Stories from the Global Church

Here you will find stories from the global church by ELCA global missionaries, scholars, and churchwide staff, brought to you by the ELCA Global Church Sponsorship team.

Fall 2010 Hand in Hand newsletter online and in print

Posted on July 26, 2010 by Hand In Hand

Find the issue and its related bulletin inserts online at E-mail to request distribution copies.

The Fall 2010 issue of the Hand in Hand newsletter is here!  Visit to find the issue and the related bulletin inserts, just right to reproduce in newsletters and bulletins.  To request a single copy for yourself or multiple copies to distribute, send your address to  

Side A 

Jesus said, “Let the little children come unto me,” is a reflection by ELCA missionary Mary Kuck (Jamaica).  Bulletin insert available

Meet Richard Young: ELCA Missionary, Pastor, Physician (Guyana). Bulletin insert available

Side B

“I need to polish the swan!”  Pastor Twila Shock’s column takes us to Suriname, introduces us to Helloues Aveloo’s congregation revitalization contribution, and invites us to “do one thing” that will make a world of difference:  become an ELCA missionary covenant sponsorBulletin insert available

Learn how to participate in Operation Thanks-Giving (OT-G2) and offer your own “random acts of thanks-giving.”  Two bulletin inserts are available, including a “handy”  thanks-giving card pattern.  Visit to find OT-G2 stories, pictures, and how-to information.

An Easter seasoned with thanks giving

Posted on March 30, 2010 by Hand In Hand
Operation Thanksgiving Easter greetings (OT-G: Easter) have started arriving at my desk.   With the arrival of 90 cards (a shoebox full!)  from Lutheran Church of the Abiding Presence (Burke, Virginia), we now have at least one card for each of our 188 missionary households.   Thanks, too, to the other congregations on the OT-G: Easter honor roll:  Augustana Lutheran (Hobart, IN);  Walnut Hill Lutheran (Dallas, Texas); Grace Evangelical Lutheran (Westminster, MD)–especially Megan and Emily; Alma Lutheran (Mead, Neb.) and Thabor Lutheran (Wausa, Neb.).

Since Easter is a season, there’s still time to participate!  Send your cards to arrive in the office by April 26.  Get the details at (the OT-G: Easter button is on the left).  Remember, send cards directly to any specific missionaries, members of the armed forces and other service personnel connected to you; send “random acts of Easter joy” greetings for missionaries to ELCA Global Mission Support, 8765 W. Higgins Road, Chicago, IL 60631.

It is a joy to open the packets of Easter greetings, and a privilege to send them off to our missionaries!  Pr. Twila Schock, Kathleen West and I–your Global Mission Support team–thank God for you and for all you do to support the “Hand in Hand” global ministries of the church.
Easter blessings!  Sue Edison-Swift

OT-G Easter

Posted on February 25, 2010 by Len Mason

You are invited to participate in Operation Thanks-Giving: Easter.  Here’s how:

1.  Gather the supplies (construction paper, markers, crayons) and the people (family, Sunday School, congregation, Bible-study group) to make Easter greetings.  Consider setting up a card-making station as part of your Easter breakfast.

2.  Make Easter greetings for ELCA Missionaries, troops, and other personnel who serve away from home.

3.  Mail cards directly to the personnel connected to you (e.g., family, friends, and sponsored missionaries).

4.  Send your  Easter greetings for ELCA missionaries to OT-G Easter, ELCA Global Mission Support, 8765 W. Higgins Road, Chicago, IL 60631.   Cards will be mailed on April 14 and May 14.   The cards will fairly distributed among our 180 missionary households. 

How many OT-G greetings should I send?
From one to 180, it’s up to you.

Do they need to be in individual envelopes?
Sending all your OT-G greetings in one envelope is preferred.  If you do send cards in envelopes, please do not seal the envelopes.

Is it OK to include our church name and e-mail address?
Yes!  While a “thanks for the thankfulness” reply is not expected, many of the missionaries receiving Operation Thanks-Giving cards did reply when an e-mail address was provided. 

Should we send a donation along with our OT-G cards?
A donation to ELCA Missionary Sponsorship: Where needed most (MSG0340) is appreciated but not required.

