More than 170 church members joined many more from across the region to give back to the community on Sunday as part of the “God’s Work. Our Hands.” event.
My family visited Franciscan Villa to meet residents there. Some did cleanups. Others — like the group in the picture above, including Pastor Bill and people of all ages — packed food headed to El Salvador. Some visited the Hunger Task Force Farm.
And that was just the start.
Every Sunday, pastors in the Greater Milwaukee Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America invite the faithful inside to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This Sunday, they sent them into the streets to live it.
“This is a chance for us who are people of faith, to put that faith into action,” said the Rev. Bill Mains of Trinity Lutheran Church in South Milwaukee, where more than 170 volunteers took part in the ELCA’s second annual “God’s Work. Our Hands.” initiative.
“The mission is to serve God by serving others…and to be a physical expression of God’s love for us in the community,” he said.
Trinity was among more than a dozen Milwaukee-area congregations to take part in the “Our Hands” project, launched by the denomination last year to mark its 25th anniversary.
Churches large and small sent volunteers — most wearing the yellow “God’s Work. Our Hands.” T-shirts — into their communities and beyond to care for those the Gospel of Matthew calls “the least of these.”
At Trinity, dozens of volunteers, many of them young children, created a series of assembly lines in the basement fellowship hall. One-by-one, the lines filled small bags of vitamin-rich rice and soy meal packs that will be shipped by the nonprofit group Worldwide Hunger Relief to El Salvador, where a volcano displaced 30,000 subsistence farmers in 2013, according to Mains.
Upstairs, new members Shirley Komasa of Oak Creek and her son Joshua Hiett wrote thank you and Christmas cards to soldiers.
Less than a mile away, across from the Caterpillar plant, a small crew, many of them older members, cleaned and organized the shelves and clothing racks at the nonprofit clothing and food bank Human Concerns Inc. It’s all work director Kris Schell doesn’t have time to do with her two-person staff.
Another crew, including several children, picked and packaged ears of corn at the Hunger Task Force farm in Franklin, following behind the massive “Veg-veyer” as it made its way through the towering stalks.
For Patty Johnson, who staffed one of the food pack lines with her family, it was a teachable moment for her children Jonas, 10, and Clare, 8.
“It opens up a dialogue to talk about world hunger at home,” she said. “We talk about how that little package can feed so many people and compare that to the portions that we eat.”
Just as important, said Mains, it helps congregation members connect their faith with their daily lives.
“There’s something about that connection between faith and life — it’s concrete, they can see what they’ve done,” said Mains. “There seems to be this desire among Christian people, especially millennials, to be involved in their faith. It’s not enough just to sit in the pews on Sunday morning.”
I couldn’t agree more. Thanks to everyone who took part. South Milwaukeeans — and Trinity members — always step up to help others. Consider this another example.