Dionisa Choque looks at her family's garden, where she now grows onions, carrots and lettuce. LWR and our partner Fundación Arado taught families in Tinguipaya, Bolivia about sprinkler systems to better irrigate their crops. Dionisa is able to sell the crops and her family now earns more than ever before.
In biblical times, water was a mixed blessing, at best. Necessary for life, and often seen as a blessing, it was also associated with chaos and death.
The waters of the flood were both promise and destruction; the Red Sea was a symbol of both liberation and death.
In many of the communities where Lutheran World Relief works, water can also be a mixed blessing.
PRAYERGod of promise, you promised to be with your people through the waters of the Red Sea and with us in the waters of baptism. May your promise be known through the life-giving waters provided to communities where water has been dry, In Jesus' name, AMEN.
The water is swimming with life, but it is far from life-giving. Parasites, bacteria and other microorganisms lurk in the waters, causing a multitude of illnesses.
Children, whose bodies lack the resistance of their elders, are especially vulnerable.
For them, drinking this living water can be the beginning of a downward spiral that includes malnutrition, school absence and sometimes even death.
Yet, as people of faith, we know the powerful promise that God brings to water. And we know that water is essential to life. In the fourth chapter of John, Jesus met a woman at a well and asked her for a drink of water.
Jesus spoke to her heart, telling her that he could give her “living water, bubbling up to eternal life.” This living water that Jesus promised is alive not with microorganisms, but with God’s lasting promise.
In the waters of baptism, we are drowned in water and the word and reborn children of God. Here water brings death, but through that death, God grants us eternal life.
As LWR works to provide clean drinking water to communities, and as we help build irrigation systems that bring life-giving water to farms and fields, we give thanks to God for the lasting promise of water.
And as we work and pray for the health of communities around the world, we participate in Jesus’ mission to give us all living water. Thanks be to God!
Dipali Pramanick lost her husband to tuberculosis. She keeps the LWR Quilt he received when he was a patient at Santi Tuberculosis Hopsital in Pailan, India as special reminder of him. Though her husband has now passed away, Dipali traveled back to the hospital to thank LWR.
Like so many of us, growing up I was often reminded to be thankful for what I had. There are so many others with less. This sense of gratitude, however, can often lead to complacency. Followers of Jesus should not be complacent, especially in the face of hunger and poverty. Because God has first loved us, because of the grace of Jesus on the cross, we are free to work so that all may be full and thankful. A powerful witness to this calling in my life is a woman I met through a story from International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), one of our partners in mission around the world that helps to get the Quilts and Kits that Lutherans so lovingly assemble into the hands of those in need. They shared with us the following story told to them by a priest in Jordan.
PRAYERGod of gratitude, who sets a table before us, we give thanks for the blessings you place in our lives. May our gratitude call us out into the world to serve those you love and bring healing to a broken world. In your son's name, AMEN.
One of our most active church members — a woman who faithfully attends every mass, makes home visits to indigent Christian families and helps the church in reaching these poor — asked me to visit with her family late one evening. I thought she had a family problem. Upon arriving, I was shocked to see that she is poorer than the poor she visits to help. Her two children sleep on the floor atop a torn mattress with very light sheets covering their thin bodies. Her husband earns around $220 a month, not enough to meet their basic needs. Shyly she said to me, “I like the Kits and the Quilts you give to me to distribute to the poor families, and I ask you if I may have two Quilts and two Personal Care Kits for my children on Easter.” The following night, I carried two Quilts and two Personal Care Kits and two toothpaste packs with some food rations towards her home. She kissed my hand, asking me to thank IOCC and Lutheran World Relief for assisting her two children, five and seven years old. I went back home, thinking of how many people are deprived of the wealth that others enjoy, while seeing many dying in complete silence, not reaching the crumbs of the bread under the rich feet.
The life of this woman, so grateful of the little given to her that she would make home visits to those in need, is a powerful witness to me. It is a reminder that even in the face of scarcity in our own lives, God’s grace is enough to call us to stand up for the livelihoods of those around us. It is a reminder of the astounding depth of grace that only the Canaanite woman understood and caused Jesus to respond, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish,” (Matthew 15:28). It is a reminder to us all that we play an important role in God’s redemptive and restoring work that is happening right now! Let’s join together with gratitude in this work that we have been so gracefully given!
