"Powerful." That's how Erica Ellington, a freshman at Wisconsin Lutheran College (WLC), Milwaukee, Wis., described a recent WELS Christian Aid and Relief trip to New York. She and 20 other volunteers traveled there March 21-24 to help two different congregations with various efforts.

Part of the trip consisted of assisting members at Grace of God, Dix Hills, N.Y., with continued clean-up after last year’s Superstorm Sandy. Five men from Salem, Stillwater, Minn., and three from the Fox Valley area in Wisconsin cut down trees and helped clean up yards. The three men from Wisconsin drove a Christian Aid and Relief trailer to the site filled with the equipment they needed.

Ellington, three other WLC students, and four students from Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., participated in the clean-up but also traveled to Queens to help Sure Foundation conduct its Easter canvass and weekly English-as-a-second language (ESL) class.

“These trips are definitely important!” says Peter Plagenz, a junior at MLC. “We are all a family of believers, and families help each other out when we are in need. It is very important for those Christians in areas outside the Midwest and typical WELS areas to know that we care about them and are here for them. It is also important for the volunteers to get the experience of helping others out of thankfulness for Christ.”

The students also learned about themselves through this experience. “Through canvassing, helping adults learn English through ESL classes, and even just helping to remove trees from a member’s yard after the [storm]—it all taught me that there are so many more ways to communicate my faith to other people,” says Ellington. “Not only is there verbally speaking it, but there is also showing it by giving back to others not because they did anything for you, but because of what [God] did for all of us.”

Through WELS members’ donations, Christian Aid and Relief has given more than $100,000 to help victims of Superstorm Sandy in four different East Coast congregations—Grace of God; Sure Foundation; Immanuel, Long Valley, N.J.; and Our Savior’s, East Brunswick, N.Y.—and their communities. WELS members also donated winter outerwear, blankets, and quilts to distribute in the affected communities.

“Christian Aid and Relief is just another great example of the unity we have in WELS,” says Rev. Timothy Bourman of Sure Foundation. “We are together in mission and Christian love. This last trip was such an awesome example of the work our synod does together.”

Hear more from the college students about their recent volunteer experience at www.wels.net/aom/relief.