Fort McMurray wildfire appeal update

Photo: Henry Visscher

Photo: Henry Visscher

The moment word of the destructive potential of the Fort McMurray wildfire hit the news earlier this year, Canadian Lutheran World Relief was flooded with support to provide relief for those who were affected by the fire. Thank you for your generous and compassionate response! Your support will be crucial in helping Fort McMurray residents rebuild and resettle after this life-altering event.

Responding to a disaster in Canada

Immediately following a natural disaster in Canada, emergency support such as food and temporary shelter is typically provided by organizations such as the Red Cross and provincial governments. Emergency programming gradually transitions into long-term recovery efforts, which begin with a needs assessment. It may take several months for the needs to be fully identified. In Fort McMurray toxic waste must be cleared before assessment can begin. The assessment will commence when authorities indicate the area is safe to enter.

Working in partnership

CLWR will contribute to long-term recovery through partner organizations that are experts in domestic disaster response. We will connect with long-standing partners such as Mennonite Disaster Service and World Renew. The focus of these partners is on home reconstruction for the underinsured and uninsured. Ongoing communication with municipal coordination mechanisms will help identify other needs as the emergency response shifts into the long-term recovery phase.

Interim action

To date, your support has provided opportunities for Fort McMurray residents to attend week-long summer camp programs at Camp Kuriakos in Sylvan Lake, AB, providing a respite break for those rebuilding and resettling in Fort McMurray. You have also contributed to the provision of additional pastoral support for the community beyond the normal scope of parish 
pastoral services at Trinity Lutheran Church.

CLWR thanks Rev. Dr. Larry Kochendorfer, Bishop of the Synod of Alberta and the Territories and Rev. Dr. Glenn Schaeffer, District President, Alberta-British Columbia District for their guidance and collaboration.

Thank you for your generous support which will
 ensure that residents return to a normal life!

Welcoming the stranger

St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church welcomes refugee family from Eritrea to Winnipeg


The refugee family caregivers group greets the family at the Winnipeg airport. Photo: CLWR/E.Paulley

For St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Winnipeg, MB, sponsoring a refugee family is a tangible response to Christ’s call to help and welcome the stranger.

“In the New Testament we hear the commandment to practice hospitality and be welcoming to the stranger,” says Pastor Bjoern Meinhardt. “We are called to provide for those in need who are less fortunate—this is a piece of solidarity that grows out of our faith.”

The idea of sponsoring a refugee family emerged following last year’s North American Lutheran Church Convocation, which included discussions around the theme of persecution facing Christians in other parts of the world. At the same time, the Canadian government announced the goal of bringing 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada.

These two instances prompted discussion among church council members as to the possibility of sponsoring a refugee family. After learning about the requirements in terms of resources, timeline and support, the idea was presented to the congregation. Through discussion, the congregation discerned together that this was a project they would like to undertake.

Working with Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR), the congregation began the sponsorship process through the Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) Program. This program is a partnership between the Government of Canada and a private group such as a congregation. Through the BVOR Program, the Canadian government covers up to six months of financial support. The private sponsorship group provides an additional six months of financial support and up to a year of social and emotional support.

As a Sponsorship Agreement Holder with the Government of Canada, CLWR is able to assist churches who are interested in sponsoring refugees. Since January 2016, 309 refugees have arrived in Canada with the help of 108 sponsor groups.


Welcoming the family. Photo: CLWR/E.Paulley

“I think [CLWR’s] ministry is wonderful in many ways, including as a resource to help with groups, congregations and Lutherans, who are wanting to be involved in refugee sponsorship,” says Tom Lurvey, a retired pastor and member of the refugee family caregivers group at St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. “The resources, information and help [CLWR] gave with the whole process is fabulous.”

In August, the church welcomed a refugee family of four from Eritrea. Their arrival in Winnipeg is the start of a new life for them and the start of a new part of the refugee sponsorship process for the church.

The early days after a refugee’s arrival in Canada are spent helping acclimate them to their new home, ensuring paperwork is filled out so they can access services, and connecting them with members of the community.

“We help with everyday situations—what is clear to us is not always clear to newcomers,” explains Meinhardt. “Our goal is to assist them in a way that they are comfortable in making their next steps little by little.”


Welcoming the family. Photo: CLWR/E.Paulley

Those next steps include assisting the children as they begin schooling and helping the family enhance their English language skills. The church is grateful for the support of volunteers from the Eritrean community in Winnipeg who are helping the family settle and functioning as interpreters.

It’s an exciting time for both the family and the congregation.

“We’re starting to get to know the family. They’re delightful people who are delighted to be here,” says Lurvey. “They’re grateful and eager to get settled and established.”

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2

Ellen Paulley, Communications Manager – Canadian Lutheran World Relief

Is your congregation interested in refugee sponsorship? Visit for more information.

St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church is also happy to answer questions from congregations that would like to explore the possibility of sponsoring refugees.