We had such fun making cards!  Where do I send pictures?
Cool!  After securing permission to share the photos (especially those featuring children) e-mail the best one, two or three to Sue Edison-Swift.

Where do I learn more?
Find Operation Thanks-Giving stories and pictures on the Hand in Hand blog digest (a OT-G category button is on the left-hand column).  Learn more about ELCA Missionary Sponsorship at  Contact the Global Mission Support teat at

Thankful for you,  Sue Edison-Swift





Spontaneous love

Posted on February 9, 2010 by Hand In Hand

Joy's OT-G Valentine's Day card is one of 18 handmade cards for missionaries sent in by Walnut Hill Lutheran (Dallas, Texas).

Two congregations–Capron Lutheran (Capron, Ill.) and Walnut Hill Lutheran (Dallas, Texas)–took Operation Thanks-Giving (OT-G) to the next level and sent in Valentine’s Day cards to be sent to ELCA missionaries. 

What a good idea! 

If you’d like to join the fun and help show our missionaries a little love, send Valentines to arrive on Monday February 15. We need 180 Valentines for each missionary household to receive one. We’ll supplement the handmade cards with cute classroom-style Valentines (knock-knock jokes, anyone?).   


Heather's OT-G Valentine's Day card is one of 21 cards made by Capron Lutheran Church (Capron, Ill.).

Don’t worry if the February 15 deadline is unworkable for you. Valentine’s Day will be covered. We will be sending OT-G Easter cards, too. Easter greetings should arrive by Tuesday, April 13.  Idea: Maybe a card-making station could be set up near the Easter-breakfast muffins.  (Easter Sunday is April 4, 2010.)

Send your cards to
OT-G cards
ELCA Global Mission Support
8765 W. Higgins Road
Chicago, IL 60631

Remember, OT-G Valentine’s Day cards should arrive by February 15.  OT-G Easter cards should arrive by April 13.

Send cards directly to the mission personnel you know (e.g., sponsored missionaries and members of the congregation in the military).  Cards sent to Global Mission Support will be randomly distributed among ELCA missionaries.  Questions?  Contact 

Share-the-love blessings,
Sue Edison-Swift
Associate Director Global Mission Support
and OT-G Queen


Cards bring it home for the holidays

Posted on December 21, 2009 by Hand In Hand

As this Story of Faith in Action (SOFIA) illustrates, Operation Thanks-Giving blessed both giver and receiver.  Thanks to Marianne Griebler and Denise Brown for their work telling the story. Find this and other SOFIA stories under “Outreach” at all the “Hand in Hand” blog digest posts related to Operation Thanks-Giving at Read on and enjoy an extra helping of thankfulness this Christmas season. Sue Edison-Swift

Edwin Holmvig-Johnson’s first Thanksgiving as a missionary was also his first away from home.

Edwin is a Young Adult in Global Mission with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). He teaches reading and writing to children in primary school in the U.K.

“My homesickness had been fairly stable up until that week,” he said. “The weather was gray and it starts to get dark here around 4:00 in the afternoon. It was a hard week.”

Then, a package from the ELCA churchwide organization in Chicago arrived.

Edwin opened it expecting to find official forms needing his John Hancock. Instead he found a package filled with handmade cards, compliments of the first annual Operation Thanks-giving, a new ELCA missionary support initiative.

“There were these fantastic cards and greetings from a congregation (Trinity Lutheran Church in Vale, N.C.) that I’d never met on the other side of ‘the Pond.’ It felt wonderful to know that I was being thought of and prayed for and made it easier to keep going,” Edwin said.

For her part, Ginger Crisman, evangelism committee chairperson at Trinity, was inspired by the idea of involving her congregation in Operation Thanks-giving. Early in November she supplied 150 worshipers with colored paper, crayons and pens prior to Sunday service. The Rev. John Locke encouraged each card-marker to say a prayer for the recipient of their creations.

Worshipers from age 3 to 83 put their artistic talent to use, creating about 93 cards for ELCA missionaries and 93 cards for military service personnel. “It was everything we hoped for,” Ginger said. “God works in big and little ways. This was a little way.”

“Show the Missionaries Some Love”

The Rev. Twila Schock, ELCA program director for Global Mission Support, knew this “little way” could have a big impact.

