Wanted in the St. Louis area: a good mission project for Lutheran schools. Wanted in Russia: pencils, paper and other school supplies.
It was happenstance that those two needs coincided. But Lutheran officials here see Providence in the way they've combined them.
The Lutheran Hour Ministries, whose national headquarters is at 2185 Hampton Avenue, will send nearly 30,000 boxes of school supplies next year to orphanages in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Almost 300 Lutheran schools in the United States and Canada have signed up to fill boxes for the project, called "By Kids . . . For Kids."
"It was real hands-on for the kids," said Principal James Brackman of Zion Lutheran School in Harvester, one of the schools involved.
On Tuesday, about 80 fourth- and fifth-graders formed an assembly line to fill boxes and haul them next door to the church sanctuary for a dedication service. Zion Lutheran pupils bought 100 boxfuls of school supplies on their own, and their chapel offerings underwrote supplies for nearly 100 more boxes, Brackman said.
The children packed each box with about $10 worth of the supplies that the Lutherans in Russia have requested: colored pencils, construction paper, a pair of scissors, notebook paper, an eraser, tape and a small toy - items scarce in Russian orphanages.
The children also enclosed a booklet of Bible stories in Cyrillic - a booklet deliberately shy of cartoons or pictures, Lutheran officials say, because Russian children are used to print and prefer it.
The children also tucked into each box a hometown post card and letters with phrases like "Hello" and "Jesus loves you" that they've painstakingly copied from Cyrillic.
"To write a backwards `R' - that's hard," said Ryan Johnson, 10, a fourth-grader at Zion Lutheran. He wrote two letters for the boxes, but some children wrote as many as nine of them, his classmates said. …