The definition of mercy is love in action—taking the empathy we feel internally and turning it into an external action. At World Relief DuPage/Aurora, we witness acts of mercy daily from those who have a compassion for the vulnerable and seek to love in tangible ways; for example, through a high school project, a church team or a special birthday party.

Love is…The Hundred Dollar Project
In order to participate in her youth group’s summer mission trip to Rwanda, Glenbard West sophomore Claire Morawski, had to answer the question: What have you done/given to your community? Familiar with the struggles refugees face, Claire suggested to her Hundred Dollar Project team that they raise funds for local refugees.

The Hundred Dollar Project is a club at Glenbard West High School that provides students with the opportunity to learn about local philanthropic organizations, while building entrepreneurial skills.  After submitting a proposal, the club loans each team $100 to help put their plan into action.

Claire’s team consisted of 10 sophomore girls who met weekly with the club sponsor, Mrs. Denney, and club board members for feedback and support.  The team organized and sold tickets to a holiday movie night at the Boat House in Glen Ellyn entitled, “Triple Play”—because they planned to show three holiday movies.    In addition to selling tickets to the event, the girls obtained snack sponsors, gathered raffle prizes, and designed a commemorative t-shirt.  Approximately 110 people attended “Triple Play” and over $1,500 was raised for WRDA.

According to the girls, The Hundred Dollar Project taught them about team work and business planning; however, the biggest lesson was learning about refugees and their specific needs.

Love is…a Good Neighbor Kit
When presented with the needs of newly arriving refugees in Aurora, small groups at Christ Community Church in St. Charles took action. 

For approximately eight years, Vicky and Damon Carlson have led a small group Bible study for couples.  Over the years, the group has looked for ways to serve together and the opportunity to collect Good Neighbor Kit items for refugees was a perfect fit.

“At first, when the list of items was presented, it was a bit overwhelming, but once we split the list amongst the group it seemed doable,” said Vicky Carlson.

In fact, in two days the group had collected nearly all of the needed items for a Good Neighbor Kit—just in time for a refugee family arriving from Iraq.  “It felt so good to be able to do something to help; we wanted to do more for the family,” said Vicky.

Another group that got involved with collecting items is a weekly prayer group for moms with young children hosted by Brianna Saxer.   A couple of weeks before Christmas 2013, she saw a Facebook post from James Pomeroy, WRA Volunteer Coordinator, asking for Good Neighbor Kit [GNK] items.  Brianna brought the idea of collecting GNK items to the group and the women embraced the project.  As result, the list of needed items was divided amongst the group members and delivered to Brianna’s house.

In addition, the moms were able to involve their kids and make it an object lesson on giving, “Our kids had a blast helping us shop for the items, “said Brianna.   But more importantly, their kids’ showed tremendous empathy for those they were serving.  For example, Brianna’s son wanted to know more about the family and why they had to leave their country, and another boy still asks his mom if she thinks the family is warm enough because he  picked-out their blankets.

In the future, the group hopes to provide more GNK items.  “It is a tangible way to invest and serve others,” said Brianna.

Love is…a Birthday Party

As a way to focus on the celebration, Leah Anderson has made “no-gift birthday parties” the norm for her family.

A couple of weeks before her daughter Anneka’s seventh birthday in November, Leah learned about WRDA’s need for household items for newly arriving refugees.  As a result, she and her daughter agreed that this year, instead of bringing birthday presents to her party, Anneka would ask her friends to bring a household item to donate.

Leah originally came up with the “no gift” concept because gifts for children’s birthday parties can start to add up—and not every family has the resources.  “This way no one feels bad”, said Leah.  And by giving to others, she has the opportunity to give her kids a sense of the world outside of Wheaton and teach them the importance of giving to others.