Lutheran World Relief is an Lutheran organization for charity and disaster response. It is the largest global Lutheran organization of its kind.
Lutheran World Relief works with partners in 50 countries to help people grow food, improve health, strengthen communities, end conflict, build livelihoods and recover from disasters. With people in the U.S. we work for justice for those we serve.
“To others, through others.” A simple, yet profound formula: Of people caring for people. Of mothers on one side of the world caring for children on another. Of Christian fathers respecting Muslim sons. All learning from one another. Yet even as Lutheran World Relief’s understanding of “others” has grown over the years, one thing has remained constant: our collective response to God’s commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. To do unto the least of these…
LWR was created in response to U.S. Lutherans’ desires to find ways to send aid to Europe after World War II. And send aid they did, creating a momentum still growing and being felt around the world today. Through disaster and emergency relief, long-term development and advocacy, LWR has become a trusted catalyst through which we love unconditionally…as God loves us.
Today, LWR is both efficient and effective. Credit both to judicious use of the gifts entrusted to us, and to our model of working through more than 70 partner organizations in the communities we serve. By sharing expertise and by leveraging our partners’ existing resources, more of our gifts reach those for whom they were made. As one U.S. non-profit leader put it, “Pound for pound, LWR is one of the best relief and development agencies in America.”
Lutheran World Relief is a ministry created and sustained by people who daily inspire us as they act on their discipleship. So, too, it is a ministry focused on our global brothers and sisters from whom we learn humbleness and perseverance, innovation and solidarity…and faith.
Almost as soon as LWR began helping to relieve suffering around the world, we began to work on ways to prevent it—to combat the poverty responsible for so much of it. By the early 1960s LWR was aware that it must “address more of its attention to the basic factors which underlie the problems of hunger, inadequate shelter and disease.”
LWR began supporting sustainable, long-term poverty reduction programs that not only empowered their participants, but also ensured their ownership of them. These community-based programs provided better health care, secured a better source of more nutritious foods and supplied clean water. At the same time, relief activities were paired with longer-term solutions. Layette kits were not just handed out, but were used with prenatal classes. Sewing kits inspired income-generating small businesses. Lasting change is best achieved when individuals learn, and are encouraged, to do for themselves what they may never have been able, or allowed, to do before.
Think of it as proactive relief. LWR supports ambitious development programs that attack the root causes of suffering— the environmental, political, social and economic factors that can make certain communities vulnerable to crises. This forward-looking approach is designed to interrupt the chain of events and conditions that impoverish communities.
- Counseling in the war-torn Middle East helps children cope with the trauma of their lives and break the cycle of hatred. - Education, openness and group action at every level of a community demystifies and combats the spread of HIV/AIDS. - Farmer coops ensure better prices, teach better growing techniques and build community assets. - Small business development programs enable women to earn an income for the first time. - Seed banks hold deposits for future crops…and for food security.
Only through our partners’ insight and firsthand experience in the communities where we work can sustainable solutions such as these be achieved. Our Lutheran family shares in these successes through prayers, partnership and active support.
Development starts here A wide variety of people support LWR in a wide variety of ways. From Sunday school-age children to their grandparents, and everyone in between, this dynamic ministry engages and compels Christians of all ages to put their faith into action. From buying fair trade coffee and handcrafts, to making financial contributions, sewing quilts, collecting used clothing and organizing ingatherings, to participating in an LWR Study Visit or coordinating letter-writing campaigns, U. S. Lutherans are directly linked to the successful outcomes we achieve with our partners.
The “Relief” in Lutheran World Relief certainly attests to the purpose for which LWR was founded in 1945. Food, clothing, shoes and other non-food supplies comprised the earliest LWR shipments to Europe. With pressure from LWR and other groups, the U.S. government eventually allowed relief shipments into Germany, as LWR’s ministry, quite literally, epitomized the biblical tenet of loving your enemies.
Supporting brothers and sisters based on need shaped our policy of helping the “the poorest of the poor.” Ensuring equitable distribution of aid led to what is still standard operating procedure at LWR today: that all actual work overseas be performed with partner organizations in their own countries. Then, as now, our partners’ intimate knowledge of local needs and customs helps make distribution of resources as objective, orderly and efficient as possible and eliminates the cost and time needed to duplicate existing distribution systems.
