50 Faces of Mercy

by Kim Plummer Krull


A Kenyan orphan, age 5, so severely malnourished she looks more like an 18-month-old toddler.

A Lutheran nurse in Palestine who wants to serve the Lord, her congregation, and her community.

A New Orleans pastor who lost his home and his church in Hurricane Katrina.

These are just a few of the many people touched by LCMS World Relief and Human Care.

Every day, the Synod’s mercy arm reaches out throughout the world, providing for physical needs in the clear name of Christ and His Gospel and according to our Lutheran confession of the faith.

Sure, news releases go out about grants awarded, resources delivered, and scholarships funded. But the real stories are reflected in faces—the faces of missionaries and deaconesses who serve the needy, the faces of orphans and the homeless whose lives change.

The following are only 50 of the countless people LCMS World Relief and Human Care has come to know—and whom this ministry wants you, too, to know.

These faces represent a spectrum of ages, hometowns, and needs; yet, all share one common bond: Each life has been touched by Christ’s mercy.

    1. “Through the opportunity made possible by LCMS World  Relief and Human Care, my classmates and I experienced the ministry of faithful Lutheran Christians confessing Christ in a context outside America. We saw the needs of people [in Madagascar] and their challenges. As a future pastor, this will surely impact my work.” Jason D. Lane, student, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind. Lane took part in a Mercy Mission Expedition with LCMS World Relief and Human Care.
    2. “A grant from LCMS World Relief and Human Care will help reduce the rate of death of Malagasy children. We do not have a pediatric unit, so we mix babies and children with the adults, which is not safe for the children.” Dr. Rasamiamanana Sahalanirina Harison, administrator, Malagasy Lutheran Hospital, Antsirabe, Madagascar, Africa. The hospital received funding from LCMS World Relief and Human Care donors to build its first pediatric unit
    3. “I prayed a lot to find another job where I can serve the Lord and His people, and deeply in my heart I know this is the place where the Lord wants me to be. I am looking forward to learning from your experiences as I take the parish-nurse course, and from your deep faith.” Raida Mansour, parish nurse, Christmas Lutheran Church, Bethlehem, Palestine, before her recent completion of the first online parish-nurse training course in the Middle East, made possible with the help of LCMS World Relief and Human Care.
    4. “I pray that after finishing my studies, I will come back to teach and preach God’s Word to my people—people who are victims of war, disabilities; people who are marginalized by people of other faiths and those in poverty, so that they may know that there is still life in Christ, despite this world’s sufferings.” Peter Anibati Abia, of Sudan, a student at Lutheran Theology Seminary, Pretoria, South Africa, which receives support from LCMS World Relief and Human Care to improve living conditions for students.
    5. “I had a great desire to be in the midst of the wounded at heart, to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ, especially to widows living with HIV/AIDS. We now have a center where forgiveness of sins is preached to people living with HIV/AIDS.” Lorna Olack-Meeker, deaconess in Kibera, Kenya, Africa’s largest slum, where a million people live amid poverty and disease. Her work includes overseeing a support center for children and adults with HIV/AIDS. The center is a partnership ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya and LCMS World Relief and Human Care.
    6. “LCMS World Relief and Human Care supported my deaconess education at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., and helped me open the first crisis-pregnancy center in Siberia. We save lives and show the only way of life. The abortion rate in Russia is the highest in the world.” Gloria Vinogradova, director, Nadezshda (Hope) Caring Pregnancy Center, Novosibirsk, Siberia, Russia.
    7. “Maria was saved from abortion two years ago through the counseling work of the Nadezshda [Hope] Counseling and Pregnancy Center, St. Petersburg, Russia, a project of LCMS World Relief and Human Care. Her mother, Lyubov, is very thankful for the spiritual and emotional support she received during her crisis pregnancy and for the real hope in Christ provided by the center.” Maggie Karner, director, LCMS Life Ministries, spe0308faces1-8.jpgaking about baby Maria Kotova (pictured).
