Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Eco Bishops and Lion Heads

Hey crew, I know you have been waiting with bated breath to hear from Cape Town. Now you can breathe easy, because here is your update.

It is just a few days shy of being 2 months spent in South Africa for me; the Green Anglican office has been really running lately, pressing for the end of the year. I have been busy writing Eco Bishop articles  chronicling the Anglican and Episcopalian Bishops coming to Cape Town this February for a conference called by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town, look it up on Facebook (Anglican Eco Bishops) and like our new page! It really has been an eye opening experience for me, as much as sometimes it seems just as the next task in the office, the excitement and enthusiasm behind the action of these environmentally forward churches exemplify the next step in what has to be done in our fight. The audience reading my posts, (hopefully!) are the ones that make a difference. We live in a way where if the numbers of caring individuals are great enough, the change must be made. We are the ones with the voice and the ability to keep the Earth.

The biggest challenge to our Eco Bishops conference is the youth involvement (here the term 'youth' can encompass everyone from teenagers to adults up to 30 or 35, but everybody can participate!). If you feel moved to make a message and want the bishops to receive it, send me your message in a creative way: sign, video, pictures, whatever and it will be presented to guide the conference!

We must all change the mindset about what we are doing and remember the ramifications of our actions, and in return, take action. The environmental movement is generally a new one, yes, we have seen environmental change for decades, but we really are living in a great time. I know I will look back and take pride in the changes we are making now. The numbers of supporters and people making moves to see the change is more than ever. We can make a positive difference in our environment, a little care goes way longer than you and I will ever see. If this analytic and biologically thinking guy can manage social media and a little office work, we can all work together and see the action.

If you know anything about me, you might know a little bit about my mentality, and that isn't one that sticks it out behind a desk, a cubical would be the death of me. Luckily enough, this wonderfully beautiful town of Cape Town allows for one to breach the walls of the office and enjoy the sun and breeze off the oceans without having to leave the city! Is there a better way to have a little change of pace than hikes in one of the most beautiful cities in the world? Here are more pictures from my adventures around the city- another perspective from Table Mountain and the iconic Lion's Head.
The view from Woody Ravine on Table Mountain

One of the many great views from Lion's Head, this is Camp's Bay again

Obligatory picture from the top of Lion's Head, a beautiful hike!

The "chain route" to the top of Lion's Head. Made for quite the adventure

Monday, October 6, 2014

Getting Published (and other thoughts)

I recently wrote an article
 for the Green Anglicans and it has been shared on many different websites and pages, and it even made it to the Anglican Communion's News webpage. Read it here.

There have been many experiences that I have had recently, and it has got me thinking. I have never traveled internationally alone before, and I have already learned a lot about how that will continue to work and how I may dread that, and also revel in that. I have always had someone to explore with- my friends and classmates in Guatemala, Katie in Peru, family in Norway. Now is my chance to be who I am traveling and learn what it means to be on my own, I do have plenty of great people here and around the world supporting me, but I hope you know what I mean. I came across this article on Facebook and it kind of explains what I hope to get out of this year, on that level at least. I have not grown into many of the points yet, but I feel like it is something I should keep in mind while experiencing South Africa.

I am excited to say that we already climbed Table Mountain! It was something that definitely was immediately put on my list of things to do right away when I found South Africa was my YASC placement.  As part of the Feast of St. Francis the Green Anglicans organized a hike up the iconic mountain which drapes many pictures you see of the City of Cape Town. It was an absolutely beautiful day for 103 of us to make the trip. The group had a nice service by one of the reservoirs at the top, which tied in the environment and all the environment around us. My day was capped by a very cold swim in the ocean with two of my fellow Green Anglican officemates, Johno and Nina. I think my timing to come couldn't have been any better, I left the Northern Hemisphere just as it was
turning fall and now I get to experience a whole new summer! I am looking forward to many more beach days to cool off this season.

Watch out Cape Town, I now have a car! Still trying to figure out the whole right hand drive, and driving down the left side of the road. I'm sure it will become second nature soon enough.
And this is just a great sunset over Camp's Bay

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Getting Settled

I have now been able to have about a week of perspective on the very beginning of my YASC year, and I am happy to say that it has been very busy, while I am trying just to take everything in and smooth the transition as much as possible.

