It’s Lent. In my home congregation that means it is time to collect personal care items for Lutheran World Relief. During the weeks of Lent we are invited to add our contributions of basic hygiene supplies to a barrel. Toward the end of Lent we’ll assemble kits with such basics as soap, towels, combs, and toothbrushes and ship them to Lutheran World Relief (LWR) headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland. LWR will ship the kits to destinations around the world.
This is a very small part of a much larger impact LWR has been making in the global village since the end of World War II. Today LWR is an international non-governmental organization focusing on sustainable development projects and disaster relief and recovery assistance. LWR was established in 1945 to provide aid to desperate people in post-war Europe. By the end of WW II one in five of the world’s Lutherans were homeless. Lutheran churches in the United States mobilized to send aid to Europe through the newly formed Lutheran World Relief organization.
Today’s LWR Work
Today LWR is focused on transformative, global development work that breaks the cycle of poverty, so families and communities can thrive. Funding comes from individual donors, congregational and national Lutheran Church denominations, foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and U.S. government grants. Thousands of congregations provide millions of dollars of financial support, prayers, and collections of lovingly hand-made quilts, baby kits, personal care kits, and other forms of life-altering gifts.
Today LWR focuses on helping people build self-sufficiency and create community-owned approaches to solving problems. Farming is often the largest source of income and work for poor rural families and agriculture impacts all aspects of their lives. LWR helps farmers feed their families and produce products to sell for income. By encouraging sustainable approaches to managing natural resources, LWR is laying a foundation for future generations as well.
Partnerships with Local Communities
All this is accomplished in partnership with local communities that help farmers access more money to improve their crops, learn to use new techniques and tools to increase harvest yields, and attract buyers who will pay more for their products. LWR works with communities to protect their agricultural assets in the midst of challenging climate change conditions. They work with local leaders to increase resilience to flooding and droughts. By teaching environmentally sustainable practices, communities maximize productivity while also restoring and conserving natural resources.
Former US Ambassador Leads LWR
Daniel V. Speckhard is the current CEO of both LWR and IMA World Health. He is a former U.S. Ambassador to Greece and Belarus and has a long and distinguished career in government service under Republican and Democratic administrations. His resume includes service as Deputy Assistant Secretary General of NATO and Deputy Chief of Mission in Iraq.
Lent – A Season to Clean Up Our Act
I often spent time at my grandparent’s home as a child. Their bathroom had a plaque that stated, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” That may explain all the reminders about washing before every meal and before bedtime. Being clean certainly makes us feel more human. When families flee from home in a hurry, they eventually arrive at a refugee camp filthy dirty, exhausted, and frightened from trauma and travel. Personal Care Kits restore a little dignity by providing the basic resources to take tend to their most basic hygiene needs.
A bar of soap. Such a small thing. Such a big impact. We don’t have to wallow in despair about all that is wrong in the world. We can make a world of difference by doing something as simple as supporting agencies like Lutheran World Relief with a bar of soap.
Lent is the annual Christian season for reflecting, repenting, renewing, and remembering that the way things are now, is not have they have to be in the future. That is the point of the Christian narrative about God entering the human chaos as one of us, being executed for challenging the status quo, and rising again to prove God gets the last word. We’re all invited to be part of the clean-up crew. Sometimes it’s a simple as donating a bar of soap.
Learn more about the amazing things LWR is up to in the world at https://lwr.org.