    8. “Since 2001, Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services has been active internationally. This kind of work would be impossible without strong partners like LCMS World Relief and Human Care. Most recently, that partnership is helping change the lives of children and adults with developmental disabilities in the Dominican Republic and Africa.” Dr. David Geske, president and CEO, Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc., Watertown, Wis.
    9. “LSA brings the leaders of Lutheran health and humanservice organizations together for learning, collaboration, and shared work. It’s all part of the network of Lutheran social ministry that touches the lives of more than 6 million people every year. We couldn’t do it without LCMS World Relief and Human Care.” Jill A. Schumann, president and CEO, Lutheran Services in America, Baltimore, Md.
    10. “At Children’s Village, what I give is small compared to what I get.” Elmer O’Keefe, a resident at the Concordia Village independent living complex in Fort Wayne, Ind., who enjoys interacting with youngsters at the new Children’s Village intergenerational learning center. A gift from a generous LCMS World Relief and Human Care donor helped open the center and expand the ministry
    11. “Since I’ve met Pastor Bill Clements, I now feel that God is working once again for good in my life.” Fritz Anderson, who participates in the Prison After Care Program with Rev. Bill Clements, Redeemer Lutheran Church, Mercer Island, Wash. A grant from LCMS World Relief and Human Care helped make the program possible.
    12. “My income is now double … Since our basic needs are addressed, peace and order are slowly achieved.” Sarodin Kakim, a former combatant in the Philippines who became an organic farmer with support from Lutheran World Relief, an LCMS World Relief and Human Care partner. Kakim’s successful farm in Mindanao has earned a national agriculture award and enables him to provide for his family.
    13. “My family and I are very grateful for the food that LCMS World Relief and Human Care has given us. I am very happy. Tomorrow I won’t be hungry anymore.” Ningrum, 11, whose family received emergency food aid from LCMS World Relief and Human Care after the 2006 Yogyakarta, Indonesia, earthquake that led to more than 5,000 deaths and left an estimated 1.5 million people homeless.
    14. “LCMS World Relief and Human Care helped spread our story throughout the Lutheran community, bringing us volunteers, donations, grants, guidance, and both emotional and spiritual support.” Bethany Jones-Gonski, principal, St. John Lutheran Church and School, New Orleans, which confronted more than $1 million in damages after Hurricane Katrina. Both the church and school continue to serve their New Orleans community today.
    15. “The Wittenberg [Germany] trip gave us an opportunity to be with others outside of our normal hectic environment in a relaxed setting, experiencing where the Lutheran church began. This was eight days of regeneration for my wife, Dora, and me from the hectic pace of trying to help ourselves and our members re-establish their lives.” Rev. Jerome Terry, pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church, New Orleans, who lost both his home and church in Hurricane Katrina. LCMS World Relief and Human Care partnered with the LCMS Southern District to provide assistance for Terry. More recently, he was one of 15 church workers and their spouses who took part in a 2007 “Luther Land” retreat coordinated by the Synod’s mercy arm for Katrina pastors whose ministries have been affected dramatically.
    16. “God has been go0308faces9-16.jpgod in sparing us. We still have our lives, we have each other, and we will move on.” Maurine Jenkins, who, with her husband, Clarence (pictured), lost their home in the May 2007 tornado that took 10 lives and wiped out most of Greensburg, Kan. The Jenkins family was among the members of Peace Lutheran Church who received immediate assistance through an LCMS World Relief and Human Care emergency grant to the congregation, whose building was also demolished. The Synod’s mercy arm, in partnership with Orphan Grain Train and Laborers for Christ, also supplied a modular unit to serve as a temporary worship facility.
    17. “LCMS World Relief and Human Care has enabled me to continue to minister to the incarcerated and bring God’s grace and hope to His children who live behind the wall, enabling change and transformation within.” Dcs. Lori Wilbert, Stateville Correctional Center, Joliet, Ill. Because of budget constraints, Wilbert must raise her own funds, including her salary, to continue her ministry at Stateville, which is home to some 3,000 inmates. In 2006, LCMS World Relief and Human Care provided a grant that matched all donor support for her work.