Our Hearts Ache for our Alberta Neighbours

When God lays the needs of people facing natural disaster and dislocation on the hearts of Canadian Lutherans, the response is immediate and full of compassion and generosity. The moment word of the destructive potential of the Fort McMurray Wildfire hit the news, Canadian Lutheran World Relief was flooded with support to provide relief.

That was expected. That’s what we do in Canada.

What was not expected was the overwhelming response from American Lutherans. Individuals, congregations and governing bodies were quick to join in on the response. Twenty-five states from coast to coast were represented in the donations. They came from Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and North American Lutheran Church sources.

Some were extraordinary.

A contribution arrived from the Synod of Texas Gulf Coast – Louisiana which is no stranger to natural calamities like floods, hurricanes and tornados. They have just suffered a flood of the century.

And, this is what Bishop Jessica Crist, Bishop of Montana wrote in a letter accompanying a donation from the six synods that form Zone 1, ELCA:

“Our synods know all too well about wild fires. We experience forest fires and prairie fires with all too much frequency.

We ache for our neighbors in Alberta and want to support people in the rebuilding of their lives.

Last summer, when fires raged across our territory, we started a fund to help congregations affected by fire. We think that it is most fitting that we should share that with you, our closest neighbors.

Please know that congregations across the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are praying for you. And know that the prayers and hopes of the six synods that make up ELCA Region 1 are with you.”

Tom Brook

Community Relations Director – Canadian Lutheran World Relief


More support needed for refugees in Uganda

Six weeks after an outbreak of violence in South Sudan forced tens of thousands to flee, the situation of South Sudanese refugees in Uganda is still critical. More than 70,000 have fled to Adjumani, Northern Uganda, where The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Dan Church Aid (DCA) is responding to the ongoing influx from the neighbouring country. Most recently, a cholera outbreak has threatened especially children in a newly installed settlement.

According to UNHCR, more than 100,000 people have fled from South Sudan to Northern Uganda since July 7, 2016. “Refugees cite the fragile security situation, fighting, torture, looting of properties and hunger as reasons for fleeing. Women and children constitute 90 percent of new arrivals, while the low number of males further testifies to the forceful recruitment of men and youth by armed forces,” says Jesse Kamstra, LWF Country Representative in Uganda.


Aerial shot of a refugee settlement in Adjumani. The houses are more spaced out because every refugee family is also allocated a plot of land. Photo: LWF/ A. Denyer

Focus on water and sanitation

The majority of the new arrivals have been moved to Pagirinya, a new refugee settlement opened by the UN refugee agency  and managed by the LWF. The camp’s capacity for 17,000 people has exceeded with the latest count of almost 21,000 inhabitants.

In the settlement’s reception centers the high number of new arrivals has made it difficult to provide adequate shelter, water and sanitation for all. A cholera outbreak was confirmed in mid-August, with 85 cases to date. With great effort, LWF together with national actors and the UNHCR have managed to contain the outbreak and to decongest the center.


Refugees collecting water at a borehole. As this is usually the task of women and children, LWF is installing more tap stands to make sure people do not have to walk too far. Photo: LWF/ A. Denyer

Many of these measures aim at preventing the disease from spreading further. LWF plans to  install one latrine per household. “Personal latrines are better maintained, they are closer to the people and therefore encourage good hygiene much more than communal latrines,” explains LWF staff Adrian Denyer. The task however is daunting: To provide for all households, LWF needs to construct 4,000 outhouses. Denyer sees the latrines as crucial to contain any diarrhoeal diseases. “If a borehole is further away, people have to walk. But if a latrine is further away, they will just defecate in the open,” he says.


A family latrine. Privacy is ensured by building huts around them. The jerry can and soap in front are used to wash hands. Photo: LWF/ A. Denyer

LWF is also constructing additional boreholes, and doing sanitation campaigns among the refugees and in the host communities to make sure the disease does not spread to the local villages. “The imminent rainy season is another reason to re-double our efforts,” adds  Denyer.


A “Tippy-tap” is easy to build: A jerry can, connected by a piece of string to the ground, enables people to wash their hands without touching anything with them. Photo: LWF/ A. Denyer

Food, relief goods, protection

In Uganda, refugees are registered and allocated a plot of land to support themselves by the local government. Most refugees build their own houses with the items provided by UNHCR and others found in the area. Over 19,000 individuals have been allocated land while the reminders still live in temporary shelters constructed by LWF.


A family growing sweet potatoes on their plot of land. Photo: LWF/ A. Denyer

In the registration center in Pagirinya, LWF provides food, relief goods and protection services. “We have constructed 24 community shelters for 150 people each, built 176 latrines, constructed 17 water points, given out more than 40,000 packages of relief goods and sanitary kits for women and girls and put up solar security lights,” LWF Country Representative Kamstra illustrates the  extent of the operation. 70 community shelters are currently under construction.

Special attention is given to the identification and care for people with special needs, such as small children, the elderly, new mothers and people living with disabilities. 2,848 have been identified so far. Persons with special needs do not have to build their own houses. They, as well as large families, are also given priority in the allocation of land in the Pagirinya settlements.