Chandler Carriker is LWR's Congregational Resources Specialist
A child drinks from a bowl in the Dadaab refugee complex in Kenya. In 2011, hundreds of thousands of people fled to Dadaab — mostly from Somalia — to escape famine and drought. LWR and partner Lutheran World Federation worked in the camps to connect vulnerable refugees to vital services.
Jonathan Ernst for LWR
He said to me, Mortal, eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it. Then I ate it; and in my mouth it was as sweet as honey. (Ezekiel 3:3).
Food is one of the most prominent metaphors throughout the Bible. Harvest, manna, honey, wine and wedding banquets: these things paint pictures throughout scripture of God’s blessings. They are images that sustain the life of God’s people and bring God’s people together into abundant celebration of that life.
PRAYERGod of abundance, you give of yourself in the bread and wine that feeds us. Send us out in the world to share abundantly with those who have only known scarcity. In the name of Jesus, AMEN.
“You are what you eat” and eating is such an important piece of life that there’s almost no more powerful metaphor in scripture. Ezekiel isn’t just given a scroll to read, he is told to eat that word, to chew it, taste it and ingest it, so that God’s word literally becomes part of him. Ezekiel does not become a prophet who merely speaks God’s word; Ezekiel is sustained by God’s word, and it is sweet as honey.
In other parts of Scripture, God’s word isn’t food, it’s the other way around: food is God’s Word. We repeat Jesus’ words in worship and we consume that Word:
“This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
The people with whom Lutheran World Relief works don’t always have the food they need to sustain themselves or their families. Many people can’t grow enough food on their own land; others don’t even have the land they’d need to grow something; and still other people are surrounded by enough food, but for political or economic reasons can’t access it. By helping people around the world access sustaining food, we both respond to and participate in God’s word. God’s promise to us is everlasting, sustaining life. May that promise fill our bodies, energizing and nourishing us to give thanks and to work to ensure that all people, in all places, are well fed.
A man breaks down bricks in earthquake shattered Nepal. LWR and partners are working with communities there to reduce their vulnerability to disasters and help them recover quickly.
Lutherans have a plainspoken way of just calling things what they are. As the late Luther Seminary professor, Gerhard Forde, once put it: “It is false optimism that brings ultimate despair.”
Life can collapse without warning. Disasters strike in our personal lives as well as on a global scale. When dreams are destroyed and communities are devastated around the world, Lutheran World Relief hears the cries of those affected as a call to deliver hope.
PRAYERGod of hope, who heard the cries of Israelites in Egypt, hear the cries of those who suffer in a broken world. Move in us to respond to those calls swiftly with grace and mercy. AMEN.
On a frigid evening, my then 15-yearold son ended up hospitalized after a basketball game. As I sat in the cold emergency room from 9:30 p.m. until 4:30 a.m., consoling him in his personal pain, reports of a catastrophe unfolded on the TV screen. Haiti, barely surviving in backbreaking poverty, had absorbed a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. On my much smaller telephone screen, e-mail messages zipped around the world as LWR quickly sprung into action.
Regretfully, we must accept the inevitably of disaster and human suffering. Evil is as real as it is often unexplainable. Yet, we are never satisfied to stand by idly watching people die. LWR commits to carry the compassion of Lutherans into the epicenter of life’s earthquakes. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Deeply woven into the fiber of our tradition is the conviction that all people are made in the image of God. If we accept this, we cannot be content to see people hungry or suffering.”
A mother and her child display the Quilt they received from our local partner, Caritas, and the Mother of Mercy Women's House, an organization that also helps teach skills and trades so families can earn a livelihood.
Mother of Mercy Women's House
Have you ever wondered where Jesus and his disciples got their money? How this itinerant carpenter and a grisly group of fishermen funded their evangelistic escapades through first-century Palestine? Women made it possible.
