How Long is Compassion?
It used to be one day. Then a week. Now it’s a year-round global mission fund.
South Elkhorn has long supported the long-lasting, long-reaching, and life-transforming work of disaster relief, refugee resettlement, and economic development through Week of Compassion. Through this denominational ministry, we bring the compassion of Christ to address real human suffering and material need in contexts near and far–local and global.
Every year South Elkhorn makes a general contribution and invites individuals to make additional over-and-above offerings. You can make one such offering this Sunday (or online right now using the “other” designated fund and the description “Week of Compassion”).
(Every year there are also a few people who scratch their head in a little confusion about the “Week of Compassion” name–scroll to the bottom of this email to read the brief (not long!) history that helped me better understand the ministry and its name).
In 2021, South Elkhorn was also a recipient of the generosity that flows through Week of Compassion. Week of Compassion offered a webinar to resource interested churches and leaders on how to welcome and support a refugee family. Jerry Shepard and I attended and learned a lot. That learning and Jerry’s leadership snowballed into a South Elkhorn sponsorship team welcoming an Afghan family to Lexington in 2021.
But that wasn’t the end of the story with Week of Compassion. The Outreach Team, led by Barb Ellerbrook, then applied for and received grant dollars from Week of Compassion to help with resettling and supporting that Afghan family here in Lexington. Many other churches have received grants and gifts for doing ministry and facing challenges: from tornado to hurricane damage, from resettling refugees to providing sustainable economic development addressing the root causes of poverty.
Week of Compassion does more than support churches. It also partners with agencies and organizations all around the globe to address disasters like famine and tsunamis, displaced peoples, women’s education and empowerment, conflict resolution, and child nutrition. You can learn more about all that Week of Compassion has done in 2021 here.
A BRIEF AND HELPFUL HISTORY
From the Week of Compassion website (here)
In the beginning…
The Week of Compassion emerged in the early 1940s, as World War II created a series of humanitarian crises around the globe. The International Convention (General Assembly) of the Christian Church made two recommendations regarding multiple aid and relief projects around the world. These recommendations outlined partnerships with multiple ecumenical ministries and counterparts. The Church designated a “Day of Compassion,” on which congregations would hold a special offering to raise funds to support these mission projects.In 1943, the “Wartime Service Fund” was approved by the International Convention. At this point, the Disciples of Christ designated a “Week of Compassion” to raise $250,000 for ongoing support of these relief efforts.
In the meantime…
Over the next several decades, the work of Week of Compassion and its partners expanded to include not just humanitarian aid, but also disaster response and refugee resettlement. The ministry’s leadership evolved as well, from a voluntary office to a full-time executive director; additional staff helped expand the reach of the ministry; and the annual fund grew over time from thousands of dollars to millions.
South Elkhorn is inspiring Christ’s deeper way of love with amazing generosity. Last week’s Souper Bowl of Caring offering at the end of the worship service made quite the impact, generating a social media response from Arbor Youth Services (see here). As our youth and Pastor Holly Fuqua depicted for us last Sunday, Arbor Youth Services is an agency committed to alleviating youth homelessness. South Elkhorn youth led the way with this offering, having partnered with Arbor Youth Services on previous mission trips and inviting all of us to share in this important mission.
This pattern of faith-fueled generosity is connected deeply to the teaching of Jesus. We’ll see this Sunday as Jesus continues the “sermon on the plain.” Having preached a vision of radical equality, Jesus then challenges and encourages those who claim to follow him toward a radical generosity growing out of the long-reach of love. It is a generosity of spirit, of compassion, and of material resources. That kind of expansive generosity can’t ever be contained–it will inspire, transform, and heal.
See you Sunday,
PS – Ash Wednesday is just around the corner! Begin the season of Lent in a beautiful, intimate, and perhaps new way. Learn more about Lent here or let the church know you are planning to attend the historic sanctuary service of ashes, prayer, contemplation, and song (RSVP). And if you are considering
The upcoming Lent Sermon Series “Good Enough” is inspired by a new book. Join me in the 40 days of Lenten introspection, contemplation, and transformation with the help of a raw and real devotional book. Read it yourself, with a spouse or family member, or get a group together. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (March 2) and ends with the surprise and new life of Easter (April 17).
February 20 // Teach with Love // Luke 6:27-38
February 27 // Change with Grace // Luke 9:28-36