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[Pacific Lutheran Scene]

Leadership and Service

Rainbow of Gifts nurtures a new generation of leaders


TRADITIONS TAKE CENTER STAGE: Native American students demonstrate a traditional dance during the annual Rainbow of Gifts conference. Participants from a variety of ethnic backgrounds have the opportunity to share their heritage during the weeklong event.

Lutheran youth from throughout Region I of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will converge on campus July 29 to August 2 for a week of fellowship, multicultural events and activities and leadership training known as Rainbow of Gifts.

While the event might sound similar to many sponsored by various Northwest synods through-out the year, this program differs in one impor-tant— and groundbreaking—respect: the majority of the conference’s participants are youth of color.

University Pastor Dennis Sepper and Registrar Julia Pomerenk ’83 have joined Dave Ellingson of the ELCA Region I office in coordinating the annual event, which enters its fourth year in 2001.

Rainbow of Gifts is unique to Region I of the ELCA, and grew out of conversations about how to develop more minority leaders within the Lutheran church. About 100 participants, ranging in age from junior high to young adulthood are participating in the program.

“There are so few minority leaders within the church that we tend to burn them out,” Sepper said. “We realized our particular synod, because of Alaska, a high Native American population and a high Hispanic population, has a lot of these underrepresented people. Then we asked ourselves, ‘Why don’t we start a youth leadership program for these students?’”

The resulting program, he said, gives students the opportunity to be in the majority, many for the first time in their lives. It also gives PLU and Trinity Lutheran College in Issaquah, Wash., the opportunity to connect with bright, talented young people.

Two Rainbow of Gifts students enrolled at Trinity Lutheran College last fall, Sepper said, and he hopes PLU will also attract Rainbow graduates.

“It’s fun to be in a room on the PLU campus where most of the faces are people of color,” said Pomerenk, who became involved with the program last summer.

Participants in the program live together in Tingelstad Hall and participate in a variety of activities. Students of different ethnicities share their heritage through dance, crafts and music, and the program brings in a variety of speakers. Last year, students took part in a service project on the Nisqually Reservation.

Rainbow of Gifts also includes daily worship services and a concluding service at the end of the week when participants join students from three other church-related camps running simultaneously during the week at PLU.

Both St. Olaf College and Texas Lutheran University have expressed interest in the Rainbow of Gifts program, raising hopes that the program may expand in the future.

For more information or to participate in Rainbow of Gifts 2001, call the Region I ELCA office, 1-800-755-5831 or 206-624-0093.


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