Story by Cheryl Magness
Photos by Erik M. Lunsford
An oft-repeated theme of 2020 was “together apart”: finding strength in shared experience even while being physically distant.
It’s a theme that those involved with Lutheran education have long understood. Reflecting on this year’s observance of National Lutheran Schools Week (NLSW), Melissa Bergholt, principal of Word of Life Lutheran School in St. Louis, said that NLSW is “one way we, as Lutheran schools, all come together. While we may not know every other Lutheran school out there, it is amazing and encouraging to know that there are schools all over the United States celebrating together.”
Word of Life’s celebration of NLSW, like that of many other Lutheran schools, included unique themes for each day of the week. On Thursday, Jan. 28, the students observed “Career Dress Day,” donning outfits that represented roles they might like to have in adulthood. “Seeing not only the students but the teachers get into the spirit each day, participating in the special activities, is great fun, a joy and a blessing,” said Bergholt.
But the week wasn’t only about having fun. The theme for the 2021 NLSW was “Sent to Serve,” based on Matt. 20:28: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Like its fellow Lutheran schools around the country, Word of Life engaged in several service projects during NLSW, collecting almost 700 pairs of socks for Christian Friends of New Americans, a St. Louis organization that supports new immigrant families, and writing thank-you notes to front-line pandemic workers who are part of the Word of Life community.
Nationwide, 180,000 children in more than 1,900 preschools, elementary schools and high schools celebrated NLSW in 2021. Bergholt says that, for Word of Life, NLSW is an opportunity to celebrate the school’s unique identity.
“Word of Life is one of the last Lutheran schools in the city of St. Louis and has evolved into an educational program that represents the community it is in,” Bergholt explains. “Part of its uniqueness is its diversity. We currently have about 10 different nationalities represented in our student population.
“But that diversity goes so much further than ethnicity. This school sees each child as ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Ps. 139:14). Word of Life’s school ministry welcomes and promotes diversity and draws in more students because of it. The love and care of our staff for this work and its purpose is evident in all they give to our students, day in and day out. I couldn’t be more blessed to serve alongside them.”
Learn more about NLSW at lcms.org/lutheranschoolsweek.