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An Expression of Grace

For generations of Lutheran youth and families, summertime has meant time at camp. Camp nurtures and sustains us, forms and shapes us. One of the greatest joys of my work at Lutheran World Relief has been the opportunity to continue to be part of camp communities across the country.

Most recently, two of my colleagues and I were blessed to spend a day with 30 confirmation campers – 6th-8th graders from from the Delaware-Maryland and Metro-DC Synods – at Mar-Lu-Ridge. Nestled in the Catoctin Mountains in western Maryland, Mar-Lu-Ridge has been a spiritual home-away-from-home for children, youth, and families in the area for almost sixty years.

We gathered with two main goals: assemble 100 Personal Care Kits and learn more about LWR’s work around the world in communities struggling with chronic poverty.

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Thanks in part to a Thrivent Action Teams grant, campers quickly put together the Personal Care Kits and packed them up. These kits, which include a towel, comb, tooth brush, bath soap, and nail clippers, are requested often and are appropriate for nearly every situation. They are distributed in the aftermath of disasters, at refugee camps and in places where long-term poverty has turned these necessities into non-existent luxuries. The campers tracked their kits via LWR’s Quilt & Kit Tracker, too! In 2016, fleece blankets made by participants in this camp were sent to Mali.

Next, the group sat down to a bag lunch and a game. You might be wondering how a game fits in to our goals for the day. The Game of Lasting Promise is a fun and engaging way for people to learn about the complex world of sustainable development. Each team represents LWR country staff in one of six countries. As a team, they learn about the challenges faced by people in their country. Each team chooses three projects they think will do the most good moving their communities from surviving to thriving. As with any game, and life, there are surprises along the way, good and bad, that can change the course of things.

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The campers were eager and earnest, discussing ideas and perspectives, reaching compromises, and making decisions. They noticed how one program worked very well in the Philippines, but not in Burkina Faso. They took a chance on a program that didn’t work but were excited to discover a scenario where two programs together produced better results than each had separately. They reflected on the reality that some countries simply have a steeper climb: “they have a lot more work to do!” They were disappointed when an emergency disrupted their most promising program, and joyful when a generous donor invested deeply in their country and work. This, we discussed, is God’s grace in action in the world.

In the end, campers walked away with a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the complexity of this life-giving and critical work, and an important message: through their prayers, their kit-making, and their congregations’ partnership with LWR, THEY are an expression of God’s grace in the world. For people they will never meet, whose names they will never know, they are living, breathing, grace.