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First off, I have to say I was very wrong about feeling adjusted to the time. This weekend I think I was still feeling the effects of the jet lag, which made it very easy to sleep through the rowdiness at camp! The camp was the first ever event like it put on by the Green Anglicans, which is the team that I am working with at the Church in Southern Africa. The campers (I feel like I was a camper even though I was staff) represented three different Dioceses in the Western Cape; Cape Town - which has become my adopted diocese, Saldanha Bay, and False Bay. Everyone was exposed to and learned about what challenges and problems the climate is facing and some of the ecosystems that are close to where we live. The team was also able to clean up the beach and surrounding areas to join in the Climate March held  in NYC this past weekend, and then plan strategies that can be implemented in their own churches and dioceses to raise awareness and action for climate and environmentalism. By far the biggest take away I had from the weekend was being able to get more comfortable in the South African culture and have a ton of laughs and a good time. I showed the campers a simple card game I remember playing with my cousins and grandma as a kid called golf, which was quite the hit! Guys stayed up practically all night just to play it. I was also given a Xhosa clan name, Madiba; you may recognize it because Nelson Mandela was referred by it on a regular basis, a huge compliment in my book! The Rotary camp, where our camp was held, now boasts the largest labyrinth in South Africa, and our group was the first to break it in. At 3km it was by far the longest I've ever done and the best workout I think I will ever get from walking prayer!
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I hope many of you are familiar with the UN Climate Summit, if not, please look it up and familiarize yourself with it. This is the chance for the most influential leaders in the world to make a difference in the way we are acting on the changing climate and to take a stand for our planet. In a parallel effort, the Green Anglicans were able to be a presence for support while a letter and petition were presented to the South African Government to change the practices in regards to the climate. We were one of many groups there to talk about the demands to the people with direct decision making power, and were presented with many talks about how we are affected, what is happening, and what needs to be done in order to green our planet.

And I got to see the penguins and seals in Simon's Town, I am beyond excited about that!
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As I have had a little time to get situated, I am excited to fully join my Green Anglican team now for our regular work!


Arrived in Cape Town

Displaying IMG_0628.JPGI am sorry that I have not posted for a while, I was kind of on a nomadic style, couch surfing at multiple friends' houses and apartments. I was hoping to get an update out, but the whirlwind around me and constant movement didn't allow my life to sit down and control my thoughts onto a blog page. And now it has taken me a while to get my laptop connected to the internet. Anyway, I would like to thank those people again, that housed me and took me in between moving out of my apartment and all the way up to my flight. I am very grateful for your hospitality and the space, time, food and laughs we were able to share together before I undertook this journey.
And what a journey it was to get here. The longest flight I have ever been on is Minneapolis to Amsterdam, which my family took last summer on our way to Oslo to start my mom's sabbatical there. Well this time it was the first leg again, but the shorter of the two. I spent 20 out of 24 hrs in the air to get here, I arrived in the night, was so absolutely tired that all I wanted to do was fall into bed (even though it was just about 2pm Minnesota time) and here I am so confused about what time it should be and when I was actually sleeping that I actually almost already feel adjusted to the time!
I am delighted to be here already, it has been a long time coming and feels great to actually step foot in South Africa! I was able to wake up this morning to some tea and breakfast in the house overlooking the harbor and all of Cape Town. It is just a beautiful view from our house, and I get the same one out of my window from my room!  I am sure I will be posting much more soon, when I can get reliable internet, and I am told I will be hitting the ground running with a camp this weekend, stay tuned!


