By Kristee Laiva
Thriving Leadership Formation (TLF) Program provided a blessing of connection in the midst of a pandemic and social isolation. We came together via Zoom from different communities, walks of life, churches, states even, but we came together as one body in Christ. These were my people, because these are His people, imperfect yet filled with love and grace that our Savior gave to us. These online “retreats” were a chance to take a break from the challenges of the world and connect with each other and with God. We found a safe place to be in relationship with one another (in the midst of physical separation), a place to encounter our Lord, and a place to discern how God is present and walks with us, including through others. We checked in with each other, shared triumphs and tragedies, joys and tears; we connected with each other and with God; we prayed with and for each other. We supported one another when challenges were shared. I appreciated my fellow cohort members, as we developed trusting relationships in which we shared times of silence together, prayed together, listened to one another and we shared our experiences in our Christian and life journey. We came with open hearts ready to listen, had honest discussions, hearing different perspectives related to the practices and each of our spiritual journeys. We discussed spiritual practices that did and did not work for us. We provided loving accountability to one another, checking in on how the spiritual practices were being implemented in our walks with Christ. TLF was a place to retreat and set aside our hectic life, agendas, plans, an opportunity to connect with one another and God, and an opportunity to witness God’s love and everyday miracles in our midst, through our fellow cohort members putting practices into action.
Kristee Laiva is a congregation member of an Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern California. Although not holding an elected or official office in her congregation, she sees connecting and meeting people where they are in their lives as a service of the Church and its people. Called to serve and minister in her career as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at a foster family and adoption agency, she sees every moment as an opportunity to connect and demonstrate God’s unconditional love for all people, no matter their circumstances or beliefs.