After Decades of War, Congolese Find Safety in Sioux Falls

May 27, 2016

For 20 years, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has had no peace.

It is a failed state in every sense of the phrase.

According to an article last month in the New York Times, aid workers describe the situation in this second largest country in Africa as “Fragmentation. Factionalization. Decay. Ungoverned space. Ungovernable space.”

In these two decades of fighting, the country has brought nine other African nations into its battles, seen the rise of more than 60 different armed groups with a wide variety of agendas, and witnessed 5.4 million people die.

In addition to these deaths, close to 3 million people have been internally displaced or have sought refuge in neighboring countries.

The crisis is mind-boggling – and there appears to be no end in sight despite multiple groups of U.N. peacekeepers who are trying to assuage the situation.  During the fighting a few years ago, refugees fleeing their homes told Oxfam workers, “We do not dare go home!”  Indeed, for the vast majority of the refugees, going home is not an option.

bbc congolese fleeing

Congolese fleeing their homes en masse.  BBC 2012.


Country is Poor, but Rich in Resources

Perhaps as an explanation for its many troubles, which arguably began when King Leopold II of Belgium first set his sights on conquering and owning the country’s resources in the late 1880s, the DRC boasts an abundance of natural resources, including diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt, zinc, and coltan (important in cell phone construction).

Leopold first went after ivory and rubber. Now the desire is for minerals.  The ultimate goal remains the same: power and money.

The on-going horrors in the country – including child abduction, sexual assault, murder, and arson – cause the DRC to be among the top refugee groups currently being resettled in the U.S. In fact, in the coming months here in Sioux Falls, refugees coming from the DRC will be second only to refugees coming from Bhutan.

Here in Sioux Falls, LSS helped resettled 41 people from the DRC in fiscal year 2015, and the agency will likely end up resettling at least 55 people this fiscal year.

These numbers sound tiny in the midst of such a disaster, but it is comforting to know that Sioux Falls is helping in a small way to alleviate some of the pain of this huge catastrophe.

Rich in Diversity

We may think of citizens from a country as speaking the same language and having similar cultural identities, but nothing could be farther from the truth in the DRC.

According to the Cultural Orientation Research Center, the DRC, with a population of about 70 million, contains about 250 ethnic groups speaking 700 different languages and dialects. While  the population is mostly Christian, many adhere to Islam or traditional African beliefs.

DRC map

The Democratic Republic of Congo is as big as the U.S. East of the Mississippi River.

Here at LSS, we have been resettling three groups recently: the Banyamulenge speaking Kinyamulenge, the Bembe speaking Bembe, and the Tutsi speaking Kinyarwanda.  In addition to speaking different languages, they also come to the U.S. via different refugee camps in Africa, some from Uganda or Kenya, some from Tanzania, and some from Rwanda.

Now in Sioux Falls, these refugees have a chance to literally start anew. They will have access to jobs, housing, safety, and education.

If you have ever visited the Statue of Liberty in New York City, you may have seen inscribed on the pedestal this poem by Emma Lazarus, written in 1883:

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore; Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” I think of this poem often when I hear of new refugees coming to the U.S.

It is our country’s tradition – some might say, our destiny – to welcome the foreigner in search of a better life.

Welcome to the Congolese! May your future be bright and safe here in Sioux Falls!

Posted by Julie Boutwell-Peterson


Back to School NOW!!!

May 26, 2016


It’s the end of May.  Temps have just broken 80 degrees here.  Some schools are out for the summer and the rest are just about there.  There are evenings sweating it out at the ballpark (for a variety of reasons).  Vacation plans are being finalized.  And now I’m going to tell you it’s time to think about back to school.  Yes, NOW! Read the rest of this entry »

What Will Be Your Legacy?

May 25, 2016

It’s been 28 years since my home church, Gayville Danish Trinity Lutheran, closed its doors for the last time. Built in 1894 by the hands of those who worshipped there, it was a wonderful legacy left behind long after those members were gone.

What will be your legacy?

If you don’t have a plan for your estate, now is the time to make one! LSS staff, together with Jim Schade and Kurt Osborne of Lutheran Planned Giving of South Dakota, can help you decide the best way to meet the needs of your family while leaving a legacy gift that will help LSS fulfill our mission for years to come. Step by step guides available at the LPG of SD website allow you to explore a variety of planned giving options to meet your needs and goals. View your own personal Illustration to see the benefits of a plan for you.

Below are some of the options listed on the website; additional information is available for each of them there. Please contact Linda Jensen at LSS if you are interested in setting up an appointment with LSS or Lutheran Planned Giving. There is no obligation when you schedule a visit!

Bequest: You can designate your favorite charity or ministry as the beneficiary of your asset by will, trust or other instrument.

IRA Rollover: Congress recently enacted a permanent extension of the IRA Charitable Rollover. As a result, you can make an IRA rollover gift in 2016, 2017 and beyond.

Beneficiary Designation Gifts: You can designate us as a beneficiary of a retirement, investment or bank account or your life insurance policy.

Charitable Gift Annuity: You can transfer your cash or appreciated property to your favorite charity or ministry in exchange for our promise to pay you fixed income (with rates based on your age) for the rest of your life.