We must assume other funding models were available for Jesus. He might have sought out better-heeled companions, applied for funding from the local Pharisee council or requested a grant from the regional magistrate. But he didn’t. The nature of Jesus’ ministry didn’t mesh with financial support from the ruling class. To minister to the blind and broken, diseased and dying, lonely and lost, he chose a group of rural fisher folk, living on the shores of Galilee. And he chose women as his backers, most specifically “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee” (Matthew 27:56). These women made it possible.
PRAYERGod, who chose a woman to deliver his Son, who called women to sustain Christ's ministry and who imparted to women the good news of the resurrection, likewise chooses us in birth, sustains us in life, and imparts good news to us to death. We remember the women of our lives, living and departed, who continue to guide our callings and exemplify the love of Christ in our midst. In Christ Jesus, who gives us life and love, AMEN.
When viewing the ministry of Lutheran World Relief, we must also respond with a similar refrain: women make it possible. Certainly, many men contribute their time, money and talents to a ministry that provides food, shelter and a self-determined path out of poverty to millions of people. We celebrate the compassionate calling of all, lifting up our collective efforts to show mercy to all God’s children.
At the same time, we also lift up those women who have made it possible. From raising the next generation of faithful Lutherans, to leading communities across the globe to grow food, dig wells and invest in their future. Our work in 35 countries depends on women. On college campuses and in congregations, women lead by example — drinking Fair Trade coffee, sewing quilts, wrapping Personal Care Kits, giving LWR Gifts and sharing their voices in advocacy. In all seasons, as we gather around dining and communion tables, we remember our callings and the divine compassion made incarnate in the Virgin Mary and the grace of the resurrection first witnessed by Mary Magdalene. These women made it possible.
Daniel Lee is LWR's Vice President of External Relations
A young girl in the Philippines puts resources from an LWR School Kit to good use. In communities like hers these valuable resources play an important role in planting seeds for future promise!
In Lutheran circles these days, there seems to be an increasing hunger to read and talk about the Word of God. We know we need a regular spiritual intake. Yet, is there a relationship between this renewal in Scripture study and Lutheran World Relief ’s ongoing global efforts to alleviate physical hunger?
Martin Luther would assert, “Yes!” Here’s how he draws the link: “The Word of God always comes first. After it follows faith; after faith, love; then love does every good work, for … it is the fulfilling of the law” (Luther’s Works 36:39).
PRAYERGod our Father, deliver us your Spirit through your life-giving Word. Through the grace of the Trinity connect us to all your people and call us to action in your name. In the name of Jesus Christ, AMEN.
Feeding on God’s Word means feeding our faith with Jesus Christ as the Son of God (John 20:31). The more we hear God talk to us through the Word, all the more will good works flow through our lives. All the more we will receive strength to serve others. All the more we will reduce the risk of being emotionally overwhelmed by the magnitude of seemingly unsolvable global issues. And all the more we will fulfill God’s will to be doers of justice and lovers of mercy (Micah 6:6–8).
The causes and consequences of an insufficient food supply are complex, spiritually and physically. Hunger reduction, where food supply is limited, isn’t only about providing irrigation systems, agricultural strategies, access to economic markets or advocacy on behalf of people living in poverty. These things do matter, and as we participate in them, we are called to employ the highest in professionalism and excellence.
But looking at the work of international relief and development through the prism of faith opens our eyes to the deeper issues also at stake: penetrating questions related to sustainability and stewardship, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1). We may even find ourselves engaging in debates about justice and basic human rights, like the universal right to food and water. These questions find rich theological roots in the opening chapters of Genesis.
The more we dig into the Word of God, the more we discover at least two things related to world hunger: 1) that we are connected to the entire human community where it suffers as sisters and brothers of a common heavenly Father; 2) that we are authorized not just to speak, but to act with power, the Holy Spirit and full conviction.
Now that we are nourished with new life in Jesus’ name, we become God’s answer to the spoken or unspoken prayers, mouthed through tears by children and adults around the world, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Talk is not cheap.
