Ushoha Muungano Primary school has only six teachers for 316 students. Their challenges are many. There is no safe and clean water access, they can’t afford new infrastructure, the classrooms are poorly kept and have no desks or electricity. But because of the kindness of donors, they do have school supplies distributed through LWR School Kits.

Finding purpose in service: Milly DeLesDernier and her school kit mission

  • Niki Clark
  • Aug 10, 2022

Milly DeLesDernier began losing her ability to see in one eye about 5 years ago. Today, she is approaching complete blindness. But Milly’s lack of vision doesn’t mean a lack of service. In fact, of the 428 school kits completed this summer by her home congregation, Epiphany Lutheran Church in Richmond, Virginia, Milly sewed 385 of them.

“It’s a blessing when you have good eyesight,” Milly said. “But there are other blessings, too.”

Milly comes from a long history of practicing Lutherans; she learned how to pray “Dear Jesus” as soon as she could speak. Seven years ago, Epiphany’s Quilting group, Sew Blessed, suggested they could sew school bags for the kits contributed by their church to Lutheran World Relief each year. They had made quilts for decades so they thought it would be a great extension of their service.

Milly DeLesDernier doesn’t let her lack of vision stop her from a life of service. Of the 428 school kits completed this summer by her home congregation, Epiphany Lutheran Church in Richmond, Virginia, Milly sewed 385 of them.

Bringing joy to children through LWR school kits

“I have children and great grandchildren and I know personally how exciting getting school supplies was,” Milly said. “To get a new pencil and new tablets, it’s always a fun thing. I can imagine children living in other countries without access to places we have like Walmart. When we hear stories of their excitement at receiving the kits, it’s very satisfying.”

Her daughter Cathy agreed. “What a blessing it is to provide assistance and love to those who need it.” 

While losing her vision has been a challenge, she’s still able to stuff and string the bags and even does tiny seams. She’s not able to see well anymore but the school kits — and thinking about the worthy recipients behind them — give her a sense of purpose.

Milly DeLesDernier stands with daughter Cathy in front of some of the hundreds of LWR School Kits she has made over the past seven years.

Living her faith through service

“When I think of Milly, I think of someone who really lives her faith,” said Epiphany Lutheran’s Pastor Phillip Martin. “She quietly but industriously finds ways to serve both in our congregation and in the wider church, even as she has had problems with her eyesight. She is a giving person, very upbeat and determined. Many of us are inspired by her work and outlook. She has passed on her faith and work ethic to her daughter, Cathy, who is also active in our ministries. It is a blessing to serve as pastor to them.”

More about LWR School Kits

Education is one of the strongest tools a community has for breaking the cycle of poverty. Ensuring that girls attend school, especially in places where their access is deprioritized, has even stronger results. Lutheran World Relief School Kits contain essential supplies to help children — and in some cases, adults — continue learning in the face of serious obstacles. That learning leads to a better life for them, their families and their communities. To learn more about making School Kits, go here.

Niki Clark, Aug 10, 2022 email