    18. “God has provided me with good things, good people from good organizations who are really supportive. There is a change in my life and lots of opportunities ahead, and now I know where I am going.” Portia Xaba, an orphan and graduate of Siyathemba High School, Dirkiesdorp, South Africa. The school is operated by the Themba Trust, a longtime recipient of LCMS World Relief and Human Care funding. Xaba now attends Concordia University, Irvine, Calif., on a full scholarship from the university and with financial assistance provided by the Synod’s mercy arm.
    19. “The Lord has been good to me.” Lee Grey, a Biloxi, Miss., retiree and Hurricane Katrina survivor, whose home was rebuilt by volunteers led by Lutheran Social Services of the South Disaster Response, an LCMS World Relief and Human Care partner.
    20. “We were so happy to hear that we wouldn’t have to live in the tent camp anymore. If you didn’t come and help us, we wouldn’t have a house, because we lost everything.” Syahriati, a tsunami survivor in Aceh, Indonesia, whose family was one of 100 who now have homes with help provided by LCMS World Relief and Human Care.
    21. “We experienced the love of Jesus Christ through this program and were able to forget the painful past and to prepare ourselves to face the future with hope.” V. Ramanathan, a Hindu fishmonger who lived with his family in a tsunami survivors camp in Colombo, Sri Lanka, for nearly two years. Ramanathan participated in a counseling support program offered by the Lutheran Church in Sri Lanka, funded by LCMS World Relief and Human Care. He and his family have since moved into a permanent home.0308faces17-24.jpg
    22. “God’s love has been shown to us in so many ways through His people and His church.” Janice Strizver, Ramona, Calif., whose family lost their home during the 2007 California wildfires. LCMS World Relief and Human Care partnered with Ramona Lutheran Church and the Pacific Southwest District to provide emergency funds to help the family move temporarily into a motor home.
    23. “My last chance was Lutheran [Community Services in Delaware]. I called them to ask if they could help. … In just two days, I got the phone call saying that they would approve [a loan]. It was a big relief.” Veronica Patrick, a Wilmington, Del., mother who was nearly evicted from the apartment she shares with her son. Patrick got a loan from Lutheran Community Services in Delaware through a program funded with the help of an LCMS World Relief and Human Care domestic grant. Veronica has since repaid the loan and participated in a financial-literacy program to help her become a homeowner.
    24. “People with disabilities want to be a part of the body of Christ, sharing their gifts and talents like anyone else. The task-force goal has been to facilitate ministry to and with people with disabilities, breaking down barriers and equipping both congregations and people with disabilities in becoming active participants in the Great Commission.” Pat Nuffer, of Fort Wayne, Ind., mother of Carl (pictured), who has Down syndrome. Nuffer also is a member of the Disability Ministry Task Force of LCMS World Relief and Human Care, which has prepared a Web site (www.lcms.org/disability) to help congregations become more inclusive of people with disabilities.
    25. “The musical instruments and sound system your help allowed us to purchase is portable. We take the music out into the Latino community—out into the apartments and street corners and bring the people in. Music is what draws a Latino into the worshiping community.” Rev. Jesus Gonzalez, pastor of Monte De Oliveros Lutheran Church, Metairie, La., which flooded after Hurricane Katrina and lost musical instruments so important to the Hispanic congregation’s worship. An emergency matching grant from LCMS World Relief and Human Care helped replace the damaged equipment.
    26. “World Relief and Human Care has been a great support and a partner in our mission to start a diakonia [caring for people in need] program and develop the beginnings of a national Lutheran church in the Dominican Republic. World Relief and Human Care also helps to spiritually care for us missionaries in the field, pray for us, and call us to talk and listen.” Danelle Putnam, a developmental disabilities outreach missionary, speaking of her work in the Dominican Republic with Rev. Walter Ries Jr., a pastor with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil. Their ministry is largely funded by the partnership of Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, LCMS World Mission, and LCMS World Relief and Human Care.
    27. “Lives have been positively impacted—first by the Gospel and second by helping people realize they can improve their lives by being better stewards of God-given resources and talents. Friendship, guidance, and communication with LCMS World Relief and Human Care staff has been very supportive for us.” Delano Meyer (pictured), who, with his wife, Linda, has served as an agricultural missionary in West Africa for 13 years. The pair was sent and is supported by LCMS World Mission and LCMS World Relief and Human Care.