In 1994, Twila was a first-year missionary in Slovakia. The excitement of the assignment was wearing off by Thanksgiving, Twila recalled, when everything (language, shopping, daily routines) just seemed hard. But a Thanksgiving care package she received turned out to the best cure for homesickness.

Earlier this year, Twila shared her story with Sue Edison-Swift, associate director for Global Mission Support, and that was all Sue needed to hear. “We’ve got to show the missionaries some love,” she said, and the first annual Operation Thanks-giving was born.

Operation Thanks-giving took a page from Hand in Hand, the theme for the Global Mission Support newsletter. Card makers were asked to use their hands to draw and decorate turkeys on the cards.

This Thanksgiving, 258 ELA missionaries in five countries received a package of cards crafted by 15 congregations and two units at the churchwide organization. Some congregations choose to send cards directly to missionaries they support.

Having Faith in the Work that God Can Do

Those cards deeply touched Emily E. Ewing, a missionary in Rankovce, Slovakia, worlds away from her hometown of Vail, Colo.

“The fact that people I don’t know and who don’t know me sent me the cards was big for me,” she said. “It just shows so much faith in the work that God can do with each of us and faith in our church, as well, that they will send cards knowing that they’re going to someone who is far from home, following God’s call.

“It was really cool that so many people believe so strongly in the work God does with the church that they would send cards.”

On November 15 during Sunday school at St. John Lutheran Church of Farmersville in Easton, Pa., 22 people each made three cards for missionaries and military persons serving in Baghdad.

“We often hear about the needs of military units who are deployed over the holidays. I had never considered the same type of need for missionaries,” said the Rev. Roxi Kringle, pastor of St. John.

The excitement surrounding Operation Thanks-giving was contagious. “The (Sunday School) room was buzzing by the time I got down,” Pastor Kringle said. “A couple boys asked their recipients to write back. The thank you notes the church received from Iraq had the class beaming.”

A Wonderful Sense of Connection

Michael and Terri Church, a husband-and-wife pastor team serving as English-language mission developers in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, saw Thanksgiving arrive as they struggled to become acclimated with a new culture.

Hoping to downplay their loneliness by discounting the holiday, they decided to make Thanksgiving just another day. “Under my breath, I quoted a favorite line from (the movie) ‘Rocky': ‘To you it’s Thanksgiving; to me it’s Thursday,'” Michael said.

What a difference a day can make.

“Friday’s mail brought our Operation Thanks-giving cards,” Michael said. “Completely unexpected, out of the blue, came these wonderful handmade cards from complete strangers, in Lutheran churches all over the country, reminding us that we weren’t alone, and that there were people at home giving thanks to God for all their blessings — and even that we ourselves, as missionaries, were one of those blessings. It gave us a wonderful sense of connection to our country and to our church.

“Thanks again to everybody who took part in it,” Michael added. “May God be with you all!”

Unexpected Advent

Posted on December 16, 2009 by Hand In Hand

In a thank-you e-mail for the Operation Thanks-Giving greetings she received, Kristy Bergman, a Young Adult in Global Mission (YAGM) serving in Hungary, wrote “support sometimes comes in unexpected ways and from the most unexpected places.”  What a great nugget for an Advent! After all, Jesus Immanuel came to us—and continues to come to us—in unexpected ways and in unexpected places.  I invited Kristy to “say more.”  Unexpected blessings, Sue Edison-Swift

There are always surprises, always challenges, when you are serving abroad.  Like figuring out how to tell your vegetarian sister—coming to visit you in your Hungarian village for the holidays—that she has been invited to partake in a traditional Hungarian celebration: the Feast of Pig Killing.

I expected to encounter the unexpected during my year of service as a YAGM.  I didn’t expect the ways support comes in the most unexpected ways and from the most unexpected places.

For example:  One morning, after a particularly lonesome evening here in Hungary, I opened my e-mail inbox to find a kind and inspiring notes from a congregation member and the  director of the Bible camp where I used to work. While I was still at my computer, the post (mail) arrived, and with it a package of handmade Thanksgiving cards from strangers sent via Global Mission’s Operation Thanks-Giving. 

