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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Living by the book of Matthew

Dick Detwiler is speaking to a man who recently lost his job and now believes he is being pursued by demonic people who want to shoot him. It isn't the first conversation Detwiler has had with this man, nor is it likely to be his last.

For 14 years, Detwiler has directed the Indiana Valley Opportunity Center, a United Way agency located on the property of Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Souderton, Pa.

The center assists more than 100 families each month, some of whom are suffering financially and others who have English-language challenges. The center maintains a food pantry to help those in distress make it through a crisis, as well as offering English as a Second Language classes.

Although the work is exhausting, "I can't think of anything else I would rather be doing," Detwiler said. "I see my work as a response to the 25th chapter of the book of Matthew, where we are admonished to minister to a neighbor who is hungry or in need of help."

Before his association with the center, Detwiler taught English to a Vietnam refugee family sponsored by his congregation, Trinity Lutheran in Lansdale, Pa. That family included Hong Nhung, whom Detwiler married (they have three children).

Detwiler soon landed a job with Lutheran Children and Family Service, where he taught other Asian immigrants.

When funding for the program ended, LCFS asked Detwiler to become a solicitor for finding other sponsors for Asians coming to America, a stressful situation because often families would arrive before there was a sponsor.

He might still be looking for sponsors, if he hadn't received a call from the center's outgoing director.

Detwiler sees his ministry as connecting threads that run through a community. "It is a kind of applied anthropology," he said. "I'm learning languages, helping people learn to interpret each other, building bridges. I see it as a kind of Lutheran social ministry.


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