Margaret Chongodok (9) and her neighbor, Otim (9 months), stand together in Palabek Refugee Settlement in northern Uganda. (Photo by Jake Lyell, for Lutheran World Relief)

Lenten Devotional: Surprising Love

by Patti Ross

This reflection is part of our special Season of Hope Lenten devotional series. Be sure to check back each week as we share reflections from a diversity of people whose prayer and support make the mission and ministry of Lutheran World Relief possible. You can read the entire series by pressing the button below.

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“So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20  


As president of LWML (Lutheran Women’s Missionary League), I’ve had the delight to travel to many LWML district conventions. On the plane trip to an LWML English District Convention, I had just finished reading Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer and Sex Changed a Nation at War, by Leymah Gbowee. This book chronicles her experiences and those of other women in Liberia during that country’s civil war. So I was thinking about Liberia and the strong women, many of them Liberian Lutherans, who helped end the war.  

During the convention, one woman asked to address the assembly. As she stood confidently in her native Liberian dress, she recalled one day in a refugee camp in Ghana during the Liberian civil war. Her family had escaped with barely anything and found themselves in the camp with nothing. Someone came and told her to hurry to the camp entrance because they were giving out blankets for free! She hurried over, thinking she was probably too late, but, surprisingly, she received a lovely, colorful quilt. “Who sent us these, and how did they know we needed them?” she asked. They were made by women in Lutheran churches all over the United States for people like you, to help you in your time of need and to share God’s love, she was told. Then, she recounted, “I said to myself, Someday, I want to be one of those women and do this for other people.”  

Time passed, and that woman and her family were able to leave the refugee camp and resettle in the United States. She is now a member of a Lutheran church in the U.S. and of LWML. And she is helping to make quilts for other people around the world.  

Like the son in this parable, she was homeless, hungry, weary and had nowhere to turn. But then unconditional love was shared with her, also like in the parable, in the form of an LWR Quilt. Surprising love! She was surprised like the son in Luke’s story, who was welcomed, loved and cared for by a gracious father. 

This Lenten season, we reflect on the grace—the surprising love—that we receive from our own Father in heaven. The love culminating in the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of our sins.  

How might that grace and love move us to share surprising love with other people around the world, especially through the opportunities LWR gives us to do that? How can LWR help you surprise someone today? 


Lord God Heavenly Father, inspire us by the Holy Spirit to reach out in love to those in need, knowing that like the father in the parable, you have loved and forgiven us first. May we share our blessings of faith and earthly goods. Show us how to give surprising love. 

Patti Ross is currently serving as President of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League, 2015 - 2019.