Linda Jensen, Church Relations & Planned Giving Development Officer
705 East 41st Street, Suite 200, Sioux Falls, SD  57105-6048
605-444-7536 direct, 800-568-2401 ext. 7536 toll free, 605-310-9865 cell

Thank you, Counselors!

May 24, 2016

As the 2015-16 school year wraps up, LSS Mentoring wanted to make sure we said a giant THANK YOU to the many school counselors who help make the program work!

At each of the buildings that LSS sends volunteer mentors, there is a site coordinator, who is most often a school counselor. These fantastically organized people manage to make mentors feel important and welcome. They locate a place for mentors and students to meet and provide an ongoing source of support for volunteers throughout the year.

Without their passion and commitment, the mentor program would not be able to continue.  LSS operates the program with limited staff and resources and would not be able to support mentoring activities in every school in the area five days a week.  The counselors develop relationships with mentors that last many years and are one of the reasons that mentor return to work with students year after year.  Here are a few comments from our mentors: Read the rest of this entry »

What’s Your Superpower?

May 18, 2016

I’m a Volunteer… What’s your superpower? That’s what the Helpline Center asked last Thursday, May 12th during the 2016 Spirit of Volunteerism Awards luncheon.  The annual event celebrates those individuals in the community who share their superpower and help others by volunteering.  One outstanding volunteer that we want to give a special congratulation to is Eric Rippentrop.  Eric was named the First National Bank in Sioux Falls Spirit of Volunteerism Up and Coming Award winner in the Adult category at the luncheon on Thursday for his work at LSS Center for New Americans.  Winners of the Spirit of Volunteerism Awards received a special award plague and received $500 to be awarded to a non-profit or charitable organization of their choice.

Showing off his superpower at the 2016 Spirit of Volunteerism Awards luncheon.

Showing off his superpowers with Instructor Diana Calvetti-Streleck and Volunteer Coordinator Kristyne Walth at the 2016 Spirit of Volunteerism Awards luncheon.

Eric is a regular face in the Center for New American’s Citizenship classrooms every Friday and Saturday morning. You may also remember him from our blog back in February.   He has spent over 100 hours over the last year helping students acquire the English fluency and knowledge that is required for a citizenship interview and test.  Instructor Diana Calvetti-Streleck says that, “Without Eric’s help in the classroom, my group of more than 35 low-level English learners would not receive the one-on-one practice they need to overcome their anxiety of speaking English to answer oral questions.”  Eric has been a wonderful volunteer and we cannot thank him enough for his time, energy and encouraging words.

Eric with his award.

Eric with his award.

However, if you asked Eric, he would tell you that he feels that he “gets more from volunteering than he could ever hope to give.” And in an effort to give more, he has chosen LSS Center for New Americans as the non-profit organization to receive the $500 award.


Please help us congratulate and better yet, thank Eric and all of the other winners, nominees, and volunteers in the Sioux Empire for sharing their superpower to help others. And lastly, we ask you too, what’s your superpower?


Written by Kristyne Walth, Volunteer Coordinator

May is National Foster Care Month

May 16, 2016

The month of May is designated as National Foster Care Month.  This began in 1988 and has been recognized and celebrated ever since. A focus for this month is to give foster parents recognition for opening their homes to foster children in need and caring for them on a daily basis. Read the rest of this entry »

Tastes from Afar: New Recipes to Try

May 12, 2016

Did you have a chance to try the Burmese and Ethiopian recipes I posted here last week?

Have you dropped by one of the dozen or so international grocery stores in Sioux Falls?

What are you waiting for? : )

At LSS, we have quite a few students from both Mexico and Burma, and while these countries may be far apart physically and linguistically, they share a similar cultural enjoyment of food, especially chicken dishes.

Here are two more recipes to try, courtesy of LSS English teacher Heather Glidewell’s literacy class. Enjoy!

caldo de pollo

Caldo de Pollo (Mexican Chicken Soup)


1 whole chicken

8 cups of water

3 large carrots

1/2 head of cabbage

1/2 medium onion

1 cup of cilantro

4 cloves of garlic

2 cups of celery


Put chicken, water, and salt into a large pot. Boil water about 10-15 minutes.  Add onion, garlic, and celery.  Cover and cook on low heat for 30 minutes.  Add carrots.  Cook for 15 minutes.  Add other vegetables.  Check chicken.  When chicken is finished, take out of pot.  Cook water and vegetables 10 more minutes.

Serve the broth and chicken in a bowl with rice, avocado, warm corn tortillas, and lime.

chicken zucchini


Burmese Chicken


2 Tablespoon oil

1 whole chicken

1 to 2 tomatoes

2 small zucchini

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 small onion

1/2 teaspoon black pepper



Chop the chicken into small pieces. Put in a pan with the oil and fry the chicken.  Peel and chop the onion, and add to the pan.  Chop the tomatoes and the zucchini and add to the pan.  Add salt and pepper.  Stir and fry for 25 minutes.  Serve with rice.

Posted by Julie Boutwell-Peterson

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