Rashidi Mfaume Rashidi stands in the middle of rice fields in Tanzania. In the Dodoma region of Tanzania LWR works with farmers to improve their rice quality and yield for greater food security for all the community.
"Do you not care that we are perishing?” Frustrated that their teacher is asleep in their storm-swamped boat, the disciples berate Jesus for his apparent indifference to the danger surrounding them. They want him to get up and help them bail water from the boat.
So the disciples are amazed and stunned when Jesus settles the wind and sea. They certainly didn’t expect their mortal friend Jesus to calm the storm. Suddenly their image of Jesus takes on another dimension.
PRAYERJesus, who calls us to respond to suffering in the world, empower your people to withstand the chaos of wind and waves. Give peace to those who have known ony war and give comfort to those who have known only cold. In the name of the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, AMEN.
Jesus challenges the disciples’ expectations, responding not only with weather-altering assistance but also turning around and questioning them, calling them to grow beyond their limited expectations of him, asking, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” Even though fear easily overrides faith under precarious conditions, Jesus urges them to have faith anyway.
What does it mean to have faith in the midst of conflicts and disasters? Are we to wait for Jesus to save the day?
If we instead allow Jesus to challenge our expectations of who he is and how he responds to suffering in the world, our faithful response to disasters and conflicts broadens as well. When we are asleep to the suffering of those in our global “boat,” their calls rouse us to action. Despite our shortcomings and fears, Christ acts through us to calm the storms in turmoilridden places. In amazement, we learn that we are called to be, as Martin Luther said, “little Christs” in service to others. We’re called to provide relief to those suffering conflicts and natural disasters and help people rebuild their lives in the following months and years. We’re called to speak out for peace. Unhindered by our expectations and fears we’re called to respond to those who are perishing, knowing that Jesus is in the boat along with us, working through us.
Erin Brock worked as LWR's Program Associate for Constituent Engagement
A family walks together at the Dadaab refugee complex in Kenya. Through long term response by LWR and our partner Lutheran World Federation they can be on the road to a more sustainable future.
Jonathan Ernst for LWR
Don Pedro is LWR's longest serving staff member. He offered the following devotion at the Latin America team meeting in 2010 (Translated from Spanish).
In order to make sure we are following Micah 6:8, we must ensure that we are not like the bloody Pharisees whose white tunics were always bloody because they didn’t want to look at or see the reality of what was happening around them. They walked bent over, with their heads and eyes down so they wouldn’t have to see injustice, pain or poverty. As a result of their desire to be blind, they were literally bloody because they bumped into trees and other obstacles. They were figuratively bloody because of what they ignored.
PRAYERGracious Lord, what do you require of me, but to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with you? Fill me with the grace to follow that call, AMEN.
Sometimes we are like the bleeding Pharisees. Sometimes we think that not looking and not seeing what is wrong or unjust around us means that we didn’t violate the law. That is not enough. God calls for preventative justice. This preventative justice is very difficult because our sin runs very deep. We are natural sinners and natural transgressors. We try to see how we can be good and sometimes we think we are good. We want to stand with and do good for our fellow man. But we must remember that solidarity isn’t just being a “good guy;” we must have disinterested mercy that is worthy of the other person.
The key to be humble before God is to ensure that we are walking with awareness and that we are walking humbly. The best example we can look to for humility and obedience is Jesus. Jesus died on the cross because he did what his father asked of him. He died, nailed to the cross.
The more I have read and thought about Micah 6:8, the more I understand why the passage leads Lutheran World Relief ’s strategy. Justice, mercy and obedience to God are fundamental elements of LWR’s work and these three lead to true accompaniment. We need to step back and remember that accompaniment isn’t in the papers, the documents or the statistics. Accompaniment isn’t just in looking at what is wrong. And accompaniment isn’t just in “walking with;” sometimes accompaniment means we need to be like a stone in someone’s shoe: never giving up and even possibly annoying until change occurs — to all involved.
What does Micah 6:8 mean to you?
