CEO of Lutheran World Relief visits Clintonville

Speckhard has roots in community

Grace Kirchner, Leader Correspondent

Photo by Grace Kirchner Former U.S. Ambassador Daniel Speckhard spoke at St. Martin Lutheran Church on Sunday as the congregation observed Mission Sunday. Shown are, from left, Al Mueller, congregation president; the Rev. Christian Burg, senior pastor; Speckhard; and the Rev. Brian Weber, associate pastor.

A former U.S. ambassador with ties to the area came home to a Clintonville church on Sunday. But his Mission Sunday message was not all good news.

“There are more famines, more hate and more disasters now than ever. Our world is in a time of upheaval,” said Daniel Speckhard, president and CEO of Lutheran World Relief.

“There is a changing climate with more natural disasters leading to unprecedented mass migrations and refugees and displaced people.”

Speckhard came to speak to the congregation of St. Martin Lutheran Church where his grandfather Dr. Walter Speckhard served as pastor for more than 30 years. All 10 of his grandfather’s children, Speckhard said, went to school in Clintonville. He said he grew up in Wausau where his father, Tom Speckhard, taught school.

Speckhard married his high school sweetheart, Anne, while they attended the University of Wisconsin. After graduation, he applied for President Jimmy Carter’s newly established Fellowship Program and was the first from Wisconsin to be accepted. He was among 200 from across the country to go through a special training program in Washington, D.C., and he served with the State Department for 13 years. Speckhard became a distinguished diplomat and eventually went on to serve as U.S. ambassador to locations including Greece and Belarus. He spent two years in Iraq as deputy ambassador and served under Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush and Reagan.

Today, Speckhard is at the helm of Lutheran World Relief, a humanitarian organization working in more than 30 developing countries to reduce poverty, alleviate suffering and promote justice. The relief organization, which was founded by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in 1945, has headquarters in Minneapolis and Baltimore, but its presence is felt around the world. Supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Missouri Synod, Lutheran World Relief is trying to break the cycle of extreme poverty for thousands of subsistence farmers by forming partnerships among corporations, foundations, governments and local communities.

Speckhard said that when a disaster strikes in the United States, perhaps dozens or even hundreds of people are affected. But when a disaster hits a developing country, tens of thousands of people might need assistance. And without humanitarian aid, that need might become permanent. That’s why when Lutheran World Relief offers aid, Speckard said, it does so until it is no longer needed. Last year, Lutheran World Relief was highlighted as one of the five best charities for international relief and development by top consumer ratings organizations.

The organization’s work, Speckhard said, includes teaching about farming methods and techniques in India, helping with hurricane relief in Haiti, and developing improved agricultural production and marketing practices in West Africa. He said some of the quilts made by ladies from St. Martin Lutheran Church are distributed through Lutheran World

Relief and are vital to the organization’s work with refugees.