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

All Trained

And I have a flight date! I'm officially leaving for Cape Town on September 16, I am so excited! 
Last weekend I returned from my official training, held mainly at Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, NY with a couple days in Manhattan and at the Episcopal Church Center. It was truly two weeks full of new best friendship, fellowship, fun and flexibility. All f's of missionary experiences. And I guess we learned a little too.
Everything that we could possibly cover was discussed, and I learned a lot about dealing with new cross cultural experiences, history of mission work and what mission of the Episcopal Church means, security, and health and wellness.
By far, the biggest take away from training was the relationships that were built in NY. There is a great group of YASCers and the other missionaries in Episcopal Volunteers in Mission. These are the relationships that we will rely on next year, and I can say with confidence that I hopped on the airplane back to Minneapolis with many more friends than I had prior to my experience at the monastery.From our "great silence" trips down to the Hudson River, and catching subways in the city, all of us became so close and it really was great to know that I will have an international support system for our years and in the future as well!
Here's a picture of our group after Eucharist in the chapel at the Church Center in NYC.

Monday, June 2, 2014


Time has been something that I have been contemplating lately, and more specifically the concept and perception of it. It is amazing what a little perspective can do to the way we will describe something, and how something that we believe as so permanent and finite can also become so indescribable and imaginative.

I have been thinking about this post for a while, actually ever since I visited with Fr. Chris at Emmanuel Episcopal Church while at home in Rapid City (Emmanuel is one of the other Episcopal Churches in Rapid City, Downtown). I kept on talking about some events that I had experienced, like traveling to Guatemala, Peru, and Norway, graduation, etc., and using statements like "just last summer" or "just last spring," but in fact it had almost been a year since my graduation and our trip to Norway. Something that really seems like it should have only been a couple months ago, at least. In the English language we do not really differentiate between permanent and temporary in our verbs, but I have always kind of thought of time being temporary, in the way that it really is never the same and changes constantly. However, just from English to Spanish there is even a disparity in the way we talk about time. The verb 'ser' is used to tell time in Spanish, the permanent version of 'to be." Who knows how it really is.

As I started to become more aware of my perception of how quickly the time of the past year, my mind started to wander to the then present timing of the Easter Season and Holy week, and now that today, June 2, marks the year anniversary of my graduation from Gustavus, I became sentimental once again and couldn't keep this "time" concept from my thoughts, and decided I should share, as I really have been thinking about it since the beginning of the season. Believe me, this can be tied into my trip in some way.

As many of you know better than me, the Easter Season is preceded by the very dark time of our Holy Week, a time that is dark and full of despair. It is a difficult time, as is intended, but there is something very joyous to look forward to at the end of it all. The light of our faith. Additionally to all the usual Holy Week thoughts, I want to take this a little different way. As an outsider, as in not physically being Jesus, not literally going through the same pain as he, can we even start to understand how long those moments were while he was persecuted, crucified and left in that tomb? We can never know, it is read as a certain amount of time, a measurement we can relate to and still measure. However, time may slow, or time may be sped depending on the perspective. We can never know if that time he spent in that stone prison was a enlightening trip, joyous and filled with relief, as I hope death should be; or was it an arduous journey, still burdened by the sins of the world and lamenting the words and action of the people. It can never be known, all we know is the way we can step through the journey ourselves and read the words of the story. Seconds can speed by for one, and click. by. for. the. other. like. the. last. droplet. of. water. at. the. end. of. a. drain.

The last year for me has been an interesting one, filled with amazing excitement, and very stressful and difficult times, where it has been difficult to keep myself intact and wondering how those things can possibly fit into this beautiful way of life I choose to perceive- a roller coaster ride as the metaphor states. Unfortunately for me, and I believe for the most of us, those peaks do not last nearly as long as we always hope, and those dips seem to linger on our minds for much longer than seems fitting. I usually make the decision to keep the joyous occasions as long as possible, but ineptly enough, it never seems like it ever lasts long enough.

As I am preparing for my trip, the weeks go by so fast, but the days slow. I am so very excited to make the transition into a year of the unknown, of something different and something huge. It seems like when I feel like I am waiting for September to come, the days draw longer and longer. I check my phone, just to count the weeks until I leave, the minutes just can't move fast enough. But when I think of all the things that I have to do before my trip I start to feel stressed but anxious and excited, I know the 3 months will be here in a moment, whether I like it or not. How has it already been 6 months since I applied to YASC? It has already been 6 months since I applied to YASC? Somehow, even though a we may understand time differently at different moments, it all adds up the same, and South Africa will be here before I know what to do with myself.