    28. “LCMS World Relief and Human Care has supported our work as agricultural specialists by providing funding for seeds, fertilizer, crop protection, farm machinery, and training— first in the Philippines, then in Argentina, and now in Central Asia. We know that we can count on them to come along beside us and be a resource for us, as well as for the people of the countries where we work and serve.” Mike Wade (pictured), agricultural specialist, LCMS World Mission, who serves with his wife, Ann, in Central Asia.
    29. “Now that I am back to earning an income, I have been able to pay my children’s school fees. I dream of paying off the loan and then recruiting and training jobless and homeless people to work at my bakery, or to establish their own bakeries.” Nyuk Lien, Banda Aceh, Indonesia, who lost family members and her bakery in the tsunami. Through a program funded by Lutheran World Relief, an LCMS World Relief and Human Care partner, Nyuk got a loan to buy equipment and re-open her bakery.
    30. 0308faces25-32.jpg“It instilled in us, long after the workshop, a sense of being ambassadors for Christ. The workshop convinced the county that clergy have a key role after disasters and [the county] is now offering a ‘training school’ to certify clergy to enter disaster-affected areas to provide pastoral care after a disaster—areas they were not allowed to enter before.” Rev. Larry Hendricks, pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, Vestal, N.Y., and an Eastern District disaster response coordinator, speaking of a disaster-response workshop led by LCMS World Relief and Human Care’s Rev. Carlos Hernandez. Hendricks requested the workshop for area clergy and relief organizations after the 2006 Susquehanna River flood forced the  evacuation of thousands of residents and caused massive property damage.
    31. Conrad “came to our closing worship service at Pioneer and tearfully exclaimed his joy in being able to actually leave his home, for doctor visits—and to come to Pioneer!” Linda L. Gage, executive director, Pioneer Camp and Retreat Center, Angola, N.Y., speaking of Conrad, who is wheelchair bound. Pioneer, a ministry of the LCMS Eastern District, serves people with developmental disabilities and sponsors camps. A grant from LCMS WorldRelief and Human Care helped Pioneer rebuild Conrad’s wheelchair ramp and assist others with special needs.
    32. “It has been a joy to serve the people of this congregation through worship services, visiting the sick, youth work, and more. I am also teaching English, so as to provide for human needs and as a form of evangelism to a community that is mostly unchurched.” Paul Elliott, a Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, student, who is serving a diakonal internship at Trinity Congregation, Dresden, Germany. The church received a grant from LCMS World Relief and Human Care that enables Elliott and his wife, Krista, to serve this former East German community, once under the heavy thumb of communism. The Elliotts focus on diakonal ministry that touches both body and soul.
    33. “The Mercy Mission Expedition to Biloxi, Miss., helped to shape my attitude about what counts in life. By aiding in the recovery effort by sharing kind words of hope and helping to rebuild, I was able to witness the powerful reach of God’s compassionate love.” John Zimmerman, who took part in a Mercy Mission Expedition to help Hurricane Katrina victims when he was a student at Concordia University, Ann Arbor. Mich.
    34. “I am very happy that I can now go to school to study and play with other children, too. I have many friends from America who love me very much. I stay in a nice home, and we go to church every Sunday.” Oscar, a Kenyan orphan who was first treated by LCMS World Relief and Human Care Mercy Medical Team volunteers in 2005. Oscar’s sister carried the little boy, who was gravely ill with AIDS, to the clinic. Today, a healthy, happy Oscar lives with Rev. Dennis Meeker and Dcs. Lorna Olack-Meeker, who serve the poor in Kenya’s Kibera slum. Their ministry receives funding from LCMS World Relief and Human Care in partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya.
    35. “The children were overjoyed to have nice warm blankets. It is exciting to see God work through our acts of mercy, to care for these children in body and soul.” Sally Henrickson, LCMS World Relief and Human Care medical material goods resource coordinator, recalling the joy of Loyce (pictured) and other children at the Emmanuel Lutheran Orphanage in Matongo, Kenya, when Henrickson helped deliver quilts from the LWML quilters group at Grace Lutheran Church, Hibbing, Minn.
