Gods Work Our Hands volunteers at work.In September, Lutheran Disaster Response – Eastern Pennsylvania held its first skills training workshop at the ELCA Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) Synod office in Allentown. The goal – expand the number of volunteers equipped to help those affected by a disaster. Heidi Shilanskas of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Bethlehem coordinated the half day workshop.

She recalls, “When Julia Menzo and I discussed mission trips and how inadequate we felt doing the hands-on work required, I think it’s safe to say we both felt a spark of lightening at our shared dream for a skills day that would help people like us learn how to do things like use power tools or hang dry wall. Working with Julia and the team from Trinity Lutheran in Kutztown was a vision realized for me.”

Volunteers at Gods Work Our Hands Day 2022Participants attending the workshop received interactive training on using a drill and a circular saw. In addition to hanging dry wall, they also learned the basics of putting down flooring, and how to spackle and paint.

One person attending the workshop, Weston Russell from Star of Bethlehem Church, was able to take his newly learned skills and test them in the field at a worksite in Downingtown. “After our skills day, Weston reached out immediately asking when he could put these new skills to use,” Heidi shares. “Together he and I went to Downingtown to help with Hurricane Ida relief.”

“We felt much more comfortable with the tools and the work required for the day,” she continues. “Weston’s enthusiasm was infectious, and soon our whole crew was giggling and making jokes as we worked on restoring a flooded garage.

“I am hopeful in the future that we can continue to offer these workshops in conjunction with local and national mission groups so that more people like me, who are less skilled, can develop their comfort level with tools and mission work.”

Julia Menzo, Director of Community Outreach, adds, “We are so grateful to the NEPA Synod, the ELCA, our disaster partners, and our donors who all made this workshop possible. They provide strength and inspiration to volunteers like Heidi and Weston who walk with others down the long road to recovery after a disaster strikes.”