By SARAH TUCKER
At Saint Andrew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, the congregation is often helping one another and giving back to the community. Bulletin boards are covered in announcements for volunteer opportunities, and the sign-up sheets are almost always full.
“We want to reach out, but we also want to take care of each other,” Associate Pastor Julia Will said. “We want to take care of everybody.”
Through various ministries, volunteers can sign up to provides rides to church, send care packages to college students, knit prayer shawls, and provide newborn and bereavement support.
“(It’s) kind of how we help care for one another in the congregation,” Will said.
Besides helping each other, members of St. Andrew’s are also active in the community. St. Andrew’s volunteers have participated in Columbia’s CROP Hunger Walk to raise money for local community centers, including the Loaves and Fishes Soup Kitchen — an interdenominational program and facility that St. Andrew’s members also volunteer at. The church also has a partnership with the Peace United Church of Christ in Hartsburg.
“They grow the crops and we give money for the seed, fertilizer and all that stuff,” Wills said.
Members of St. Andrew’s are dedicated to global service, too.
In their Global Connections Ministry, St. Andrew’s works with Lutheran World Relief, an international, non-profit organization dedicated to providing support to individuals and communities affected by poverty, war or natural disasters. Churches and individuals donate money, prepare layettes and kits, or make quilts for LWR to disperse.
On Saturday, Oct. 9, St. Andrew’s served as the drop-off point for churches in central and western Missouri donating to LWR. On Friday, Oct. 15, volunteers boxed all the donations and loaded them into a trailer bound for St. Louis. From there, the donations will be shipped to Baltimore, the headquarters of LWR, until they are needed around the globe.
Karon Speckman, a member of St. Andrew’s and an adjunct associate professor at MU’s School of Journalism, coordinates the delivery of donations between the churches in Missouri, St. Andrew’s and LWR headquarters. She sent out letters to 65 churches and estimated that 25 churches responded with material donations this year.
According to LWR’s 2009 annual report, LWR sent 378,050 quilts, 350,346 kits and 68,890 layettes to 742,560 people in 22 countries. Missouri churches play a small role in the bigger picture, but it is a role that is constantly growing.
“We had more stuff this year from other churches than ever before,” Speckman said.
Volunteers at St. Andrew’s boxed three kinds of kits for LWR — health kits, school kits and sewing kits.
Health kits contain a toothbrush, comb, metal nail file, soap, washcloth and bandages, and are wrapped in a towel and tied with yarn.
“Those get shipped around (the world) whenever there’s a disaster,” Speckman said.
The school kit contains notebooks, crayons, construction paper, a cloth book bag and other school supplies for children in other countries that might not have money or access to buy school supplies.
Sewing kits with buttons, fabric, needles and thread are made “so people can take sewing lessons in other countries” to make their own clothes or start a business, Speckman said.
Layettes are also prepared. They contain items for newborns, such as clothing, diapers, and receiving blankets.
“Those go into villages for mothers and their newborns,” Speckman said. “Most of them go for the kind of reason we’re in the country— poverty, disaster (or) warfare.”
Speckman’s favorite kit to prepare is the health kit.
“When I wrap those, I think of the individual getting it and how it must be a relief,” she said.
Besides kits and money, churches and individuals also make quilts to donate to LWR.
All quilts are handmade and are “highly prized,” Speckman said. Religious, military and national symbols are not allowed, partly to protect aid workers but also to avoid excluding anyone in need.
“We give these out regardless of what religion people are,” Speckman said.
The quilts are compressed at LWR headquarters and shipped overseas. But, before sending the quilts to St. Louis, many churches will display and bless the finished quilts.
“We hung a bunch that we had made in church before we packed them in boxes,” Speckman said. And once, someone “saw a quilt they thought was so gorgeous they purchased it, and we used that money for transportation,” she said.
Making a quilt and preparing kits take time and dedication, but volunteers at St. Andrew’s don’t seem to mind.
People don’t do this to get anything from it except that they know these people need it, Speckman said. “We forget how little these people have and how much the things we make mean to them.”