Wait, it has been a year since the Gustavus Class of '13 graduated? Was it all of 3 days or really only 3 days?


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Discernment and waiting, and more waiting, then excitement!

This is my first blog post ever, so please bear with me, I am just trying to figure this out and what it's all about!

There I was, sitting on my couch in Minneapolis with one of my roommates, watching meaningless TV to pass the evening, falling into a monotonous routine of searching for jobs and programs, but lacking the connection to what they stand for and without real understanding of what it is that I really need to do next. That is when I was referred to check out the Young Adult Service Corps, I think I watched the playlist of videos five times that night, my heart racing and my skin chilling. It was like it was meant to be, I knew this is what I wanted to do and this is what I should be doing.

My path to YASC really is a journey that started way before I even knew what YASC was. While at my time attending Gustavus, I really didn't know what I wanted to do next. I had plenty of ideas and plans,  started countless applications to jobs and service organizations, like the Peace Corps - but it never clicked. I never felt comfortable sending those off and it didn't seem like that really was where I should go. It was the total opposite while I was writing my YASC app. I don't think I stopped writing once, I didn't get easily distracted by procrastination websites on my laptop. I sat down and emotion flowed into my writing. It all seemed like it fell into place, right then and there.

Not too soon after, I was invited to a discernment weekend in Stony Point, New York with the group of applied YASCers, staff and a couple alumni (to serve in a non-staff peer role). It may seem exaggerated, but it was one honestly of the best experiences I have had since I graduated from Gustavus. After the 3 hour journey turned into a 36 hour one, with an unplanned overnight layover in Charlotte, NC, I made it to the Stony Point Center, a multi-cultural retreat center about an hour north of NYC. 

As everyone trickled in for the weekend from across the country, following a myriad of cancelled and delayed flights, it was great to meet everyone, and we seemed to bond instantly. As I felt like we might get yelled at for being too loud too late, I reminded myself that I really didn't know these people. It was just so great to be surrounded by such an accepting, loving group of empowered and driven young adults. There we spent a weekend filled with deep conversation, prompted by questions in a large group to others around the delicious food served in the cafeteria. I was able to be open about my goals, my struggles and how they brought me to YASC, and how I can utilize my experiences to be a missionary with the Episcopal Church. We were able to worship as a small community, and talk about what the next year might have in store, talk about reclaiming the word 'missionary' as it relates to our placement with YASC, and express our goals which we would like to attain through YASC. We want to stray from the post colonial connotations surrounding the word 'missionary' placing more emphasis on a ministry of presence centered on fellowship.  As we left, we were charged to pray and reflect on what it will mean to be a international missionary, and if global service is correct for us. I think part of the reason the bending and twisting, pulling and collapsing worked so easily at discernment was the support for us to sincerely make the best decision for ourselves, it was ok for us to not be sure about YASC, or to determine that it was not right, however, I never second guessed going on with my decision, it only strengthened my passion toward YASC and its mission. 

After I officially sent of my discernment decision (which seems kind of odd because discernment is a lifelong tour) I waited with bated breath, I do not think I have ever checked my email as often as I did for those weeks, constantly looking for some word on my placement. Once I finally found out, I was ecstatic, a harsh understatement. I was in my house in Minneapolis, jumping and running around with excitement. South Africa is where I wanted to go, and working with sustainable solutions has developed into one of my passions. A perfect fit. 

I would also like to share something about what I learned about 'discernment' on my trip to New York for my discernment weekend. Prior to it, people asked me what I was doing in New York, was it an interview? No it wasn't, it was discernment. I avoided using that word because I wasn't quite sure what I was doing either, I even looked it up to see what it means. I would start out by saying it is generally a churchy word, meaning to make a guided decision, but it also leads to a decision. I had thought that it was something I really never had done before, but then enlightened that it is something that we will always be doing. Going through the YASC discernment process made my understanding clearer and more muddled, as well. Discernment doesn't happen overnight, and does not leave you alone. It takes conversation, and it takes silence and reflection- a conversation with yourself and God. In NY we talked about where discernment is at its best. It's where we gently hold onto questions without a definite sense of resolution, a complicated answer. As I try to define it I am only guided to question it further. In discernment we are called to step up, and step back. What I may have to say may be pertinent and should be heard , and other times it is more important to observe the silence and make space for God. 