    36. “Stella is five but only about the size of an 18-monthold. She and the other orphans were in such need of simple things. I’m so glad we were there for them. I feel so blessed and proud to be a part of this organization.” Kim Bonnett, an R.N. and LCMS World Relief and Human Care Mercy Medical Team volunteer, who helped treat Stella (pictured) and 46 other Kenyan orphans from the Lutheran orphanage in Kawangware, Kenya. Bonnett now provides financial support through the Synod’s mercy arm for Stella and her three siblings so they can attend school.
    37. “The Themba project has changed my life. It has taught me that serving God and others gives the greatest fulfillment in life. I feel blessed by being part of it.” Senzi Khumalo, a member of the Themba Girls South African choir that recorded a CD with jazz/pop artist Erin Bode as part of a fund-raising campaign for the Themba Trust. LCMS World Relief and Human Care, a longtime Themba supporter, is sponsoring the campaign to raise needed funds for the faith-based foundation that operates two residential high schools and gives hope to young South Africans. (To learn more, visit www.ThembaGirls.org.) Senzi now attends Concordia University, Irvine, Calif., on a scholarship from the university and with financial support provided by LCMS World Relief and Human Care.
    38. 0308faces33-40.jpg“The church is more than just what goes on inside a building. The church also must be part of what goes on beyond those walls and be a vital part of the community.” Lisa Ogbesoyen, a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church, St. Louis, and a participant in the campaign to revitalize the inner-city neighborhood of College Hill. The campaign is the first major initiative of Lutheran Housing Support, the housing-ministry arm of LCMS World Relief and Human Care and a charitable and education foundation that assists LCMS congregations with neighborhood renewal efforts.
    39. “The hearing aids from LCMS World Relief and Human Care have given me hope to go on with my education and eventually find a job and live like others.” Sirirat Taihuan (center) a sixth-grader at Baan Kuanrad School, Phangnga Province, Thailand, and a tsunami survivor. Sirirat, who lives with her grandmother, struggled with severe hearing problems until she received hearing aids for both ears through funding made possible by the Concordia Welfare and Education Foundation—Thailand and LCMS World Relief and Human Care. She also attends school with scholarship assistance from the two agencies.
    40. “She already had heard very well with the ‘ears of faith.’ She heard the Word of salvation and this was the main hearing. Now God is giving her the opportunity to hear by human ears.” Rev. Sergio Fritzler, speaking of Karina Segura (pictured), of Quilpué, Chile, who received a cochlear implant through funding made possible by an LCMS World Relief and Human Care grant to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Republic of Chile.
    41. “The partnership between LCMS World Relief and Human Care and Peace Officer Ministries illustrates the power of working together to both show and share Christ’s mercy in the face of human suffering and need.” Chaplain Steve Lee, executive director of Peace Officer Ministries, Inc., a chaplaincy ministry that serves law-enforcement officers and agencies, congregations, and communities with spiritual care and resources. Funding from LCMS World Relief and Human Care assisted the ministry with relief work after Hurricane Katrina and, more recently, in response to the Southern California wildfires.
    42. “I went from being an un-baptized Christmas and Easter church person to being a minister of mercy. I found a personal connection with God through Camp Restore, Pastor Ed [Brashier, camp director], and others. Camp Restore provided a confirmation that God does exist and is here for all people.” Jason McCoy, a volunteer at Camp Restore, New Orleans, which houses and coordinates volunteers from throughout the United States who assist with ongoing Hurricane Katrina cleanup and rebuilding. McCoy was the first person baptized at Camp Restore. The camp is a ministry of the LCMS Southern District and is supported by LCMS World Relief and Human Care, Orphan Grain Train, and others. (To learn more, visit www.CampRestore.org.)
    43. “It seems as if Lutheran Social Services of the South laid the foundation for my life, and for that I am forever grateful! Thank you for being a part of the tremendous blessing of adoption!” Jenise Engelke, a Belton, Texas, physical therapist, who, as an infant, was adopted through Lutheran Social Services of the South. Over the years, LCMS World Relief and Human Care has provided funding to the social-service agency for adoption ministries and other programs. Now married and a mother, Engelke and her husband are considering adopting a child.
