Barbara Brumbaugh passed away at the age of 83 on Friday, January 6, 2023. This article was completed shortly before her death and is featured in the Winter 2023 edition of Faith in Action. Barbara was known for her love for her Savior and her family and for her dedication to serving others through her volunteer service with Lutheran World Relief. As Barbara claims the promises of resurrection, we give thanks to God for the gift of hope Barbara has delivered to so many mothers and babies around the world. A full obituary can be read here.
20+ years, 500 baby care kits
'I hope mothers feel the love'
Barbara Brumbaugh and her husband were overwhelmed with excitement. They had just received a call that a longed-for baby was waiting for them. “They said, ‘We have a child for you!’ ‘How old?’ ‘Five days old!’ Needless to say, we were not prepared for that,” laughed Barbara, remembering that moment, long ago. Over the years, Barbara had read about mothers in need across the globe. “I’ve read so many of the stories that come out, like a mother giving birth on a trail, a mother who ripped part of her skirt to wrap the baby in,” she said. But preparing for the immediate arrival of her own adopted child brought it all home to Barbara. She went to Sears and purchased some things, and her family had a baby shower for her.
Inspired to help others
It’s part of what inspired Barbara to begin a decades-long labor of love, making Baby Care Kits to send around the world to mothers in dire poverty.
“I lived in a city that had all kinds of stores and could pay,” she said. “But the poor woman who gave birth on the trail, she didn’t have that.”
The daughter of an accomplished seamstress, Barbara began making sweaters. Over the years, she started shopping yard sales and thrift stores to find high-quality items to include in the kits.
Barbara’s husband had a truck and a trailer, and over the years she estimated she’s created 500 kits. That’s 500 babies she has touched with her service.
In the 1990s, the couple made service trips to LWR’s warehouse in Maryland to help with the kits. “We were all retired, a bunch of old folks doing this for six or more hours a day,” she remembered. “One year I did backrubs to keep everyone going.”
Barbara rallied other members of Prince of Peace, her church in Goshen, Indiana, to help. Karon Ahrendt, the organist, credits her involvement in LWR kit-making to Barbara’s enthusiasm. “Barbara asked me to help with the buttons, and it grew from there,” said Karon. “Barbara is one of the best ambassadors for LWR that you’ll find.”
Holding up others so the battle can be won
Barbara didn’t let anything stop her. “When we had the pandemic, I had to do the blankets. I was pretty much glued to my sewing machine,” Barbara recalled. “I went through thread like you would not believe. I had 20-30 empty spools!”
Karon said the sweater work was also unending. “Our little fingers were knitting so fast.”
As a musician, Karon thinks of these lines from a beloved hymn when making kits: “Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of thy love.”
For her part, Barbara feels compelled by the Gospel call to help the vulnerable.
“When Jesus says, ‘Let the little children come to me,’ that’s what inspires me,” said Barbara. “These little children belong to God. Hopefully, their mothers feel the love that’s been put into the kits and can use them.”
As Barbara, who was 83, looks back on her decades of dedicated service to neighbors in need, a Bible verse inspires her. It’s Exodus 17:12, in which Aaron holds up the arms of Moses. “As long as he was holding up his arms, they’d win the battle. When his arms were down, they were losing,” said Barbara.
“I am holding up someone’s arms so the battle can be won.”