This entry offers the 1outline of a heartening story: After the Russian Revolution and World War I, Lutherans in the United States were significant partners in 2large-scale famine relief in Eastern Europe.
In the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution and World War I, much of Europe struggled to reconstruct the lives of its citizens. Cities and villages lay in ruins, governments were in disarray and prospects for normality seemed dim. Desolation was widespread in vast stretches of the former Russian Empire, including Ukraine.
The combined horrors of a world war and the overthrow of the Czarist empire in Russia had resulted in even larger disasters: Widespread disease and famine. Caught in the pincers of doubled violence, Eastern Europe was especially hard-hit. When the war ended, the newly formed National Lutheran Council immediately began large-scale relief efforts. An initial collection of $628,253 (over $12M in 2022 dollars) was gathered for European Relief. The Council pledged a total of $5,000.000 (over $100M today) for the duration of the effort. The collection and distribution of Lutheran funds was carefully coordinated among the member church bodies in the Council, and partner churches in Eastern Europe.
Three facts stand out: First, the response was immediate and overwhelming. Second, the relief was distributed throughout the region, not just to one country or political entity. Third, this effort sowed the seeds for Lutheran unity around the world—The Lutheran World Federation—that remains strong and vital today.
You and I walk in the footsteps of forebears who, in their time, also faced the specter of horrific calamity caused by unrelenting war. Their story can inspire our own, helping to strengthen our resolve to work God’s will through the 3outpouring of contributions.
We are heirs of their kindness, inheritors of their compelling generosity. Like them, we are part of the people of God throughout the world, bound together by God’s love and the Spirit’s presence.
We will not be defeated by anxiety or despair.
1 The details are difficult for me to sort out, but not the stories. Some of the descendants of Russian and Ukrainian Christians emigrated to the United States. Their family histories hold dear the precious stories of how their ancestors’ lives were redeemed by the love and kindness of Lutherans in the U.S. Years ago, I met some of those families—in congregations in Bismarck, ND—and know how deeply their memories entwine around this fact: When the need was overwhelming, Lutherans responded.
2 You can find the full story in the online copy of the book, As Between Brothers, by Rev. Dr. Richard Solberg (#27 – As between brothers; – Full View | HathiTrust Digital Library). See especially Chapter One, “Rehearsal for Unity.”
3 Lutheran World Relief is currently collecting donations to assist Ukrainian refugees. See Donate to Crisis in Ukraine: Families need you (lwr.org) for further information.