Don Pedro Veliz is LWR's Regional Representative for the Andean Region
Marie Fortune Jean-Babtiste, who suffers from debilitating arthritis in her hands, talks about her needs in post-earthquake Port-au-Prince, Haiti. LWR's local partner, Haiti Christian Service, is providing support to hundreds of disabled people affected by 2010's devastating earthquake.
Photo by Jonathan Ernst/LWR/ACT Alliance
Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ … For all must carry their own loads. (Galatians 6:2, 5).
These verses seemed a contradiction to me for many years, until I learned more about the difference between “burdens” and “loads.” Here’s how I think of it now: a load is like a backpack full of the things one person needs to carry with them to make it through the day. A burden is like a cart. One person could pull it if they have to, but it’s really made to be pulled by a team.
PRAYERThank you, God, for calling us to work alongside you in our global community. Give us the strength and wisdom to reach out at the right time and in the right way to help bear one another's burdens when the load grows too heavy. AMEN.
That’s how I think of Lutheran World Relief ’s work in the world. Through development projects that help build resilience, deepen resources and expand knowledge, we enable people and communities to “carry their own loads.” But when an emergency comes — a flood, an earthquake, a conflict, even a drought — the load grows into something bigger. It becomes a burden.
Here’s where we come in. We are called to fulfill Christ’s law by bearing one another’s burdens. And the good news is this; because it’s Christ law, by the power of the cross it has already been fulfilled. Now it is a calling that’s given to us through grace. It’s a calling we don’t face alone but with the whole body of Christ. Through your prayers, generous gifts and donations of Quilts and Kits, we reach out together as Christ’s hands in the world. LWR is so thankful for your faithfulness in living out this call we share.
Melanie Gibbons is LWR's Quilt & Kit Ministry Manager
In malaria-affected countries, like Burkina Faso, bed nets can save lives. LWR's malaria work educates families about the importance of bed net use and timely treatment of malaria symptoms.
Ollivier Gerard by LWR
There are many strange things around us in this world today. From the strangely absurd that many of us witness every night on reality TV, to the strangely beautiful creation that fills the depths of the ocean. Just think about how many times in a day you find yourself saying “Isn’t that strange?” or “That’s weird!”
While strange is easy to recognize, awe might be a bit more difficult. I know my use of the word “awesome” is just as commonplace today as it was when I, as a teenager, marveled at the discovery of a mint condition Ken Griffey Jr. rookie baseball card.
PRAYERGod of wonder and awe, fill our lives with your presence so we may go and share with the world. Thank you for those times when you place us on sacred ground and give us the gifts to tell the world of what we have seen. In the name of your Son, Christ Jesus. AMEN.
But what in our daily lives truly fills us with awe? The compassion of one child of God reaching out to another? The startling beauty of God’s creation at a moment we least expect it? What in your daily life has truly filled you with such awe that you have glorified God like these witnesses of Jesus in Luke?
Not long ago, I sat in awe alongside my Lutheran World Relief colleagues as I learned the hopeful news that where malaria once claimed the life of a child every 30 seconds, then every 45 seconds, it has now slowed to every 60 seconds. That 15-second increment may seem minuscule, but it means thousands of lives are saved each day.
Receiving this news places us on sacred ground — where things seem strangely possible in a world that fills us with so much doubt. Sharing this news with you fills me with awe of God’s grace, working through U.S. Lutherans to achieve a seemingly impossible goal. And we are! And our response to this wonder, to this miracle can only be to glorify God who has called us to this work and given us a spirit of healing to share with the world. Blessings to you as you join us in the work of bringing hope and healing to the world! May our work glorify the strange and aweinducing God who calls us out into the world to heal!
Chandler Carriker is LWR's Congregational Resources Specialist
A mother in Haiti gives her daughter a bath amidst the rubble of the 2010 earthquake in a neighborhood near Port-au-Prince. In the months following the earthquake, the gift of basic hygiene supplies, like soap, were crucial to health and dignity.
Paul Jeffrey for LWR
Several years ago, I went to visit my grandmother in rural Virginia. The timing of the trip happened to coincide with the annual Love Feast held at her Church of the Brethren congregation. A Love Feast is a celebration and remembrance of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet and the Lord’s Supper. She was so excited for me to attend this special event with her.
