Featured Stories, Lutherans in Minnesota

Lutheran World Relief takes a swing through the Midwest

Photo credit: Kari Aanestad

From church basement potlucks to informative “malaria tag” with youth, Dr. John Nunes and his team from Lutheran World Relief (LWR) are doing it all during their first-ever road trip spanning eight days, seven states, and 20 stops. “I even have tried some quilting on this trip,” said Nunes, CEO and President of LWR, “that is, until they asked me to stop.”

Beginning in Arcadia, Michigan, and ending in Appleton, Minnesota, Nunes and his team visited churches, vacation Bible schools, summer camps, food banks, and LWR supporters to thank them for their continued support and share news of LWR’s ongoing international work.

First established in 1945 to help an estimated one-fifth of the world’s Lutherans who found themselves homeless after World War II, LWR has since broadened its reach to serve those in need regardless of race, religion, or nationality, serving up to 40 countries around the world each year.

In 2011 alone, LWR reached nearly 5 million people with programs to advance agriculture, improve access to water, prevent malaria, and respond to disasters. LWR’s Quilt and Kit ministry, a hallmark of the organization since its founding, helped supply over 350,000 quilts and 570,000 kits of school supplies, fabric, and baby care and personal care products donated by U.S. Lutherans to 26 countries — a total of $12.6 million of support to more than 600,000 people.

An international pan-Lutheran relief agency

We really emphasize developing local partnerships in these countries to help people work their own way out of poverty,” Nunes said. LWR works with more than 100 local partner organizations around the world.

John Nunes helps members of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Evanston, Illinois, pull the paper backing off a partially made quilt that will be donated to Lutheran World Relief to be distributed to people in need around the world. Photo provided by LWR

In 2011 alone, LWR reached nearly 5 million people through a variety of programs.

“Our work is truly pan-Lutheran in that what we are really doing at LWR is bringing all Lutherans together,” Nunes said.

Although recent tensions among Lutherans have often been highlighted, the work of LWR serves as a significant reminder of a shared Lutheran commitment to serving one’s neighbors. “We can all agree that all human beings have dignity, worth, and capacity,” Nunes said.

As a part of that pan-Lutheran work, LWR has recently partnered with a number of organizations, including the United Nations Foundation, the Global Fund, and the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, to support the Lutheran Malaria Initiative (LMI). LMI seeks to provide prevention, treatment, and education related to malaria in five African countries.

“Together we are able to do more effective work with larger, coordinated efforts,” said Jenny Peterson, philanthropic advisor for LWR and road trip participant. “With these partnerships we are able to be an organization with a strong international presence that helps people in truly multifaceted ways.”

John Nunes addresses a group of LWR supporters in Eden Prairie as part of a Midwestern tour in July. Photo credit: Kari Aanestad

Toward the end of their road trip, Nunes and his team visited a gathering of nearly 30 LWR supporters in the Minneapolis home of the Rev. Mary Brown, an ELCA pastor. Brown and her husband, Luther Johnson, both shared that they have generational ties linking them to the work and ministry of LWR. “Our grandparents, our parents, and we hope one day our daughter will all have been touched and inspired by the work of LWR,” Brown said. “It is a joy to be a part of this ongoing ministry.”

Kari Aanestad is a recent M.Div. graduate of Luther Seminary. She begins a Ph.D. program in pastoral care and counseling there this fall.

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