    44. “…you came, you talked to me, you brought us food and water, too, but [also] you counseled me, and I’ve come closer to God.” Yessenia Sánchez, Lucumo, Cañete, Peru, whose family was among those who received emergency supplies and spiritual care after the August 2007 earthquake that killed more than 500 people and left many more injured and homeless. In a letter after the disaster, Sánchez expressed her gratitude to Olga Groh, project-management director for the Synod’s mercy arm in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    45. “Trinity School has been very good for Denisse. She has been much more motivated to do well academically.” Eloy Cruz, speaking of his daughter, Denisse Cruz Rodriguez (pictured), a seventh-grader at Trinity Lutheran Church and School, Portland, Ore. Denisse attended a summer program at the school to improve her reading skills. LCMS World Relief and Human Care has funded programs at Trinity that provide scholarships for Latino children and an academic summer school for immigrant children.
    46. “This overwhelming generosity has allowed me to realize this dream to further study theology and be better prepared to educate others, particularly women, to serve in a God-pleasing role in the church.” Cathryn Heather Zarnke, a student in the deaconessstudies program at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. Zarnke says her home country of Australia offers no deaconess programs that could prepare her for the professional church-work path she wanted to pursue. Funding from LCMS World Relief and Human Care is helping her realize a longtime dream.
    47. “When we saw that our church was helping not only with words, we knew that they cared about us. . . . Now we get together every week to pray and care for each other.” Pérsida Gudiel, San Marco, Guatemala, speaking of the emergency relief provided by LCMS World Relief and Human Care after Hurricane Stan in 2005. Several people in Gudiel’s congregation were among the more than 6,000 Guatemalans whose homes were damaged or destroyed in the flooding and mudslides that followed the deadly storm.
    48. “Ever since I was a child, I have served the church. But with this program, it is now different, because it has taught me more about Christian theology and human care.” Zahira Martinez, a deaconess student in Panama. Martinez began her deaconess studies in 2007 as part of an effort supported by LCMS World Relief and Human Care to offer deaconess-training opportunities throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
    49. 0308faces41-50.jpg“LCMS World Relief and Human Care sponsored the first-ever Lutheran Emergency Chaplains Conference in October 2006. The conference brought [together] Lutheran chaplains from across the country for the purpose of training, networking, and fellowship. We continue to network each year at the annual training events of the International Conference of Police Chaplains and the Federation of Fire Chaplains.” Rev. William W. Wagner, Beloit, Wis., chaplain/critical-incident response team coordinator, LCMS South Wisconsin District, and chaplain with the Beloit police and fire departments.
    50. “We were able to provide Jeremy’s older brother, Jacob, with new clothes and shoes. And mom was able to shop through our used-clothing selection to find clothing for Jeremy.” Dcs. Deanna Cheadle, speaking of Jeremy (pictured), whose mother, Debbie Gravely, shopped at the Shepherd’s Closet, a clothing ministry at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, Portsmouth, Ohio. Cheadle helped organize the ministry, one of two distribution sites offered by the nine Appalachian congregations that comprise the Diakonal Outreach Care and Services organization. Funding from LCMS World Relief and Human Care, the congregations, and the Ohio District enabled the congregations to employ the deaconess.

LCMS World Relief and Human Care depends largely on donor support to fund this mercy ministry. To help provide needed funds, make a check payable to LCMS World Relief and Human Care, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO, 63166-6861. You may also call the toll-free gift line, 1-888-930-4438, or make a secure online donation at www.GiveNowLCMS.org. To learn more, visit http://worldrelief.lcms.org.

The Lutheran Witness — Providing Missouri Synod laypeople with stories and information that
complement congregational life, foster personal growth in faith, and help interpret the
contemporary world from a Lutheran Christian perspective.

Comments are closed.
LCMS News & Information