by Heather McGinness, LWR’s Associate Director for Philanthropic Engagement
The words “thank you” often seem woefully inadequate to express the powerful — even overwhelming — feeling of gratitude.
I have the blessing of being part of Lutheran World Relief’s Philanthropic Engagement team. I am humbled and inspired on a daily basis, both by the life-changing work of our programs around the world and by the generosity of our donors who make it possible. I am grateful for the hearts of our donors whose giving is far more than a charitable transaction.
As I have visited and come to know this amazing community of partners in our mission, I’ve been touched by the stories they share of why they support our mission and why they care so deeply about people they may never meet in countries they may never see. Time and time again, it comes back to their own feelings of gratitude, whether returning appreciation for help they received some time in their lives or thankfulness for the blessings God has given them. In many ways, it’s a cycle of gratitude that moves our mission forward in love, and it is reflective of LWR’s core value of gratitude in all of our relationships.
That same sense of gratitude led me to LWR, a calling from a deep desire to give back, reach out, and use the gifts God has blessed me with in a way that benefits our brothers and sisters around the world.
As part of LWR, my perspective about what constitutes a blessing continues to grow. The stories I hear from my colleagues in the field — as well as what I witnessed and experienced firsthand in my travels to Nepal for our Asia Regional Meeting — are a continual reminder to be grateful for even the most simple things: easy access to not only water, but clean water; food for myself and my family; clothing; shelter; transportation; employment; freedom to make choices about what I say, what I believe, what I wear and where I go; and a sense of security as I go about my daily routine. All these things that are a regular part of my life are the same things many around the world struggle to even imagine, let alone attain.
I am grateful for our program staff who walk with those who are marginalized and help lead them to experience the fullness of life promised to us through our savior, Jesus Christ, and for the spirit of hope and healing interwoven in their stories.
It was gratitude that led me to a Lutheran church at the age of twenty, never having experienced baptism by the living water prior to that point in my life, recognizing that it was only by the grace of my loving Father in heaven that I survived early years filled with abuse and financial struggle. I am thankful for every past experience, for they led me to where I am now, a place where I can bring my full self to work, share the blessings and love of our good and provident God, and recognize that there is a gift in every moment.
Most of all, I am grateful for our Lord, who is with us always. I carry the words Paul shared with the Philippians in my heart, and pray we all may experience the same abundant feeling of gratitude: “I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:12-13)
“We are grounded in profound thankfulness for God’s gracious, self-giving love for all humankind, revealed in the redemptive acts of Jesus Christ. Gratitude marks the way we relate to one another and to all creation. Though our experiences vary, we view community as a gift. We give thanks for our wondrous diversity. We celebrate being alive. We abound with joy, hopefulness, hospitality and deep appreciation for the gift of one another (Psalm 136).”