Volunteers poured through the doors of Rock of Ages Lutheran Church, their arms full of children's books, rice, batteries, granola bars, flashlights, and first aid kits. Other volunteers, armed with hot coffee and check-in sheets, greeted them warmly. They've all come to serve refugees and to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the 9th annual Lutheran MLK Day of Service.
"The Lutheran MLK Day of Service offers an opportunity for Lutheran congregations and other volunteers to join LSG in welcoming refugees from around the world by providing essential items needed for the 400-500 refugees resettled each year by LSG,” said Melanie Johnson, LSG’s Program Manager for Volunteer, Congregation, and Community Engagement. LSG partners with the Lutheran Theological Center in Atlanta and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Southeastern Synod to coordinate the event. The first Day of Service took place in 2006 and drew 50 volunteers from local congregations. This year, school groups, families, community members, Girl Scouts, LSG staff, and refugees joined Lutheran congregations in service, totaling 234 volunteers.
This year’s Day of Service began with a gathering in Rock of Age’s gym. Gene Lewis, one of the day’s leading organizers, welcomed volunteers and thanked Pastor Randy Palm for Rock of Age’s hospitality. Natalie Yasson, LSG’s Director of Refugee and Immigration Services, recognized Hope Worldwide and the Corporation for National and Community Service’s support. Thanks to Hope Worldwide’s Disaster Preparedness grant, LSG will provide disaster preparedness education through the Extended Cultural Orientation program along with basic emergency kits for every refugee household in 2014.
To celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s life, the Rev. Kevin Dudley, Senior Pastor of The Church at North Pointe, reflected on Dr. King’s beliefs regarding service and justice. “In order to serve,” paraphrased The Rev. Dudley, “we gotta be a little bit crazy.” Floyd R. Blair, LSG’s President and CEO, led the gathering in prayers of intercessions that challenged the church to be “disturbers of the status quo.” Volunteers formed a circle around the rice and bowed their heads as Blair offered a blessing for the day.
A bustle of voices and movement filled the church as volunteers dispersed to help prepare various items to be given to refugees. “These essential items are rice, the staple food item for refugees from around the world; basic emergency kits, so that newly arrived refugees don’t have to face any future emergency unprepared; and books for refugee children, a lifeline to learning about their new country and new language,” said Melanie. Together, the volunteers….
--Packed over 1500 lbs of rice into over 1000 family-sized bags for newly arrived refugees
--Prepared over 150 Basic Disaster Preparedness kits for refugee households
--Donated and sorted over 600 books for distribution to
- Students in LSG’s Afterschool Academic/Arts Program (ASAP) sites in the Clarkston area who will each receive a book
- Newly arrived refugee children who will choose a book to take home when they visit LSG’s Refugee Clothes Closet during their first week in the U.S.
--Read books to 25 children who each got to choose a book to take home from the Day of Service
--Distributed 400 door hangers with Fire Prevention Info in 2 apartment complexes in Clarkston where many refugees resettled by LSG live.
LSG thanks all the volunteers for their help welcoming refugees and looks forward to serving again next year!
During the Lutheran MLK Day of Service, over 65 volunteers and LSG staff shared their stories of why they serve refugees. Their photos are available on our Facebook page. If you couldn’t attend the Day of Service but would like to share your story of serving refugees in other ways, contact Abby Koning at email@example.com.