A C I F I C L U T H E R A N U N I V E R S
I T Y
U M M E R 2 0 0 1
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
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
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