What I remember from that event was simple. Grandmother washed my feet. I washed hers.
PRAYERLord who comes to us with a basin and towel, thank you for your example of service to the world. You call us to serve all those around the world, from the Philippines to Colombia to Uganda and all nations in-between. Give your servants the strength to go to those places they are needed the most. In Jesus name we pray, AMEN.
In John 13 we read:
“After Jesus had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord — and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example that you also should do as I have done to you.”
I am thankful for this memory, for this tradition that put flesh and bone to story in John. For me, it’s also an example of my family’s emphasis of serving others. Not because we’re somehow better, but in response to the incredible, humble, sacrificial love Christ gave first to us.
My work at Lutheran World Relief gives me an opportunity every day to remember this inheritance of humble service and to live it out. I am thankful that LWR’s values echo my own in so many ways, and my work here gives me an opportunity every day to remember this inheritance of humble service and to live it out.
Sometimes, foot washing involves a basin and a towel. Other times, it could look like an LWR staff team spending months listening to a community in preparation for a new project.
It might look like soap, towels and toothbrushes for a travel-weary family arriving at a refugee camp in Kenya.
Or like one community sharing their knowledge about building a water system with a neighboring community on a mountain in the Philippines.
It might look like peace building in Colombia, or paying farmers a fair wage for their crops in Uganda.
It might look like the faithful group of quilters who meet every Wednesday to sew and tie Quilts for LWR, or the gift of one of those Quilts to an orphaned child at an HIV/AIDS clinic in India.
I am thankful to be part of this global community, along with each of you. I am thankful for your faithful service that inspires me, and reminds me that each small thing we do is a way of responding to Christ’s call to us every day.
Melanie Gibbons is LWR's Quilt & Kit Ministry Manager
A mother and child in the Batticaloa district of Sri Lanka. LWR's work to empower women around the world makes a positive difference in the lives of children.
This devotion was written on the one-year anniversary of the Haiti earthquake.
Until I met John’s family, I had thought of Psalm 23 as “nice,” but my faith had never had to really grapple with its true weight. I was working as a hospital chaplain and John was a 15-year-old patient, a twin. When I responded to the request for a chaplain on John’s unit, I was pushed aside by nurses and surgeons, beeping carts filled with every instrument imaginable trying to stop John’s congenital blood disease from stripping away his life.
PRAYERGod of grace, you are here, and for that we give you thanks. You have walked with us through the hardest of times, and your lasting promise gives us life. Help us give the gift of presence to others when they need it, knowing that in your namewe'll never abandon them. You restore our soul. Through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. AMEN.
Amid the noise and chaos of the hospital room, I noticed a small group of people huddled together at the end of the hall, their faces white with panic. John’s family. Having no idea what to say or do, I trudged down the hall and introduced myself, quietly waiting for word from one of the doctors. We waited, and then waited some more. The only thing I could think of was Psalm 23. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me…”
I never met John. In the hours following his death, I sat with his parents and his twin in the dimness of an abandoned waiting room. It was the darkest valley of their life. There was nothing I could say; there was no Bible verse to ease the pain of this untimely death. There was only the promise of God’s presence there with them, walking alongside them.
“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” -Matthew 28:20
The path to recovery in Haiti is a slow one. Over the past months, dozens of news accounts have criticized the lack of progress in the aftermath of last year’s earthquake. With headlines like “World Turns its Back on Haiti” peppering our newsstands and computer screens, it’s easy to give up hope.
Yet, as people of faith, we hear Jesus’ words at the end of Matthew echo the promise of Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley … you are with me.” This promise of presence is often the greatest gift that can be given. I am with you. I am here. It is the promise that Jesus gives us every moment of every day.
Because of Jesus’ lasting promise, Lutheran World Relief is able to promise the same to the thousands of people it works with around the world. When news accounts around the country focus on the abandonment of places like Haiti, LWR stands strong in its promise. We’re here to give you a warm Quilt and some soap to clean yourself with. We’re here to help you find meaningful work to support yourself and your family. We’re here, and we will not abandon you.