“I’m a Lutheran” is a monthly profile featuring ELCA members around the country. The profiles showcase ELCA members in all their diversity, connecting one another through individual faith stories as Lutherans. Sentence prompts are provided to each person featured. If you’d like to nominate someone for “I’m a Lutheran,” email megan.brandsrud@elca.org.

Congregation: As the spouse of a Navy Reserve chaplain on orders, I get to attend church in many places around the Virginia Synod.

Occupation: Outreach and development manager at Ascend: Leadership Through Athletics

I believe that we constantly face the choice of living out of love or fear. My faith grounds me in love and pushes me into places that are uncomfortable. What is there to be afraid of when I am held by an abundant, gracious, loving God?

Through my role at Ascend, I have the incredible honor of going to Afghanistan frequently to work with the country’s first female mountain-climbing team! I get to walk, hike, rock climb and backcountry camp all over Afghanistan alongside young Afghan women as they attempt to climb mountains and move mountains for women’s empowerment in their country. By reaching the tops of peaks, these girls, ages 16 to 24, send an unambiguous message to the world: Afghan women are capable, strong and willing to take on challenges of all sizes.

I pray for peace and healing—within ourselves, between each other and among nations.

People are surprised that I spent a year working for Catholic nuns in their urban monastery in North Minneapolis. I cherish that year and the lessons the Visitation Sisters taught me: contemplation, stillness, community and how to “Live Jesus” every day.

Serving as an ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) volunteer in 2008 taught me what accompaniment looks and feels like. Before I served as a YAGM, I loved the idea and theory of accompaniment; YAGM gave me space for the praxis. In my YAGM year I walked with and alongside others and found the mutuality in the exercise: I was also walked with and alongside of. To say the least, it required a lot of humility and vulnerability. I’ve carried that lesson with me, and it serves me well in Afghanistan to consistently remember that I’m called not just to walk with, but also to be walked with.

Having worked in various areas of the nonprofit sector, I’ve been overwhelmed with both the injustice in the world and the passionate, gifted people using their time, talents and treasures to combat said injustices.

Making multiple trips to Afghanistan and spending time with the young women has given me a glimpse of the beauty of that country and how truly resilient the human spirit is. As Americans we’ve heard a lot about Afghanistan over the last 15 years. Most of it’s dark—war, terrorism, Taliban, suicide bombings, burqas. We don’t usually get the good, hopeful stuff. We don’t hear about the national parks in Afghanistan and their astonishing waterfalls, or the young people dreaming of how their education and skills will change their country and the world. But there are girls defying odds and overcoming trauma to climb mountains and prove to themselves, their families and their communities that women are strong—physically, mentally and emotionally. It’s a place that also embodies hope.

I see the future of the church being grounded in hospitality and grace. Lutheranism has so much to offer in a world that often communicates that we aren’t enough, pushes us away from authentic community and operates in a worldview of scarcity.

My favorite Bible story is almost all the stories that point to our Christian calling to welcome and hospitality. From Abraham and Sarah welcoming their divine visitors, to the prodigal son being welcomed home without hesitation, to the works of mercy done for “the least of these,” I take great joy in the way God calls us to make each other feel heaven-sent and loved.

I struggle with transitioning gracefully between Afghanistan and the United States. I’m consistently coming and going; sometimes I feel like I’m leading a double-life on two different sides of the globe!

Encouraging and equipping young people with leadership opportunities is immensely hopeful work. Watching young people recognize their efficacy to change things, make connections between their passions and possibility, and seeing their energy pour into action never ceases to inspire me.

I share my faith by living into St. Francis de Sales’ (1567-1622) idea: “Be who you are and be that well.” For me that means living centered in love and abundance, pushing against fear, serving others and bridging communities as best I can.

I think taking advantage of one’s outdoor surroundings and spending time in nature allows me the time to disconnect from the chaos and busy that surrounds me and reconnect with myself, my capability and the still, small voice that resides inside me.

A cause I’m fighting for is gender equity. That is, fairness in education, economic participation and empowerment. We miss out on so much when there isn’t space for everyone to fully realize and offer their God-given gifts to the world.

My education at Augustana College (Rock Island, Ill.) helped shape me by giving me the opportunity to explore my vocation. Between campus ministries, my liberal arts education, the Center for Vocational Reflection, study abroad in Ghana and the summer I spent interning with the Steinbruck Center for Urban Studies in Washington, D.C., I left Augustana with a greater understanding of where my deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.

I’m a Lutheran because of the promise of grace, the assurance that God is present in suffering, and our commitment to the humility and vulnerability of accompaniment.

Megan Brandsrud
Brandsrud is a former content editor of Living Lutheran.

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