know what to do.  We have our own mission and goals.  We continue to try to fish in old ways and our own ways.  Ways that might have worked at one time, but now Jesus is teaching us a new way to fish for people.

Luke 5: 5-7   "'Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.' When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them.  And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink."

  • They signaled their partners to come.  Our partners in ministry are signaling us to come and help.  All need to work together in the synod, in the church.
  • In her book, "Family Ministry- A Comprehensive Guide, 2nd Edition" Diana Garland explains on page 102, that Jesus' calling of his disciples was based on a very different image of fishing then what we think of.
"The church is Jesus' net - a great big web of relationships that folds people in, gathering them into the net, into the community of faith.  We fish not in isolation, as lone fishers in hip boots wading into swift water by ourselves.  Instead, it is the relationships between us- the 'network' of families and community - that draw others into the community that is the body of Christ.  In our me-centered world, it is the relationships of the saints one to another that are most likely to draw people in.  It is our loving and caring network of connections with one another.  Jesus said that the world should know us by our love for one another (John 13:35).  This is the good news for our world: God intends none of us to be alone, but to be a part of a loving family.  This fishing image suggests the basic tasks of family ministry.  First, everyone in the community must be woven into family relationships, even those who are isolated and without family as the world sees family.  Second, we have to mend the frays and tears in the net.  We have to work on relationships in the community, young and old, keeping the connections strong and repairing damage when it happens.  Finally we are not satisfied simply to display a strong and well-woven net; it is meant to be used for fishing.  The purpose of our net-working is not simply to satisfy ourselves that we have a good net; it is to be tossed into the sea to draw in others.  We have to toss our relationships as God's people into the sea, taking them into a society where people feel like they are swimming alone in deep waters and need to be folded in."

Luke 5:8-10"But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, 'Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!' For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, son of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.

  • Again we are reminded that we not only need each other but we especially need God.  A reminder of our Lutheran faith, heritage and understanding.

Luke 5:10-11   "Then Jesus said to Simon, 'Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people."  When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him."

  • The calling of ministry to fish for people, especially in this post-Christendom world is hard and can be scary.  But we don't do it alone or without guidance.  Christ tells us, "Do not be afraid!" and the Holy Spirit guides us together as the church, freed and forgiven to new ministries of living, hearing, sharing, proclaiming, serving and striving for justice and peace in all the world.

As Diana Garland suggests in Luke 5 Jesus calls us to be church together, a network.  To make sure everyone is welcome and a part of the net and we are to care for the net, mending frays & tears in the net (improving communication & collaboration). And we are to use the net for fishing (enhancing current ministries and starting new ones, develop and multiply youth and young adult leaders).  As a Faith Formation Network and Team in our synod and as Faith Formation Leaders in our churches and ministries these are the things Jesus is calling us to do.  And to do them together.

Jamie Travers, AiM