Now is the time for my fundraising, I'm sure the time I have in next four months, before I depart, will go by faster than I can imagine. Here is the letter I have written for the Diocese of SD newsletter with more info on my placement and how to get invested in my placement, take a look and become part of my mission along with me, if you have not already!

Hi! My name is Willie Lutes, many of you may know me very well, and others of you may have never met me or heard of me, but someone you know knows me. I want to let you know about the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC), let you know a little about me, and ask for your assistance in sending me to my Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) placement in Cape Town, South Africa! A little about me and my mission- I have grown up in the Episcopal Church and followed my mom, The Reverend Kathy Monson Lutes, along with our dad, Rick, and my brother Tom from church to church and to and from seminary. I am currently a member at St. Andrew's in Rapid City, however, I am currently living in Minneapolis during this odd transition period post college. Last spring I graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN with a BA in Biology. When I was approached with the application for YASC, I knew it was what I wanted to do, I have never felt so right and confident about an application, ever. Just watching the promo videos, I had goosebumps. It was a feeling that this is what I need to be doing this year. I invite you all to watch those videos as well at
 Part of the reason I feel so connected already is the mission of YASC, I love how Grace Flint put it in the video, "the concept that you go to be with people... just to be." It is a 12 month period in which I have the opportunity to give my talents and devote myself to a piece of the global mission of the Episcopal Church. I realize this experience will not be a magic cure for me to know exactly what I will be doing for the rest of my life, but I am definitely looking forward to the opportunity to center myself, and become closer to what it means to be me, and better know what my role is in the chaos of the world. I am no stranger to global travel as well, I am looking forward to all the new experiences, friends, and connections I will make along the way. This will be one of the most challenging years of my life to date, but I am confident the skills I bring and growth I hope for can guide my experience.
 My specific placement is working with the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, which incorporates the countries of South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Angola, and Mozambique, while supporting the Anglican Communion Environmental Network (ACEN). The Anglican Church of Southern Africa is one of the biggest supporters of YASC, and has become a perennial receiving province for YASCers. ACEN is a great fit for me, it will utilize my passion and knowledge of conservation and sustainability and I bring an ex-pat and servant viewpoint to work with a culture different than our own. According to the website, the mission of ACEN is "to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the earth." I also was attracted to a statement released to Anglicans worldwide and friends of creation, expressing support for "a world which promotes justice and harmony for all and hope for future generations." I urge you to take a look at the ACEN website as well,
 So where do you fit into this? I hope everyone feels like there is a place for them in my placement. I am looking to fundraise a minimum of $10,000, a figure given to me by the Mission Personnel Office of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, an administrative branch Episcopal Church. Where does that donation go? I will be given airfare to and from my placement, health, dental and life insurance while I am overseas, a $500 stipend monthly for living expenses, and $1,000 on my return to get back onto my feet once I return to the United States. I hope that you will choose to support me for a certain period of time, one day will take about $28, one week about $192, for one month with a donation of $833, or another figure which you feel fitting.
It is my vision, that along with a donation, you can feel like it is an investment into the mission I will serve. Whether or not you feel you can donate money at this time, I ask for your prayers for me and for the mission of the Young Adult Service Corps. I would like the community of the Episcopal Church, and wider, to come together to support sustainability on a global level and to feel connected to my experience. If you are not Episcopalian or Anglican, I pray that you may see the wider good and impact I hope to have, outside of the church as well as in the larger community.  In order for me to be better connected to you, I will keep a blog during my period of mission. If you wish, please follow my experiences through this medium. I have set up a blog with the address
 If you wish to donate, please go the Episcopal Diocese of South Dakota website, and in the comment area write Willie Lutes. If you wish to send a check, please send it to The Diocese of South Dakota, 500 S. Main Avenue, Sioux Falls SD 57104, and in the memo line write Willie Lutes.
Thank you.