Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is incredibly grateful to announce a generous $400,000 gift from ELCA World Hunger. Since LIRS’s founding in 1939, the ELCA and its preceding church bodies have been central to our ministry and mission—and though our programs have expanded from a four-person operation to a nearly 500-strong national nonprofit with offices around the country, our shared commitment to the work of welcome has never wavered.
The award will support programming in Baltimore, MD, including the new LIRS Baltimore Welcome Center and a new economic empowerment initiative. LIRS Welcome Centers provide trauma-informed case management for asylum seekers, including mental health screening and services, know-your rights support, connections to community-based resources such as food banks, education services, and more. Our forthcoming economic initiative supports financial literacy, microlending, and credit-building for immigrant and refugee clients who might otherwise be ineligible or excluded from traditional development pathways.
“This generous gift from ELCA World Hunger is a testament to our long-standing partnership and will help launch new programming that builds off of our strong shared history of welcome,” said LIRS President and CEO Krish O’Mara Vignarajah. “Immigrants and refugees represent both the past and future of the United States, and together, LIRS and the ELCA will continue to work toward an inclusive, equitable future for all who call this country home.”
“We celebrate this new gift to LIRS, which will strengthen the direct service programs that support vulnerable migrants and refugees as they transition to a new land,” added Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla, Executive Director for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Service and Justice Home Area. “Our relationship with LIRS as a non-governmental entity is one in which we each have distinctive gifts to bring to bear in the accompaniment of migrants and refugees—LIRS having a long trajectory of programmatic service in the U.S. and the ELCA with a strong international work in global migration and a powerful network of synods and congregations engaged in this work.”
ELCA World Hunger’s foundational gift for our Baltimore-based programming allows LIRS to expand our direct services work in the city we’ve called home since 1999. The need is greater than ever; one in seven Maryland residents is an immigrant, and many are ineligible for government services and support—let alone the holistic support needed to move beyond the basics and toward a true share in the American Dream. The ELCA is an essential partner in the provision of this “long welcome,” and shares the LIRS vision that immigrants and refugees must be afforded the opportunity not only to survive, but to thrive.
“As Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians, the body of Christ does not consist of one member, but of many,” said Andrew G. Steele, LIRS Vice President for Development and Mobilization. “We are grateful to the generous ELCA congregations, members, churchwide organization colleagues, and others who have helped make this gift possible and look forward to our sustained partnership as we continue to expand our reach and serve our immigrant and refugee neighbors.”