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Make Room in the Pew

Changed Utterly by Clarissa Perkins

In congregations around the country, Women of the ELCA is conducting vibrant ministries with and for newcomers to America. They open their homes, hearts, and communities to those seeking safety, freedom, and a place to call home.

This call to welcome runs deep in the Lutheran community. For decades, Lutherans in the United States have been helping migrants and refugees maneuver this country thanks to Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), regional and local Lutheran social ministries, ELCA churchwide ministries, and congregational efforts. Its founding organization, National Lutheran Council, was started in 1918, to help refugees and immigrants after World War I. You can learn more about their history at www.lirs.org under the “Our Work” tab.

Hospitality and service are the hallmarks of welcoming the stranger, and both can be found in the Women of the ELCA (WELCA) ministries of St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Columbia, S.C., and St. John Lutheran Church, Passaic, N.J.

Despite language barriers, cultural differences, and, at times, hesitance from other church members, Women of the ELCA participants are living out their faith and answering God’s call by finding ways to minister to migrants and refugees. At St. Andrew’s, they try to make new refugees feel loved and safe. At St. John, they welcome immigrants into their church, offer hope, and help ease the burdens of beginning a new life in the United States.

Clarissa Perkins is media relations specialist at LIRS.

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