A refugee family in their new hut. They have also received chemically treated poles to construct their own latrine. Photo: LWF/ A. Denyer

Ease tensions with host community

LWF Environment teams also facilitate the planting of tree seedlings in order to protect the environment and to prevent conflict with the host communities when the refugees cut down trees for shelter and firewood. The number of refugees in the district has now exceeded the local population, who have been accepting and integrating large refugee movements from South Sudan in previous years as well.


A newly arrived refugee family in Pagirinya. Photo: LWF/ A. Denyer

“We are very grateful for the support of our partners,” LWF Uganda Country Representative Kamstra says. “Still more efforts are needed to be able to meet at least the basic demands of those who came here looking for peace and safety.” Among the needs that urgently have to be addressed are those of children who have been orphaned or separated from their parents. Other needs include safety measures such as more solar lights and guards, as well as environmental action and garbage collection.

According to UNHCR estimates, an additional 110,000 refugees from South Sudan are expected in Northern Uganda until the end of the year.

The LWF refugee response in Adjumani is supported by UNHCR, ACT Alliance, Bread for the World, Canadian Lutheran World Relief, Church of Sweden, DanChurch Aid, USAID and UNICEF.

This post originally appeared on the Lutheran World Federation website

Click here to make a donation to support South Sudanese refugees in Uganda

Hunger for Justice: A worship resource for World Food Day

hunger-for-justiceThe Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) created World Food Day to commemorate its founding in Quebec City, October 16, 1945. The goal of the FAO is to free humanity from hunger and malnutrition and to effectively manage the global food system. World Food Day events are organized in over 150 countries across the world, making it one of the most celebrated days of the UN calendar. These events promote worldwide awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and help strengthen the link between agriculture and food security.

Quick facts

  • Although significant gains have been made in reducing the number of hungry people in the world over the last ten years, one in nine people are still hungry (around 8 million);
  • Around 70% of hungry people are farmers, and women make up 43% of the agricultural labour force in developing countries;
  • 10-20% more people could face increased hunger due to the impact of climate change;
  • Canada’s support for agricultural development has dropped by 30% over the last five years.

There is good news for those who Hunger for Justice! Increased support for small-scale farmers offers a significant opporutnity to reduce global hunger. This package of resources is designed to help your congregation pray, give, learn and advocate in support of Canadian Foodgrains Bank’s Good Soil campaign—supporting small-scale farmers.

Click here to download the resource

CLWR weekly prayer

clwr weekly prayer place fillerA prayer from CLWR for the week of the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost:

Gracious God, you call us out of our personal pursuits towards life that bears all in mind and in heart. Help us to carry the cross, that our faith may show through in our daily living always! Through the one who went to the cross for us, Jesus Christ, we pray, Amen.

Written by Pastor Tyler Gingrich of MNO Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and CLWR – Canadian Lutheran World Relief in Winnipeg

Celebrating 100,000 We Care orders

WeCare_thankyouCLWR has a longstanding history of shipping material aid and relief items overseas. We first sent clothing, blankets and food to those in Europe affected by the Second World War in the 1940s.

In the years since, some of what we ship has remained the same—such as quilts and certain items of clothing—but we’ve also expanded the types of items we ship in response to requests from our partners overseas. Through our We Care Program, which launched in 2005, we’ve shipped over $4.2 million in material resources to 19 countries around the world! This is all possible thanks to the generous support of Canadian Lutherans like you!

“Since CLWR was established in 1946, we have supported many thousands of people with the provision of kits and blankets to many impoverished places around the world. These tangible expressions of ‘showing we care’ makes such a difference! On behalf of those recipients with whom I’ve met overseas, we offer our sincere thanks for your generosity and service to those in need.”

-Robert Granke, CLWR Executive Director

This year, we’ve reached the milestone of 100,000 We Care orders! We would like to celebrate this event by inviting you to an open house in our Winnipeg warehouse! Come and meet the staff, receive a tour of the warehouse and learn about our program and recent shipments.

When: September 9, 2016

Time: 10 AM – 6 PM. Drop by anytime! We’ll be offering tours throughout the day and a short program at 3:00 PM along with coffee and cake.

Where: 549 King Edward St., Winnipeg, MB

Thank you for your ongoing support of CLWR and our We Care program!

Wonder what it looks like to load one of the containers with material aid? Click here to view a photo album from the day we loaded a container bound for Lesotho and South Africa with quilts, baby bundles, hygiene kits and more.

Since 2005 your generous support has enabled us to ship:

  • 173,500 quilts
  • 67,100 baby bundles
  • 94,400 We Care kits
  • Over the past year alone, volunteers have contributed over 1450 hours at our warehouse to sort, process, package, bale and load containers! We are so grateful for our everyone who supports We Care!

Stay up to date with our We Care news by subscribing to our email newsletter. Send us an email at with your name and email address and we’ll add you to the We Care Network!