For students attending St. Paul Lutheran School, a life of service begins at a young age.
Serving others is the theme for this year's National Lutheran Schools Week - which began Sunday - by "Securing Each Child's Future For a Lifetime of Service."
Each year through fundraisers, volunteer opportunities and mission support, students at St. Paul learn to serve others in their church, their communities and throughout the world, said Sue Sieveking, a teacher at St. Paul Lutheran School.
"We pick a different mission every year, and it becomes an ongoing thing through the school year," said Sieveking.
During their Wednesday morning chapel this semester, students bring in offerings of personal care items such as hand sanitizers, tissue, toothpaste, toothbrushes and dental floss. The items will be sent to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod's world mission for the Armed Forces and will be distributed to troops.
During National Lutheran Schools Week, students at St. Paul will receive a special visit from Michael Wolfram, a commander and chaplain for the United States Navy Reserves. Wolfram will share with students the role of a military chaplain and other military jobs.
Following the special chapel service, students will have a servant event to write letters and make cards for troops in the Walter Reed Army and Bethesda Naval medical centers.
"They have the opportunity to show concern and Christian love for others," said St. Paul Principal Gene Sommerfeld. "It helps them become more of a giving person and instills in them a desire to help and share their blessings with others. In turn, they are blessed to be a blessing to others."
Throughout the year, student chapel offerings are designated to a different cause, Sommerfeld said.
Last school year, the students' offerings totaled more than $1,700, which was used to build a 12-foot by 12-foot home for a family in Tijuana, Mexico.
An offering given in November was used to purchase Christmas gifts for children in the inner-city Los Angeles, and offerings this spring will provide troops with care packages of snack food, stationary, books, games and other items.
Besides their yearly offerings and service projects during Lutheran Schools Week, students at St. Paul participate in service and mission projects around the community and their school all year.
Service projects completed in recent years include buying gifts for the angel tree at Christmas, providing drug-free reminders for students during Red Ribbon Week, donating to families in need, hosting the "Snack Shack" on Fridays to raise money for other projects and acting as hosts for a variety of church activities.
"We want to do what we can to help meet the needs of the school, community, state and nation," said Robyn Kratz, faculty advisor for the St. Paul Student Government.
Kratz said the Christian education and outreach opportunities students receive at St. Paul give them a sense of pride.
"Our goal is to help students be proud of who they are as young Christian men and women," said Kratz. "We want them to know it's OK for people to know who they are and what they stand for."
"The children are building the foundation of their faith life," Sommerfeld said. "They daily hear that they are a child of God, loved by a God who gives them the gifts of faith and eternal life."
Contact Emilie Nelson at (515)573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org