Carol Forbesby Carol Forbes

Our lives are a journey impacted by those who are placed there to make a difference. I believe that is the work of God but He leaves it up to us to recognize it.

I graduated from a suburban high school with a graduating class of 180 students. We had one black student in the entire school. My father impressed upon me that we were never to judge the quality of a person by the color of their skin. Fast forward to the mid-2000s and a longtime friend, Marti, who had developed a relationship with a school in Haiti. After years of saying how much I admired what she was doing, I realized this was an opportunity for me. I didn’t want to reach the age where I was physically unable to participate and look back and say to myself, “Why didn’t I do this when I had the chance?” As I served a week each summer over many years, I came to realize that the answer to making lives better is often to educate people. This brings up the standard of living and creates a community that wants to stay instead of fleeing the country.

Fast forward again to the 2020s, as I deliberated over which Lower Susquehanna Synod task force to join: Toward Racial Justice or AMMPARO (the latter of which focuses on the plight of migrant families forced to flee their country to find a better life). Thanks to guidance from my pastor, Alex Martini, and Bishop Dunlop, I connected with Carla Christopher Wilson. We met outside Panera Bread during the pandemic; she wanted to learn about me and help me focus.

Through her guidance, I was able to determine that the AMMPARO task force was where I needed to be and that studying racism could be my own personal journey. I was encouraged to read books by Drew Hart, professor at Messiah University. I was sure I had no racist tendencies but there were often places in the books where I would pause and say, “Hmmm…..”  These titles were Trouble I’ve Seen and Who Will Be a Witness? As I continued on this personal journey, I was able to join with St. John’s Lutheran in Shiremanstown for their Race Against Racism program last spring. I was welcomed with open arms by Pastors Sarah Keilholtz and Elizabeth Eckman and the congregation. Again, questions from them opened my eyes.

Now to the other fork in the road. I now serve on the AMMPARO Task Force, led by Pr. Jennifer and Deacon David Hope-Tringali, and have learned about Hope Academy, a school for young girls in Guatemala. These girls are not often able to continue in their education because they are needed at home to help care for the little ones and other household duties. After struggling with the border disaster several years ago and the random separation of families, I realized special prayer services on Thursday mornings were just not going to be enough. I was so convinced that this was where God wanted me to be that I announced at choir one night, “So……. who wants to go to Guatemala with me this coming summer????” The first member to join our team was Katie, who sits right beside me in choir. Our first trip to Hope Academy and Hogar Miguel Magone was this past June. Cindy, who has wanted to do mission work for years, came with us from St. Pete’s; we also joined up with members from St. Paul’s Lutheran in Littlestown. Voices from the past clearly reminded me that, in order to make things better in a country so that people will stay, we need to educate its people. Hope Academy is providing that education along with lifting up the girls, giving them hope and a focus for what they can do if they put their minds to it.

I struggled with writing this because I don’t want it to be perceived as drawing attention to myself.  Rather, I want you to know that, if you can feel God leading you but are not entirely sure where, there are people all around you who can help to guide you. It could be a pastor, a friend, a family member, someone from the synod office, or someone who has already taken the leap outside of their own comfort zone. This is what Pr. Jennifer Hope-Tringali calls “bold humility.”

How might God be calling you?

Carol worships at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Mechanicsburg, where she is co-chair of the Social Ministry Committee. She served on the Hope in Haiti Mission Team for eight summers beginning in the mid-2000s and was a part of a team who assisted in settling a Somali family in the local area a few years ago. She participated in planning for the “Know Your Neighbor Dinner” co-sponsored by local churches and PACRI (PA Center for Refugees and Immigrants), designed to connect the Somalis with the rest of the Mechanicsburg community. She now supports Hope Academy in Guatemala, particularly with its library.