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Following God’s Example By Pastor Henrik Sonntag

As a Lutheran pastor, I am continually aware of the miraculous works that God can accomplish through us. Having been born in Zwickau, which was then located in East Germany, I grew up under communism and saw the fall of “the wall” when I was in high school. I am thankful for the ministry of the Church during a time of oppression, and consider myself fortunate that God found me in the midst of communism through the faith of my grandmother. To me, this is an example of how God reaches out to us through the people around us.

When I became the pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Glenside in 2009, I was introduced to Lutheran Disaster Response –Eastern Pennsylvania (LDR-EPA), a branch of Lutheran Congregational Services, which had been working with several other organizations in the area. Almost immediately, our congregation saw the potential to create a fundraising event to support LDR-EPA’s mission to help people recovering from a disaster.

With our faith’s roots in Germany, the concept of an Oktoberfest instantly became obvious. As a German, I find gratification and am thankful for all our volunteers who put so much hard work into ensuring the event’s authenticity. Now, more than ten years on, our Oktoberfest has become one of the largest events in Glenside, drawing people from throughout the area. Families come to enjoy festive drinks, food, and games from local vendors and breweries. Since its foundation, we have successfully raised more than $161,674.00 for LDR-EPA, while members of our congregation continue to give their time to long-term recovery efforts such as Camp Noah, which teaches resiliency skills to children recovering from disaster through fun and engaging activities.

The good works put forth by LDR-EPA are living demonstrations of walking with others through times of struggle, just as our Lord Jesus walks with those encountering difficulty.

When there is a crisis, such as flooding in Susquehanna County, or a massive storm such as Hurricane Maria, LDR-EPA is always quick to respond. Whether a tragic event is at our doorstep or in far off reaching places, they engage congregations and communities to give back to assist people in need.

What’s more, is that their support continues long after the initial disaster. While other organizations may be in a disaster zone for weeks, months, or more, Lutheran Disaster Response often stands by recovering families for years after these tragic events.

For many recovering from disaster, such as the thousands of people displaced from Hurricane Maria, piecing lives back together is not an instantaneous process. Here we are, several years later, and the storm continues to take a toll. Fortunately, LDR-EPA continues to be a resource for those who lost homes and jobs, and who continue to go without basic common necessities.

This is why the St. Paul’s congregation continues to support LDR-EPA – because their work embodies the principles of our Church. Jesus called upon us to love and care for one another, to give charitably to those in need– to touch one another’s lives. Every day, we see that lived out by Lutheran Congregational Services and Lutheran Disaster Response –Eastern Pennsylvania.