by Paige Slighter
Katie and Jeff are faithful podrishioners currently working as advocates for vulnerable children and orphans in El Salvador. They were immediately drawn to Woodland Hills after listening to Greg speak about Christianity and politics on the radio program, On Being, hosted by Krista Tippett. That was in 2017, and they have been hooked ever since. Jeff and Katie said, “We are so grateful for the example of Christ’s sacrificial love that emanates from Woodland Hills Church. You are walking the walk, and we can feel the warm glow all the way down here in the tropics!”
The Luehms started working in El Salvador as newlyweds with the Peace Corps thirteen years ago. Looking back, Jeff said, “Our decision was motivated by a mix of a sincere desire to serve ‘the least of these,’ a longing for adventure and youthful idealism.” They hoped to participate in the transformation of others, but quickly found that they themselves were the ones being transformed. They fell in love with the genuine hospitality and compassion of the community there. Of course, with any cross-cultural mission there are always challenges—“the heat, hauling water by hand, language learning and inevitable misunderstandings, bucket baths, chicken buses, mosquitos, to name a few.” Even today, in all the challenges they face, they cling tightly to their faith and Christ’s sacrificial love, and find encouragement in each other and their two kids who are five and three. Katie says, “It’s hard to stay bummed too long with them around.” They also stay encouraged knowing that there are likeminded brothers and sisters at Woodland Hills and around the world seeking Jesus.
As a family, they recently returned to El Salvador after taking an eight-year break to work at a residential school for at-risk kids in Hershey, Pennsylvania. They acted as house parents and caregivers for up to 12 children at a time (including their own). Katie said, “It was an amazing place for that season of our life, but we felt a very specific nudging from the Holy Spirit to return to El Salvador.” In Spanish, El Salvador means “The Savior.” Jeff says, “Despite all of the poverty, violence, and injustice, The Savior is at work here, and we are thrilled to join him in bringing hope and healing to families.”
Their biggest prayer request right now is for wisdom and discernment as they seek God’s direction for their lives. In this time of transition, they want to continue trusting his will. They are currently learning more about the Salvadoran child welfare system and advocating for better implementation of child protection policies and the development of foster family programs. They ask that as a church we pray for the beautifully and wonderfully made children who have been orphaned or abandoned in El Salvador and around the world. The Luehms believe that as Christians, we never look more like Jesus than when we’re caring for the most vulnerable among us. They don’t know exactly what the future holds, but they are excited about the work God is doing and they are so grateful to be a part of it.
Are you a podrishioner with a fun story about how you got connected to Woodland? We’d love to hear from you! Just shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.