Augsburg News

News Archives - 2004

A Quick connection to prom dresses

April 2004

A women helping a young girl fit properly into her dress with a few quick stitches.Stephanie Quick’s passion for working with children and youth, especially those who struggle with lives of poverty and abuse, has taken her to a place far from her Midwestern roots in Mendota Heights—to Nome, Alaska, a place so beautiful it’s hard to imagine life could be anything but ideal. Quick, a 2001 Augsburg graduate with a major in youth and family ministry, is currently working on a four-year Master of Divinity degree at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. She is in year three of seminary, which consists of an internship.

Beauty surrounded by poverty
The road to Alaska and her internship at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Nome came after she was accepted into a special ELCA program called Horizon. This offers 22 unique internship sites across the world, including cross-cultural ministry, mission start congregations, and others at rural, urban and international sites. Quick said that many of these sites, including her current one, cannot afford a second pastor, and provide excellent learning opportunities.

Quick said Nome is a beautiful place, surrounded by ocean and tundra. She has seen wildlife from bears to reindeer to seals, eaten a variety of Eskimo foods including Eskimo ice cream (berries mixed with reindeer fat), muktuk (whale blubber), black meat (seal), reindeer, caribou, dried fish, greens, and herring eggs. But, she added, the stark reality is that all of this beauty surrounds a town plagued by alcohol abuse and poverty.

"While this town of 3,000 people is in a unique setting, it is also very sad. You can find only two small grocery stores, yet the street is littered with bars and liquor stores. Alcohol abuse is a terrible factor in the community." In fact, Quick said, it has gotten so bad that alcoholism in Nome and surrounding villages has nearly destroyed the Native American (Eskimo) traditional lifestyle. "Sadly, as a pastor, you hear many stories of family violence, sexual abuse, and substance abuse. There is so much tragedy here it is almost unbelievable."

Quick is called to many areas while serving as an intern pastor. Some of her duties include preaching, leading worship, teaching, pastoral counseling, home visitations, serving as chaplain at the local jail, eating lunch with elders at the senior citizen’s center, and holding worship service at the nursing home. However, there is one area where her passion is strong. Quick is concentrating her efforts on working with youth in Nome, even starting a youth group at the congregation, which now draws more than 25 youth.

"I have formed some pretty strong connections with some of the high school girls," Quick said. "These girls have confided a lot of things to me. Recently they told me they couldn’t go to prom because they couldn’t afford a dress."

While the town is plentiful with bars and liquor stores, Quick said there is not a clothing store to be found. The only way for these girls to get a dress would be to spend $343 on a plane ticket to Anchorage or make a dress.

"None of these girls can afford a prom dress let alone fly to Anchorage to buy it. And many of the girls are being raised by their grandparents who just don’t have the time to make a dress."

Quick came up with an idea and she quickly enlisted the help of her sister, Rachel, who is a junior at Augsburg College; her parents; and her hometown congregation, St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in West St. Paul.

"I thought, well, I still have my prom dresses, so I called up my mom and asked her to send them here. Unfortunately, she had just given them away to the Goodwill, but my sister, Rachel, still had hers."

Rachel was more than happy to not only ship her prom dress to Alaska, but to send out a campuswide e-mail asking others for their dresses and other prom accessories, such as shoes and purses. When Quick’s pastor at St. Stephen’s found out what she was doing, he made an announcement in church. Her plea was so successful, she received 60 dresses, the majority coming from Augsburg and St. Stephen’s Church in West St. Paul.

After the shipment arrived in Nome, Stephanie Quick opened up a "Prom Shop" in the church basement. The ladies’ sewing circle at Our Savior’s Church volunteered to make alterations on the dresses. Quick said the girls were "thrilled" with the dresses.

"I’m really proud of my sister," Rachel said. "She is such a kind person and she’s really grown attached to these girls in Nome. She was able to give them something we take for granted—a pretty dress and a really special night."

Quick said she wanted to do this for the girls "simply because I care about them, and feel that their opportunities shouldn’t be limited just because of their finances."

Reaching out
Quick followed her passion and calling one step further when she volunteered to travel to a remote village in the wilderness, without running water or plumbing. She spent 10 days in a place called Shishmaref, a tiny island Eskimo village located 20 miles south of the Arctic Circle. The village is entirely Lutheran and is the northernmost ELCA congregation. Most people there still speak their native language of Inupiaq.

Quick said the pastor there had resigned in the fall, and it has been difficult to even get an interim pastor, much less a permanent pastor. It is a very rustic place with honeybuckets for toilets and snow or rainwater for drinking water. The only place to shower is at the "washeteria," which costs money, she added, so obviously people don’t shower much. The roads are all dirt and the houses are primitive. Children, she said, run around very dirty, many visibly with lice. The town is filled with flies, and garbage and raw sewage leak from bins. "It looked straight out of a ‘Save the Children’ commercial," Quick said. "It was a moving experience just driving down the street." The only modes of transportation, she added, are four-wheelers; snowmobiles, which the Alaskans call snow machines; and dog sled teams.

"I had some amazing visits with the people there," Quick said, "including a group of elders who showed me some of their sewing. It was a neat experience sitting on the floor watching the Eskimo women sew things like slippers, mukluks, and Eskimo yo-yos out of seal skin and reindeer fur."

Quick’s love and passion for children took center stage there as well, in this remote village. She said the children were excited to see her and she organized many youth activities for them, including baking for elders and confirmation classes. Some days there were more than 50 children that showed up in the basement of the parsonage, which is used for a youth center.

"We had a Sunday School turnout of 75 children which is great considering there are only 600 people in the village."

The church services were similar to the ones she helps out with in Nome, part of it being in their native language and part in English. "I have to brag a little that I’m doing quite well on the Inupiaq. The elders tease me that I am becoming an Eskimo!"

Quick said because of the lack of a pastor or interim pastor, she was given special permission by the bishop and seminary to administer the sacraments. She presided over Holy Communion and performed her first baptism. The baptism, she added, was especially moving.

"I had asked a woman in the congregation to present the candle and recite a special verse. She has cerebral palsy and told me she has trouble reading, so when she came up, she had the verse memorized. It was moving and a true moment of grace."

Augsburg’s transforming education
Quick credits the encouragement she received from faculty and staff in the religion department while she was a student at Augsburg for steering her towards the path she is now following. In particular she remembers a lecture she heard about being called to serve God.

"I still remember that lecture, and that confirmed my call from God. I began to look for a place to serve the church and I felt not only an internal call to the ministry, but an external call to serve God." Quick said she wasn’t sure at that point what direction in ministry she wanted to pursue, but she loved the Youth and Family Ministry program and being involved in Campus Ministry, so that excited her about ministry with families.
Quick will return to Chicago in the fall to finish her education. Where she will go from there is still a question, but she has many goals, one being a pastor in an inner city church working with families, children and youth; another opening an orphanage or working at an existing one, perhaps in Thailand; or even teaching religion, "especially if it was at Augsburg!"

"The education I received at Augsburg helped shape my life in a very positive way. Augsburg helped me realize that all things are possible through God."