I came home to Litchfield, Minnesota to be with my parents as my father undergoes open heart surgery to replace his aortic valve. I am actually distracting myself by writing this as I wait at St. Cloud hospital for dad to get out of surgery.
Since I got here a few days before dad’s surgery, I also returned to another home — the church where I grew up: First Evangelical Lutheran Church. I likely wouldn’t have admitted this twenty years ago, but I am proud to say it now: the church and the people of First Lutheran played a huge role in shaping my beliefs and my desire to work in a way that gives back to those in need.
The women of First Lutheran still check in on what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. They’re proud of me and their children (my friends) but they also feel very free to give me unsolicited advice. They requested that while I was in town I make a visit to their group as they completed assembling their baby kits and health kits. When these women make a request of you — you don’t say no.
We got to the church about a half hour late and almost missed meeting the women and seeing them at work. These are incredibly efficient, serious women who don’t dilly dally. When mom and I got there, only a few of the women were still there and they were packing up the final boxes. I was immediately drafted and began helping to seal the boxes, fold up and move the tables they had used, and assist with preparing their post-work coffee.
These are the women you go to in order to really get things done — these women are, no matter what anyone says, the core of the church.
The women immediately began asking questions about the recent changes LWR had made to the specifications for the various kits that Lutherans across the US assemble and send to LWR’s warehouses so that we can ship them around the world — providing warmth, comfort, and essential supplies to those in need.
I was a bit worried about answering their questions regarding changes to the health kits, school kits, and baby kits. Ever since LWR made the changes, our phone has been ringing off the hook with people seeking clarification and answers to the many questions they’ve had about why the changes were made and exactly how to fulfill our new requirements. There was no need for me to be nervous, but, it was good that I had studied the requirements before I arrived. I must admit that I did breath a sigh of relief when Mrs. Albright said, “Lisa, you need to remember that change is hard for us older church ladies. We trust LWR and know you had to make these changes — we just want to make sure we get it right.”
As we gathered around the table to drink coffee (from the LWR Fair Trade coffee project) and eat Joanne Miller’s yummy, home-made ginger snap cookies. I began thinking about my connection to each of these women. Two of the women were new to the group but with all the other women I have multiple and deep connections and I’ve known them for over forty years.
One of the women, was my high school English teacher and speech coach. We’ve kept in touch throughout the years and she still feels free to offer me a critique if I speak at First Lutheran or if she reads something I’ve written for LWR News. Without her I know I wouldn’t have been ready for college and I certainly wouldn’t have made it through graduate school. She is a Litchfield institution — she taught my father (who is now 78), my two older brothers, me and my nephew.
Another woman in the group allowed her house to be the local hang out for almost everyone I knew. She hosted great cookouts and gatherings at their house — including an epic group viewing of the last episode of Dallas. I remember her infinite patience with me and my misbehavior — when I worked at our church’s food stand at the county fair.
All of these women are consumate, make-things-happen-no-matter-what women. They are mothers of some of my best friends, former county extension agents, formidable judges of my 4-H sewing and dress revue projects, they were 4-H moms and advisors, Sunday School teachers, choir directors, cheer leaders for everything we did and a living, breathing example of the phrase that “it takes a village” to raise a child.
Now that I work at Lutheran World Relief, these women make me feel like I am a rock star in a hot band each time I return to First Lutheran. They greet me with open arms, a request for updates on what we’re doing at LWR, a desire to tell me the things they’re doing to support the institution they trust the most (LWR), and an enduring ability to keep me honest and in check.
Don’t get me wrong — I am lucky to have grown up with a fabulous mom — someone who still guides me and advises me. But, I also know that I would not be who I am today if I hadn’t been raised by this community of incredibly strong, engaged, active women of First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Litchfield, MN.