Like so many congregations, Immanuel Lutheran Church's relationship with Lutheran World Relief was pioneered by its quilters. Located in Eden Prairie, Minn., the Immanuel Piecemakers have quietly sent nearly 3,000 quilts around the world as an expression of God's love in action.
Today hands of all ages join in extending their love by packaging and sending LWR Personal Care Kits each Lent. Members have grown to expect and look forward to this opportunity. According to Kim Rathjen, Immanuel’s coordinator of inreach and outreach, "People plan for and purchase items when they see things on sale throughout the year. Sending the personal care kits has helped open people’s eyes to the global work of the church."
But Immanuel’s relationship with Lutheran World Relief deepened at, of all places, a church council meeting. Pastor Paul Nelson invited someone from LWR to come and share about needs around the world. Member Ruth Lunde's heart was touched. She couldn’t put the stories she heard that night out of her mind. After prayer and contemplation, Ruth asked the question, "What can I do?"
"As I have had the pleasure to get to know a number of people at Immanuel, I know that many people want to live out their faith," Ruth shares, "and part of that is doing what they can for people all across the globe."
Inspiring generosity in the congregation
Ruth's heart was moved to inspire generosity among her church family. In 2017, she provided a lead gift of $5,000 for Lutheran World Relief and inspired her congregation to match it. The congregation rose to the occasion. So much so, that Ruth has continued to provide a generous lead gift every year since.
"All of the people across the world, we are all part of God's family," shares Ruth. "As I read about conditions across the world and have had the chance to visit a number of countries, it warms my heart to contribute whatever I can."
Ruth and her congregation's love have made a world of difference. In 2017, they put God's love in action by repairing bakeries in war-torn Syria so their neighbors could receive their daily bread. In 2018 and 2019, their love empowered young adult entrepreneurs in Tanzania to gain innovative agricultural skills. This year, their love will help young adults in Latin America receive education in local agriculture practices so that they can remain home and avoid the dangerous and difficult process of migrating and starting over with their families.
Helping neighbors thrive, locally and globally
Pastor Paul Nelson loves that Immanuel is about the work of helping people to thrive where they are. "It's heartbreaking to see people from Latin America come here seeking refuge being turned away, finding no welcome. Wouldn't the best solution be for those people to have help to stay where they want to be, their homes? Supporting the work of LWR is one way we can help these people thrive where they are."
But Immanuel's partnership with LWR has done more than impact lives around the world. It has changed lives in their own congregation. "Our partnership with Lutheran World Relief has helped our congregation put in perspective that our neighbor isn't just who lives near us. We are responsible to our global neighbors as well," shares Kim.