“Even though Crown of Life has been located in New Orleans East for decades, there was still a disconnect between our congregation and our community,” says Jonathan Kehl, Crown of Life’s pastor since May 2013.
Kehl explains that most of Crown of Life’s members live many miles from the church, so local outreach is difficult.
“Much of this was the aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina,” notes Kehl. “Many of our local members were displaced by the storm and never returned, leaving the church a stranger in our own community.”
With two lots of unused land in the back of its property, the concept of a community garden was proposed. In 2014, Crown Community Garden was launched, with a goal of having 13 raised beds that community members can rent at a low rate for their own use. People can also participate in co-op gardening, helping to care for a large growing plot and some fruit trees.
To jumpstart the development of the garden, WELS Christian Aid and Relief gave a grant to Crown of Life to help the congregation build a large tool shed, hook up to city water in the garden area, and send out invitations to community members inviting them to join the garden.
As Robert Hein, chairman of Christian Aid and Relief, explains, the organization has a twofold mission: “We respond on behalf of WELS members to offer aid and encouragement to people suffering from disasters and extreme medical and financial challenges. But we also partner with World and Home Missions to support humanitarian aid projects that help build bridges to share the gospel. As the missions address community needs, they also open doors to tell people about Jesus.”
In the past, most humanitarian aid projects were carried out in world mission fields. Recently, though, more projects are being conducted in home mission settings, especially in cross-cultural situations such as in New Orleans.
Kehl is excited about the interactions he’s having with community members as they work in the garden together. In the year since Crown Community Garden has started, one couple has joined Crown of Life and one more is currently in Bible information class. The garden allows Crown of Life members to build relationships in a more natural way than cold calling neighborhood residents and inviting them to church.
“Natural conversations arise about struggles and hopes, which present opportunities to share law and gospel and apply it directly to their lives,” says Kehl. “A common question is, ‘Pastor, what do you think about . . . ?’ People who would never have considered walking into a church are excited to be part of something like our garden.”
To learn more about other projects supported by WELS Christian Aid and Relief, visit wels.net/relief.
Christian Aid and Relief supports efforts around the world
The distribution of 441 tons of maize in Malawi was the largest disaster-related food distribution project in the history of WELS Christian Aid and Relief.
In January, Malawi experienced damaging floods that destroyed or damaged the homes of many families who are members of WELS’ sister synod, the Lutheran Church of Central Africa–Malawi (LCCA). Initial relief efforts included providing supplies so these families could construct temporary housing.
The floods also washed away the families’ crops. This has been devastating for the local people, most of whom are subsistence farmers. To help families get through until the next growing season, Christian Aid and Relief worked with LCCA church leaders to distribute maize (the staple food of Malawi) to an estimated four thousand LCCA families in about 20 different areas. National pastors oversaw the distribution and conducted devotions and prayers with the families receiving the donations.
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Volume 102, Number 12
Issue: December 2015
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