What is Orphan Grain Train?
Orphan Grain Train is a Christian volunteer network that shares personal and material resources with needy people in America and around the world. Grain Train volunteers gather donations of clothing, medical supplies, food, Christian literature, and other aid to meet real needs. The Orphan Grain Train movement is a loving response to Jesus Christ’s example as a servant and His love for us.
In 1992, Rev. Ray S. Wilke, pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Norfolk, Neb. volunteered with a group of Lutherans who traveled to Latvia and Russia to help with a church mission. There they met people with “no hope” in desperate need of spiritual, emotional, and humanitarian aid after the breakup of the former Soviet Union.
The Latvians begged Rev. Wilke to help them more after he went home, and he promised he would.
Wilke envisioned a train that would travel through America’s Midwest, picking up cars of donated grain along the way, until it reached a port from which the grain would be shipped to feed starving orphans in Eastern Europe.
Upon his return to the United States, Wilke contacted Clayton Andrews, president of Andrews Van Lines, a worldwide transportation company, and told his story. Together, they founded Orphan Grain Train.
“He came to me and asked, ‘Do you think something can be done?’ ” says Andrews. ” I said ‘Yes, I know how we can help those people’. I never hesitated, and it took off from there.”
As it turned out, railroad operating protocol made the original grain train concept impractical, but Orphan Grain Train was born nonetheless. Within a year, Grain Train’s first shipment, a container of clothing and quilts, arrived in Riga, Latvia.
Orphan Grain Train shipment #1 about to be unloaded in Riga, Latvia, 1993.
Rev. Ray Wilke, Clayton Andrews, Rev. Terry Timm and Don Brenneman with one of Orphan Grain Train’s first semi-loads. [Photo courtesy of Norfolk Daily News]
Since 1992, Orphan Grain Train’s 18 regional branches have delivered more than 63 million pounds of humanitarian aid to needy people in more than 60 countries on five continents. An additional 330 semi loads of hay and forage products were delivered in 2002-03 to drought-stricken farmers in the Midwest during Operation Hay and Grain Lift.
Orphan Grain Train is a recognized service organization (RSO) of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS). Many shipments have been in cooperation with Lutheran Hour Ministries, LCMS World Mission, LCMS World Relief, and other Christian ministries.
Organization Across 18 Regional Branches
Orphan Grain Train is a hands-on, Christian, humanitarian aid and disaster relief organization built on a nationwide network of volunteers. Grain Train’s 18 regional branches collect, pack and ship approximately 150 semi-loads of donated clothing, relief supplies and humanitarian aid each year.
In addition to international efforts, disaster relief within the United States is a key part of Orphan Grain Train’s mission. In the years since hurricane Katrina more than 147 semi loads of supplies have been shipped to the Gulf Coast to support the recovery efforts. To see this effort first-hand, Grain Train’s Katrina Response video can be viewed online here.
Orphan Grain Train also has a number of special projects which include unique, specialized opportunities to make a direct impact on the lives of those in need.
As a 501(c)(3) organization, Orphan Grain Train is exempt from federal income taxes and your donations are tax deductible. To learn more, please visit our financial information page.
Much has been accomplished through Orphan Grain Train in the years since 1992, but much remains to be done. Please consider joining us. Help us respond to the material and spiritual needs of people around the world. Get on board now!
In loving response to Christ, the Servant, the Orphan Grain Train movement encourages and enables God’s people to share personal and material resources in bringing Christ’s name and character to needy people both far and near.
Sometimes that character expresses itself as a word well spoken, sometimes as a bandage well applied, and sometimes as a child well fed.