And, whether it is a kind hand on my shoulder, a hand drawn picture from one of the Roma children with whom I work, or a laugh shared with someone with whom I do not share a common language, I feel blessed by the people around me. God, through the people in our lives, provides the most powerful and incredible support, often in the ways and in the places we least expect it.

SHBergmanWEB_4310Isten aldjon (God bless),  Kristy
Kristy Bergman is a Young Adult in Global Mission (YAGM) serving in Hungary. 
Are you, or someone you know, a 19 to 29-year-old interested in, and gifted for, a year of Global Mission service?  In 2009, 50 young people were selected for a year of service as a YAGM.  Submit an application by February 15, 2010 for priority consideration; all applications for the YAGM Class of 2010 must be received by March 1.
Learn more at

Thanks Giving Advent

Posted on December 15, 2009 by Hand In Hand

Seventeen “Operation Thanks Giving” greetings arrived today from Holy Trinity Lutheran, Fort Walton Beach, Florida.  One of their handmade cards offered this message:

Missionaries are
Thanks Giving
“made flesh”

As they arrive, “I’m thankful for you” messages will continue to be tucked into ELCA missionary mailings.   Wouldn’t Valentine’s Day be a welcome time to “share some love” with ELCA Missionaries, members of the military and other service personnel?  Send greetings directly to the individuals and families connected to your congregation.  Send general greetings to be distributed randomly to ELCA missionaries to ELCA Global Mission Support, 8765 W. Higgins Road, Chicago, IL 60068.

Share the love blessings, Sue Edison-Swift



Katie loves the church

Posted on December 11, 2009 by Hand In Hand
Katie's greeting will be sent as a "random act of thanks-giving" to an ELCA missionary.  Her "I love the church" art was one of 19 hand-drawn "Operation Thanks-Giving" cards sent in by Christ the King Lutheran in Cary, NC.  Thanks, Katie! Katie’s greeting will be sent as a “random act of thanks-giving” to an ELCA missionary. Her “I love the church” art was one of 19 hand-drawn “Operation Thanks-Giving” cards sent in by Christ the King Lutheran in Cary, NC. Thanks, Katie!

St. John’s, Thankfully

Posted on December 3, 2009 by Hand In Hand

St. John’s of Farmersville (Easton, Penn) has a slide show of “Operation Thanks-Giving” card-making posted on their Web site.  Check it out at Global Mission Support received and distributed 14 of  St. John’s beautiful cards. St. John’s pastor, the Rev. Roxanne Kringle, writes: “We had a delightful time making the cards.  The project was indeed a blessing for the families that participated in the card making.”

Giving thanks: Kathryn Lawler and David Wunsch

Posted on November 26, 2009 by Twila Schock

This is the next in a series of “Give thanks!” moments offered by ELCA missionaries and sponsors. Learn more about Operation Thanks-Giving at –Pr. Twila Schock.

Kathryn Lawler and David Wunsch write, Our Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) program in Argentina and Uruguay has the tradition of spending Thanksgiving at an ecumenical retreat center on an ecological farm in rural Uruguay.  Growing up in a northern climate, I always associated Thanksgiving with the end-of-harvest cornucopia, a symbol of abundance and prosperity.  Here Thanksgiving comes in late Spring and at a time, just three months into the YAGM volunteers’ year of service, when they are grappling with themes of abundance and scarcity.  During our Thanksgiving time together we often reflect with new eyes on the abundance that we could not see when we were in the midst of it.  We also reflect on the abundance in the midst of scarcity that we experience in our new host communities.  In addition to the cornucopia, our lives become enriched with new symbols of abundance, even in the midst of scarcity and poverty:  for example the abundance of hospitality you experience when you are greeted with a kiss on the cheek when you walk into a room or when the communal maté (traditional tea) gourd is passed to you, a silent gesture letting you know that you belong.”

LawlerWunschELCA missionaries Kathryn Lawler and David Wunsch serve as the ELCA’s regional representatives in South America.  The Lutheran churches of Latin America have heard the cry of the poor.   In response, they provide a holistic ministry that serves the community and blends Word and Sacrament, advocacy, and diaconal ministries in human rights, gender and economic justice, education and health.  ELCA missionaries supply ministry-building skills as requested by companion churches and grants support projects that address social and economic issues, as well as leadership development.