Today I had the privilege of listening to John Nunes, head of Lutheran World Relief, speak and preach in church. One of the things he said was that historically, Lutheran World Relief and other Lutheran charities have not had to advertise themselves–Lutherans gave regularly, as congregations and as individuals, and so money that other organizations had to spend on marketing and fundraising, LWR could commit directly to projects. That’s changing, and so Lutheran World Relief has just had to hire their first director of marketing. And it seems to me that part of the problem is that we as Lutherans haven’t been good at spreading the word about all the good things we do. As children of God, we are called not only to spread the Good News, but to be what Luther called “little Christs” to our neighbor, spreading the love of God through tangible means of food, shelter, healing, companionship. We give and we work, not to earn God’s grace, but to share the love God has given us. Here are some of the ways we as Lutherans do this:
Lutheran World Relief works in 35 countries throughout the world. They seek lasting solutions to poverty and injustice in some of the poorest places in the world. While they do disaster relief, their focus is on building communities and helping people raise themselves out of poverty so that when disasters strike, be they natural or manmade, the people can take care of themselves and are less dependent on the charity of others. They work with and through local people and organizations, creating sustainable growth and working towards peace and justice. And they do all that while staying financially stable in today’s economy, and while spending less than ten cents of every dollar on administration (which is an incredible ratio–a lot of charities are good if they get less then twenty cents per dollar for administration). LWR’s projects include collecting and distributing quilts, health kits, clothing, etc, made by American Lutheran congregations, Fair Trade coffee, chocolate, and gifts (perfect for this holiday season!), disaster relief, and working with people in poor, rural communities to figure out what they need and find a sustainable way to get it.
Lutheran Services in America is the largest social service organization in America. It’s larger than Catholic charities, larger than the Red Cross, larger than the Salvation Army. It’s an alliance of over 300 Lutheran health and human service organizations. Working neighbor to neighbor through services in health care, aging and disability supports, community development, housing, and child and family strengthening, these organizations together touch the lives of one in 50 Americans each year and have aggregated annual incomes over $16.6 billion.
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. For over 70 years, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service has led a ministry of welcome to some of America’s most vulnerable newcomers. They help people seeking safety from persecution in their home countries and reunite families torn apart by conflict. They resettle refugees. They protect vulnerable children who arrive alone in the United States. They advocate for compassion and justice for all migrants.
Lutheran Disaster Response works with local people and volunteers to rebuild lives and communities, both in the initial aftermath of a disaster and in the years of rebuilding that long-term recovery requires.
Through these and other organizations, Lutherans do great work in the world. I encourage you to give as you are able, of your money, time, and talents. And spread the news about what we do!