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How did a Lutheran congregation on the shores of Lake Superior inspire a Lutheran congregation in Southern California to bring light and hope to people in Ukraine?

You might call it a faith link.

For Epiphany Sunday on January 7, 2024, Lutsen Evangelical Lutheran Church, Lutsen, MN, led by Pastor Tom Murray raised funds to assemble 30 Ray of Life solar light kits to be delivered to Ukraine, whose electrical infrastructure had been severely damaged during the war with Russia. 

The kits for Ukraine were the brainchild of Dave Nonnemacher of Two Harbors, MN. Nonnemacher had a contact in West Virginia, New Vision Renewable Energy, that had been building Ray of Life solar light kits primarily for remote villages in the world since 2011. (Today, more than 4,000 of these 4- pound durable solar-powered units are providing light in communities in 40 different countries.)

Included in the kit is a solar panel to charge the battery. When fully charged by the solar panel, the battery lights up LED light strips that provide light for up to 21 hours.  Additionally, there is a connection to also charge a cell phone so people can stay in touch with their relatives and friends.

Having been in Ukraine in the spring of 2022, Nonnemacher wondered if these solar light kits wouldn’t also be helpful to people in Ukraine who were living without electricity. It could bring light and hope, a gospel in a box.

A link in the Ray of Life chain was formed—which led to another link.

As it happened, Louise Evenson of Thousand Oaks, CA, learned about the solar light project through Pastor Murray’s on-line daily Morning Meditation ()   She was captivated by the idea of bringing light to the Ukrainians.  

So, Pastor Murray connected Evenson with Nonnemacher to discuss the project. By this time, Nonnemacher had participated in setting up a logistical network from Isanti, MN, to Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, where he has partnered with the Mariupol Chaplain’s Battalion to deliver the Ray of Life kits to villages near the front and to others without power.

“When reading about the devastation within Ukraine while knowing a Ukrainian student who attended California Lutheran University, this project of light touched my heart,” says Evenson, coordinator of the project at Ascension Lutheran Church, Thousand Oaks, CA. “This connection between our church members with the people of Ukraine seemed to be one way to send hope and light to them.” 

In the spring of 2024, Ascension held a fundraising campaign to send light and hope to Ukraine.  Financial contributions have added more than 165 solar light kits and 100 water purification kits to be delivered in Ukraine. Since domestic shipping rates are so costly, churches and groups in Minnesota are assembling solar light kits with the funds raised by the members and friends of Ascension Lutheran Church. 

In June, Lutsen Lutheran Church members assembled 40 solar light kits with funds raised by members and friends of Ascension.  The interconnectedness of the faith shared by these two Lutheran communities links them to one another and to our neighbors in Ukraine, whom they’ll never meet.  

To date, Nonnemacher has made four trips to Ukraine.  The Mariupol Chaplains Battalion and others have been able to deliver more than 500 solar light units to Ukrainians.

It is indeed a faith-linked project, and there is room for more links in the chain of help for the Ukrainians. If you would like to help bring light and hope—a “gospel in a box”—contact Dave Nonnemacher at or Louise Evenson at . 

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“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  John 1:5

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