LWR’s Lutheran Identity

Martin Luther’s Seal at a Lutheran church in Feld am See, Austria

Empowered by God’s unconditional love in Jesus Christ, we envision a world in which each person, every community and all generations live in justice, dignity and peace.
-LWR’s Vision

Founded by Lutherans in the United States, grounded in Lutheran theology and building on decades of experience, LWR exists so that U.S. Lutherans may serve their neighbors overseas who face poverty, injustice and human suffering.

Consistent with the Lutheran tradition, we work with people based on need,
regardless of race, religion or nationality.

We do not evangelize, focusing instead on serving our neighbors. We do not use religion as a factor in hiring, partner selection, or program implementation. We focus on the highest possible quality staff and partners, and measurable results of our programs.

5 core themes that guide us:

1. We love, because God first loved us.

We are redeemed through God’s saving act of grace in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and not through any work of our own hands.

Lutherans believe the following:

A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.
A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.
-Martin Luther, “The Freedom of a Christian”

LWR’s work is a labor of love, not a grudging task we take on in attempt to meet an impossible standard of goodness. In God’s grace towards us, we have a model for how we are to live with our fellow human being, and we want to share the freedom and fulfillment we find in Christ with others.

2. We Serve our Neighbor with Impact and Integrity

Real faith can’t help but be active.

Faith is “a living, busy, active, mighty thing, so that it is impossible for it not to be constantly doing what is good. Likewise, faith does not ask if good works are to be done, but before one can ask, faith has already done them and is constantly active.”
-Martin Luther, “Prefaces to the New Testament”

What does love for the neighbor look like?

The Fifth Commandment is about more than just murder:

“We are to fear and love God, so that we neither endanger nor harm the lives of our neighbors, but instead help and support them in all of life’s needs.”
-Martin Luther’s “Small Catechism”

And the Seventh Commandment is about more than stealing:

We are to fear and love God, so that we neither take our neighbors’ money or property nor acquire them by using shoddy merchandise or crooked deals, but instead help them to improve and protect their property and income.”
-Martin Luther’s “Small Catechism”

Lutherans can’t help but look for ways to serve their fellow human being. Part of LWR’s work is to provide opportunities for Lutherans to serve their neighbor as deeply, meaningfully, and with as much impact and integrity as possible. LWR’s work especially strives to uphold the Fifth and Seventh Commandments by working for resilient communities and just economies.

3. God Works through Human Institutions

Creation was not just one great work at the beginning of time. God’s act of creation is ongoing, and it happens through both spiritual and secular means with human beings sharing the ability to be co-creators with God. Schools, governments, non-profits, corporations and people can all be a part of God’s plan to sustain creation.

Two Kingdoms:

Martin Luther distinguishes between the two kingdoms of God’s reign: they are distinct, but not separate. On the left hand, there is the earthly kingdom, ruled by laws and secular government. On the right hand, there is the spiritual kingdom, where no law is needed because everyone is made perfect in love. The kingdom on the right hand endures forever, but the kingdom on the left is necessary to create order while we live in a broken world. Both kingdoms are ruled by God.

God does not discriminate between the “holy” and the “profane” when it comes to choosing how and where God works, because all things are part of God’s creation and can therefore be used for good.

We are co-creators

We are co-creators with God and tasked with the important role of helping to care for all of God’s creation. To do this, we partner with many other institutions that may have greater expertise, greater resources, or better perspective. We work with both faith-based and secular partners, because we know God can be active through both.

Furthermore, this allows LWR to carry out our ministry by focusing solely on service to our neighbors’ needs, knowing that other organizations are called to attend to spreading the message of the gospel. This is consistent with Stephen’s calling in Acts 6, and the larger Body of Christ that Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 12.

LWR carries out its work as a development and disaster relief organization to serve in the left-hand kingdom. While other organizations are called to preach the gospel, our call to serve our neighbor is equally important.

4. All People Possess Dignity and Self-Worth

Human beings were created in the image of God. Humans were created for a purpose: not for poverty, but for flourishing. We are created free, but we can only express this freedom in relationship with others — or “free-for-other,” as Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it — because we are all dependent on each other.

LWR brings aid and resources to others with the knowledge that every person we work with is holy, created in the image of God to be joyful and flourish.

We realize that we need others as much as they need us. We need their experience, their knowledge, and their vision, and so we commit to walking alongside them in times of hardship rather than trying to lead or dominate. Our role as stewards entrusts us with the care of all creation, so as we work we are mindful of our impact on all aspects of creation, not only our fellow human beings.

5. All People have a Vocation (Calling)

Lutherans believe that God has a calling for every human being that allows us the opportunity to better serve both God and neighbor. Some are called to be farmers and provide food, while others may be called to be accountants, teachers, pastors, or factory workers.

All people can preach the gospel through not just words, but actions. Even the simplest task, like preparing a meal or caring for a baby is part of the calling of preparing the baptized for ministry. Vocation is a part of the earthly kingdom rather than the spiritual kingdom because our vocational work serves our neighbor (who needs our good works), rather than God, who doesn’t.

LWR’s focus on livelihoods is more than a way to make sure that families are able to provide for themselves. It’s also a way of helping to remove barriers that might prevent them from living out their God-given calling to serve their neighbors, be stewards of creation, and productive members of the body of Christ. God has given people the tools and the will to be creative and productive, and it is our vocation to help them create a space where they can use their gifts to the fullest extent.