Pastor Suzi’s Take on Mission Work
On behalf of the Global Missions committee, I wanted to take the opportunity to learn about Pastor Suzi Orlopp’s experiences with, and perspectives of, global and local missions.
Local and Global Mission Work
As a youth in the church where Pastor Suzi was baptized and confirmed in Wisconsin, she had the opportunity to do local missions associated with their sister church, Hepatha Lutheran Church, in Milwaukee. Hepatha Church was located in the inner city in which there was much crime and violence. The minister of the church declared its borders “Holy Ground”, and was a color-less, crime-free and violence-free safe zone. Pastor Suzi’s church would work with Hepatha Church on a monthly basis to help its community with various needs. For example, June was a cereal drive (an easy meal for children to prepare in the summer while not in school), and October was ‘Socktober’ in which they would collect and distribute socks for those in need.
At Pastor Suzi’s church in Jamestown, ND (where she served her previous call), the congregation focused more on relationship-based missions. For example, her church nurtured a partnership with the Central African Republic, and raised funds for pastors to have motorcycles so they wouldn’t have to walk from congregation to congregation, and to assist their congregations with dire transportation emergencies.
She would take youth groups to local Native American reservations to provide opportunities for the youth of both communities to build relationships. Pastor Suzi also took a group of high school students on a service trip to the Bahamas to the All Saint’s Camp. This ‘camp’ was a place where people on the fringes of society – who had been rejected by society and their families due to HIV/AIDS or other ailments – have a home. The youth group helped to build a cabin at the camp, but this mission also offered opportunities to form connections with the people at the camp.
Mission That Influenced the Trajectory of Her Life
The church she grew up in also presented Pastor Suzi with the opportunity to be a part of a unique mission in her early college years to a church, Fe y Esperanza (Faith and Hope translated in English), located just outside of San Salvador in El Salvador.
The group of approximately 12 congregation members embarked on a 2-week trip. One goal of this trip was to be international election observers. The country’s civil war had ended about 5 to 6 years prior, and the mission team was there to observe the second democratic election. When Pastor Suzi and others first saw big black X’s through the political parties’ logos on the billboards, they thought the citizens were defacing the billboards. This, however, was not the case. Because many of the people could not read or write, they were depicting how the citizens would need to vote. On their ballots, there would be pictures of the logos, and to vote, the people would draw a black X on the logo that they were voting for. What was also interesting was that the voters would need to dip their finger in ink to their second knuckle. This ink would last for 8 days and was an indicator that they had already voted so that they were unable to vote again.
While the election was one part of the trip, the primary goal of this mission was to listen and to start building bridges (i.e., relationships, partnerships) with their sister church. The mission team found it quite ironic and had goose bumps to hear the answer of Fe y Esperanza when they asked what their biggest dream/need was. The church shared that their greatest need was for a bridge to be built so that students no longer had to cross 65mph traffic to get to school. The mission team and congregation helped raise funds to build a bridge, but then also helped make that bridge part of a self-sustaining income by allowing for billboard space to be sold on the bridge.
The mission team also had the opportunity to interact with the leader of the church, Bishop Gomez, who had just returned from exile. Despite his return, the bishop was still in fear for his life and one of the only ways to keep him safe was for people to escort him everywhere he went (it was believed that he would not be killed if he was in the presence of people from other countries, mainly white people), and Pastor Suzi fulfilled that role for the bishop. This was a pivotal moment in her life where she began to realize that she wanted to become a pastor. This was also the time that she fell in love with the ministry of accompaniment, and that was how she wanted to go about her ministry—walking alongside her congregation in their faith.
When asked what she would say to someone who may think global mission efforts should be of lower priority when there are so many people in our own country that need physical and spiritual support, Pastor Suzi wisely replied, “There has to be a balance…reaching out past our borders provides us the opportunity to come into contact with other cultures and walks of life. We all are people of God—not just those who look like us.”
‘Bucket List’ Mission Destination
Although Pastor Suzi is open to where ever God may lead in regards to serving on a global perspective, she is drawn to Haiti due to her personal connections there. She lost a close friend in Haiti who was killed in a 2010 earthquake. Another friend, who was in a different part of the country, survived many days of living off very little water, rice and beans all shared by the locals. She realizes that many people assume what Haiti (and many other locations) needs versus asking what current needs/wants are, and asking would be of utmost importance to her should there be an opportunity to serve in Haiti.
Engaging in Global Missions
When asked what suggestions she had for youth and adults who want to engage and help with global missions but may not be able to participate in a physical mission such as Mission Jamaica or AKCLI in Zambia, Pastor Suzi provided some thoughtful ideas:
- Support those traveling with prayer to prepare their hearts and eyes to see what God wants them to see. Also pray for the people they are traveling to serve.
- Contribute financially, if able.
- Identify your talents and determine how you can use your passions to help others.
Fun Facts About Pr Suzi
I was born and raised, baptized and confirmed a Lutheran.
Fondest Church Memory
Oh how do I pick just one…a fondest memory of church when I was growing up was participating in the annual musical. We performed many Psalty The Singing Song Book musicals, for a few in a row I was one of Psalty’s daughters.
Favorite Bible Story
My favorite Bible story is the Woman at the Well (John 4), a story that I cling to often, as it offers the reminder that no matter what I have done, Jesus knows me and loves me.
Once again, how do I pick just one…one of the most instrumental people in my faith journey was my grandfather. He lived his faith, with words and actions, he simply embodied his faith. He was the first one to speak the words to me, “you will be a pastor one day.” Beyond my grandpa, I could go on and on about different people, but one of the most inspirational times in my life was my days at camp, both as a camper and as a staff member.
In November I, and my trusty companion Louie (a lab/terrier mix), relocated to Buffalo from Jamestown, ND. In Jamestown, I served for 7 years as the pastor for Faith Formation at St. John’s Lutheran Church. Prior to living in Jamestown, I lived in Dubuque, IA as I obtained by degree from Wartburg Theological Seminary. Before Dubuque, I lived in Stevens Point, WI where I received my Bachelors of Science from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. While attending undergrad, I worked at a Lutheran camp during the summer months and on weekends during the school year.
One that comes to mind, but is not the only rewarding part of my previous call, is: as part of my previous call I worked with young adults at a local college. As part of this ministry, we would journey on a spring break trip every year to help build a house with Habitat for Humanity. The opportunity to watch young people discover how to serve others while enjoying themselves was amazing. I am in awe of people who choose to spend time working for others when they could easily be doing something just for themselves.
The easy answer here is God. The longer answer will take up more pages than this newsletter. However, I can say I took the call to Zion because it felt like God was leading me, I felt it was time for a change, and I feel like my gifts and skills will be used well here.
This move has given me the chance to be located much closer to my brother, sister-in-law, and 2 nieces, who live on the south side of Minneapolis. It has also cut the distance in half between myself and my parents, who still reside in my hometown of West Bend, WI.
When I am not at church I enjoy watching movies, crocheting, playing board games, running and anything outside. I also enjoy taking Louie for walks, exploring local cafes and restaurants, and reading (usually with a cup of coffee in hand).