Lutheran World Relief collections, often called Ingatherings, are key to getting thousands of quilts and kits to LWR's warehouses for processing, packing and shipping overseas. LWR Key Leaders, the committed volunteers that manage the details of the Ingatherings, are unsung heroes of this ministry. In this series, we highlight some of those special people and the ways they make their local collections happen.
In a state the size of Texas, it takes teamwork to pull off an LWR Ingathering. Debbie Mattke, Sandy Miller and Priscella Reid each coordinate a collection site, while Mary Afsharirad weaves everything together by scheduling the trucks and arranging delivery to LWR’s warehouse in New Windsor, Md.
Mary estimates about 200 congregations bring their quilts and kits to one of the three collection sites, which take place at Messiah Lutheran Church in Plano, St. John Lutheran Church in Marion and Epiphany Lutheran Church in Houston. Historically, the Ingatherings took place the week after Easter but were moved to November in 2020.
Applying their unique gifts and callings to LWR Ingatherings
Each member of this faithful team approaches their duties a bit differently, just as they also were called to the work of organizing the Ingatherings through different ways as well.
Mary, who is the master of logistics in coordinating trucks and trailers and warehouse deliveries, attended her first Ingathering about five years ago when she got involved in the Lutheran Women's Missionary League (LWML) group at her church, Faith Lutheran in Plano. "I was awe-struck as to the number of quilts and kits that were donated to fill two semi-trucks in just one of the three locations," Mary says. When Mary became the Mission Service Chair for the LWML Texas District, she was put in charge of coordinating the three Texas collection sites.
Priscella took over the coordination of the Plano site, which draws congregations from 6 or 7 hours away, four years ago when the previous organizer retired. Since then, Priscella has implemented ways to make the Ingathering easier for the volunteers who are helping load the boxes of quilts and kits. Instead of using ladders to get into the trucks, which can be unstable, Priscella rents a set of portable stages of graduating heights and arranges them into wide, stable stairs at the back of the truck.
Having a collection site at her church, says Priscella, is a good witness to the community. She tells of a mother and daughter who just happened to be out for a walk on the day of the collection and noticed all the activity at the church. They inquired about what was going on and were so inspired by the effort they stayed and helped load the truck.
Called to serve God through the LWR Quilt & Kit Ministry
Debbie serves as the vice president of the Southwestern Texas Synodical Women's Organization and coordinates the Marion site as part of her duties. But she was involved in the Ingathering long before that. Now retired, Debbie used to take a day off from her job at Texas Lutheran University to volunteer when the university served as the collection site. "We are called through the gospel to do God's work," Debbie says.
Debbie keeps things flowing smoothly at the Marion collection — which takes place over two days — by asking churches to call her ahead of time to let her know what time they'll arrive and how many boxes they are bringing. "I don't want to have folks all show up within several hours. It just makes it more manageable," she says. In past years the congregations, stretching from Austin to the southern border, have filled three semi-truck trailers with their boxes.
Sandy was initially invited to be a co-coordinator for the Houston collection site and then took the duties on herself. She gets help from her family (especially her husband Bob) as well as members of the congregation. The church's LWML group prepares food for the volunteers. "Without our volunteers, I don’t know where we'd be," Sandy says. "God surrounds us with the most wonderful volunteers." At last year's event, volunteers even stayed until after dark to finish loading the second trailer.
Sandy also notes that, although organizing an LWR Ingathering comes with its challenges, God is always reliable in helping her through them. "We leave it in God's hands. Always."
Is God calling you?
There are many areas where LWR Ingatherings are not happening, and some of our Key Leaders are looking for new people to whom they can pass on their duties. Do you feel called to step up? No experience or special qualifications are necessary. Just a heart to serve and a willingness to learn.
Key Leader Sandy Miller says, "God doesn’t call the qualified. God qualifies the called." LWR is ready to assist you with resources and ideas, and connect you with other experienced Key Leaders like those featured here.
"It's a lot of work…and it's so worth it. Pray, then do it!" encourages LWR Key Leader Mary Afsharirad, who heads up transportation logistics for the Texas collection sites.
To learn more about organizing an LWR Ingathering near you, contact Janel Johnson-Momanyi, LWR Quilt Kit Ministry Manager, at @email. Or contact the Key Leader of your local Ingathering if you would like to volunteer with them.