Working with local partners also enables LWR to identify, through first-hand experience, the underlying causes of communities’ problems, as well as their knowledge, creativity and resolve. Relief done today with tomorrow’s safety and tomorrow’s livelihoods in mind leads to effective, long-term solutions. And long-term solutions, in turn, reduce vulnerability and manage risk – eliminating the need for more relief.
Identifying the Need for Relief Alleviating suffering means being well informed, connected and prepared. It means being responsive and having systems in place that enable a quick response. When disaster strikes, LWR-supported partners are often among the first to deliver food, water, blankets and other supplies and services to affected communities.
In many crises, because the partners are local, our aid goes to neighbors helping neighbors in a time of trouble. This on-the-scene capacity is being mobilized in more and more places around the world through Action by Churches Together. ACT is a global alliance of churches and their relief agencies that links LWR and partners it has worked with for decades, including the Lutheran World Federation
Financial Resources The most efficient way for individuals to respond to a natural disaster or other emergency is with cash. Major funding from the ELCA World Hunger Appeal and LCMS World Relief, contributions from individuals, parish groups, government grants and foundations support LWR. In a matter of minutes, funds can be wired from LWR directly to partners assisting in relief efforts. Gifts of cash play a special role in crises. • Cash allows LWR and our partners to buy exactly what is needed, when needed. • Cash doesn’t require warehousing or transporting. • Cash supports the economy of the disaster-stricken region. • Money is necessary for recovery and long-term disaster prevention work as well.
Material Resources The non-cash gifts Lutheran parishes give through LWR are valued, tangible signs to those who receive them overseas. They represent the love Christians in the U.S. feel for their unseen neighbors around the world. When requested as part of an appeal, material resources may be combined with emergency funds, or go alone. In each case LWR monitors, trains, evaluates or assists its partners as needed. Pre-positioning material resources allows us to shorten delivery times in instances when we anticipate a need, such as during prolonged droughts or severe food shortages.
Early in our history, LWR leadership recognized that endemic problems often served to undermine our programs’ efforts. Clearly, social and political factors deserved attention to ensure the lasting changes we sought.
LWR public policy has always combined the tenets of our mission with our competencies and experience, making them not only credible, but effective as well. LWR argued in the 1940s that aid should be delivered based on need and not on national origin, religion or political affiliation – it remains a principle of humanitarian law to this day. Current efforts link the values or our Christian faith with our voices as citizens to mobilize our constituency to promote policies with positive humanitarian impact.
Ours is a long and successful history of focusing attention on creating just solutions to unjust conditions. Of lifting up the voice of those without one about issues that affect their lives. It’s continues to be a vital aspect of our work today.
Today LWR’s advocates for solutions that save lives, promote well-being and protect the livelihoods in the communities we serve. LWR and its partners are intimately familiar with the issues we tackle. LWR’s Office of Public Policy in Washington, D. C., spearheads our efforts here in the U.S. to create a consistent, public voice about these issues and the solutions that can change them. We also work with other faith communities to strengthen our voice – there’s power in numbers. Most importantly, however, we urge individuals to join our efforts. To lend their creativity, their time and their penchant for justice to ours. And when they do, beautiful things begin to happen.
LWR’s outspoken stance on debt relief for the world’s poorest countries helped win a collective victory that has enabled some countries to pay for schools and health care rather than unpayable debt.
LWR’s work to publicize the plight of innocent civilians caught between warring factions in Colombia caused lawmakers...and their constituents to re-think U. S. aid to Colombia while helping Colombians build peace in local communities.
In place after place, our approach to development frequently involves advocacy for individuals within their communities. Women’s groups are prime examples of those we empower with the skills and confidence to speak up for their human rights and become leaders in their communities.
Fair trade initiatives are other unique ways we advocate for justice. The LWR Coffee Project helps small coffee, tea and cocoa farmers, who often lose money in the conventional market, earn a fair price for their crops. The LWR Coffee Project educates U. S. Lutherans to switch buying habits from mass marketed products to fairly traded ones, so more of their money actually gets back to the small farmers. The LWR Handcraft Project uses a similar model to promote high quality crafts made by low-income artisans.
Advocacy has taken many forms since 1945, and continues evolving. One thing that hasn’t wavered, however, is the crucial role your prayers and active involvement play in our efforts. Advocacy without participation is merely awareness—change can only happen when people passionate about correcting injustices commit themselves to doing something about it. Our heritage of advocacy successes validates the principle that individuals united do make a difference. And, hopefully, compels you to act on your beliefs.
LWR management includes:
Kathryn Wolford - President