by Elizabeth Truong
By God’s design, we are wondrously woven into familieschildren, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sisters and brotherswith each member contributing to the colorful pattern of family life in this world. But the fabric of families is daily torn by the effects of sin and the troubling realities of life in a sin-broken world. LCMS World Relief and Human Care (WR-HC) reaches out in witness and mercy, helping to restore families whose life together has been frayed or torn apart by such circumstances. It helps in weaving Christ’s mercy into hurting families both in the United States and in countries around the world.
The Rev. John Fale, co-interim executive director of the Office of International Mission, which oversees the mercy ministries of the Synod, explains, “With the help of generous supporters, LCMS WR-HC shows up to be Christ and His Church whenever needs arise, wherever people are suffering, with whatever help is needed. When we address families basic needs, help those in vulnerable situations or build specialized capacity in church workers, God works through these ministries to restore families.”
Meeting needs in Christ’s name
The LCMS National Housing Support Corporation revitalizes communities and renews neighborhoods in a time when an increasing number of families are struggling with the effects of home foreclosures. Program Director Nicole Ridley says, “By bringing neighborhoods back to life and addressing persons of modest means housing needs, we are helping to meet some of the basic needs of families. Through these opportunities, we are able to share the love of Christ in our actions as well as our words.”
The College Hill neighborhood in St. Louis, Mo., is one location where the LCMS National Housing Support Corporation has touched lives. Ridley says, “Most College Hill dwellings are renter-occupied and have been abandoned by landlords when profits cease. Remaining families live in drug-infested, crime-ridden, dilapidated housing. Since our involvement in the neighborhood in 2007, a bright light shines among the decline, and that is a core group of people rich in heritage and proud of their homes that want to take their neighborhood back from those who seek to keep it in a state of devastation.”
LCMS WR-HC also has a legacy of helping families meet their basic needs when disaster strikes and then remaining involved for the long term. In Haiti, hundreds of thousands of families are still reeling from the effects of the January 2010 earthquake. The Rev. Glenn Merritt, director of LCMS Disaster Response, reports that the LCMS has provided more than $5.4 million in aid, which supports seven collaborative projects. Through the Building Homes and Hope in Haiti project, 55 permanent homes have been constructed for families left homeless after the earthquake, and another 20 are underway. Grouped together in Lutheran villages, each includes a clinic, church, school and, when possible, an orphanage.
Transitional housing has also been provided as families wait for permanent structures to be completed. Merritt explains, Successful applicants for permanent housing in the Lutheran village are offered the opportunity to move in to transitional shelters while awaiting the construction of their homes. To date, 330 of these transitional shelters have been shipped to Haiti for assembly. Through the provision of housing, Haitian families can stay together and be nurtured by God’s Word through the ministry of a nearby Lutheran church.
Maggie Karner, LCMS WR-HCs director of Life and Health Ministries, explains that at their very core, Life and Health Ministries are all about healthy and protected women, children and families. You cannot have life as Christ designed it in its fullest without healthy families.
Mercy Medical Clinics strengthen and encourage families by providing primary care services that are not available elsewhere. Karner says, “In Haiti, just after the [January 2010] earthquake, a new mother brought her dehydrated and le-thargic three-week-old baby to the clinic. By spending time with this traumatized mother, we calmly mentored her in lactation techniques that got little Francesca enjoying her mother’s milk and off to a healthy start. And, in the process, we had a wonderful opportunity to share the love of Jesus.
Another example comes from Russia, where the Christian pregnancy and counseling center Nadezshda in St. Petersburg, supported by LCMS WR-HC, has helped to restore the life of 31-year-old Igor Sichkar. Olga Ryumin, director of the center, shares, Igor is an orphan who began taking our computer class 10 years ago. Since then, Igor has helped our ministry with his computer knowledge.
We’ve always tried to help Igor by giving him life advice, since he has grown up without a family or Christian examples. For many years, he looked to the world for guidance but eventually realized that he did not want to continue down that road.
Ryumin recounted how the staff mentored Igor, helping him to understand God’s desire to reserve cohabitation for marriage and the importance of developing positive relationships with the parents of the girl he wished to marry. She shares, We’ve always known Igor as a faithful friend. Now we have no doubts that he will be a wise and caring husband.
Caring for church workers
Through Soldiers of the Cross and Veterans of the Cross, active and retired church workers can receive care when they find themselves in an unexpected situation that leaves them without adequate financial resources. These ministries help keep families together so that they might continue supporting each other, braving difficult seasons of life together and ministering together in their congregations and communities.
Through the Specialized Pastoral Ministry program, chaplains and pastoral counselors serve families in unique ways. Chaplains serve in hospitals, prisons, hospices, retirement homes and homes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Pastoral counselors work one-on-one or in small groups in clinics, private practices, counseling centers and congregations. Through your prayers, gifts and voluntary service, you can join LCMS WR-HC in weaving the restorative thread of Christ’s mercy through the lives of torn families.
- The General Relief Board was established in 1905 and expended its first disaster response funding in 1907.
- In 2005, WR-HC coordinated multi-million dollar responses after the tsunami in Asia and hurricanes in the Gulf Coast.
- During the past three years, WR-HC awarded more than $25 million through more than 650 U.S. and international grants.
> On the Web: For up-to-date LCMS WR-HC news, go to mercyforever.lcms.org.
> On the Web: To learn more about the mercy ministries of the LCMS, visit www.lcms.org/worldrelief.
About the Author: Elizabeth Troung is a staff writer for LCMS Communications.