If there is one word to describe LSS/NCA CEO Christine Connell and her mission for the organization it would be Diakonia. A Greek word rooted in the Old Testament of the Bible, Diakonia means service among others. Diakonate ministries serve the poor and oppressed, and encompasses the worldwide movement of those committed to the vision of Christian service, action, and justice-making. Recently, we sat with Chris to learn more about her work with Diaknoate ministries and her vision for the future of LSS/NCA as it begins its second century of service.
You’ve lived a life of service. Can you share how that’s been shaped?
Working in diakonal ministries has been a constant thread in my life. When I entered the seminary, I was immediately attracted to the study and practice of diakonal ministries. It’s therefore not surprising that my life in service has been shaped and directed by this foundational vision of Christian service. And, it underpins my belief in and commitment to LSS and the work that we do, starting with my 15 years serving LSS in New York City and, now, serving LSS in the National Capital Area. We exist at the inflection point where the church meets the community, where faith meets a desire to serve the most vulnerable among us: foster children, refugees, those who are most likely to fall through the cracks of society. Living there is a daily challenge, yet if we don’t serve there then who will?
How does your personal mission to serve the most vulnerable shape how you lead LSS/NCA?
As CEO, I am always looking for where the strengths of our organization and staff and the changing needs of the community collide. That’s where opportunities to serve happen. Today, we see that in sharp relief in our Unaccompanied Refugee Minor program (URM). At a time when the refugee program itself is in a state of flux, unaccompanied minors are individuals who LSS/NCA is uniquely designed to serve because of our dual expertise in foster care and refugee resettlement. Additionally, the foster care system itself is in a state of change. Within this context we can offer specialized services like foster care training, as well as serving older youth who fall outside the foster care system into a space with no safety net and few, if-any, services.
As a 100-year-old organization, it would be easy to just stick to our knitting. But the pace of change in our world requires us to be nimble. LSS/NCA ministries will always focus on not just where we are needed today, but will anticipate where the next need in the community will be. Where are the gaps in the community? Where are there needs not being met? And how can we meet those people where they are and serve them with compassion and grace?
How does the LSS/NCA brand of service differ from other organizations?
Every organization that serves the needs of others is making good in the world and should be commended. I truly believe that our century of serving families has had a profound impact on not just what we do, but how we approach what we do. We don’t just provide services to those in need. We are putting our arms around the community and creating a very large extended family. A family that is always there for a member in need. It’s really no surprise that many of those we have served will turn around and serve others. And for others who we may have served 10, 20 or even 30 years ago, LSS is the family they call when they need help.
What inspires you?
I am inspired and motivated by the little wins that happen within the LSS family every day. Little wins may not seem consequential, but every victory is additive. Whenever a potential victim of circumstance achieves a bit of normalcy, we win. When someone who was marginalized by society reengages within the community, we win. When someone finishes high school, we win. When they graduate from college, we win. When they are crowned Cherry Blossom Princess, we win. As CEO, people seek me out to tell me how the LSS staff have helped them create their new lives. That, by definition, is the very meaning of serving in a Diakonal ministry. What more inspiration could anyone need?