For the past 77 years, the Lutheran World Relief (LWR) has been collecting goods and resources to send to those in need around the world. For the last nearly 22 years, Pat Schuknecht has been the coordinator between the ingathering sites for the Michigan District. This year, I started the process of taking on that coordinator role from her as she prepared to retire.
This was also my first time working at an LWR Ingathering.
In 2021, the LWR collected 122,400 quilt kits alone. That’s not including the school, personal care, and baby care kits that were also collected, each of which separately accounted for over 30,000 kits. The kits are shipped all over the world to countries in South America, Africa, and Europe to help those in need. Especially poignant to our times right now, Ukraine is included in our list of countries receiving help from the LWR.
With the exception of Pat Schuknecht, I had only been in contact with most of the site leaders through email. I wasn’t sure how best to present myself, as the serious leader or the new person just ready to lend my hand and be prepared for the number of high schoolers who would be helping the days of the main loading. Now that the event is I done, I know that none of those concerns mattered.
I went to two of the three main ingatherings (churches collect at smaller sites throughout the cities of Michigan and then those collections are brought to one of the three main sites on the assigned day) and both days were cold, windy, and rainy, but the high schoolers there were diligent and thoughtful. They carefully took boxes from pickups, vans, and trailers, and packed them as fitfully as they could into the large semi-trucks that stretched across their high school parking lots. Between the packing they took well-earned breaks to be normal high schoolers as they drank cider, ate some doughnuts, and at one particular site, chased geese (only for a few minutes and no geese were harmed).
Throughout it all both students and adult volunteers joked, laughed, and shivered as they lifted box after box. It was also a joy to talk to those coming in from the churches dropping off the boxes, with many praising their congregations’ “quilt ladies.” As someone who has had to help lug some of these thick quilt boxes into a truck, I can confirm these quilt ladies are doing a tremendous job.
Eventually the loadings came to an end and, as I went home, marveling at all the kits that would simply become part of the larger number in the LWR’s stats for next year’s mailing, I realized something: The LWR Ingathering is more than a group effort; it’s a community effort of Christians seeing the wrong in the world and doing everything they can for their neighbor, even though they’ll very likely never meet the student benefiting from the school kit or the refugee woman washing her face with supplies from a personal care kit. The Michigan District is just one of many working to make the LWR Vision a reality: “A healthy world forever flourishing in dignity and justice.”
Photo courtesy of Patricia Schuknecht