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February 24. 2013 11:02PM

Food for thought: Nashua church celebrates diversity with dinner


Margie Pries, a member of World Mission Board at Nashua's Grace Lutheran Church, takes a break from serving dinner for several hundred guests and catches up with Linda Kathios, who works with the church's extensive music program, and her daughter, Holly. (BARBARA TAORMINA PHOTO)
NASHUA HAD A taste of its long tradition of cultural diversity Saturday night at Grace Lutheran Church's annual International Dinner.

Church members cooked up big batches of Persian stew, Polish sausage, curry, stuffed grape leaves, mac and cheese, and dozens of other ethics dishes, and welcomed the community to a global feast.

"For the most part, the dinner is a way to introduce people to some wonderful food," said Hudson resident Helene Wherry, the church's communications director. "But it's also a way to introduce people to some of the church's international projects."

Grace Lutheran is a very busy church with three core international missions.

In Kiev, Ukraine, where people are still suffering the effects of the nuclear power plant disaster in Chernobyl, the church helps support a Christian children's club that offers a safe environment for at-risk kids.

In India, the congregation provides financial assistance for Christian families who have faced systematic discrimination because of their faith.

And in Kenya, where more than a million people are battling AIDS, the church is involved in a regional project to provide medical care.

Wherry said those projects were launched by members of the church who personally knew people who have been directly involved in those struggles. And the international projects are in addition to work the church does to help local people in need through its food pantry and its partnerships with other programs that provide different types of support.

There was plenty of information about all of those programs available at the dinner, but the event was also meant to build some community ties. And, to showcase and share Nashua's many ethnic culinary talents.

"Lutherans are all about food," laughed Wherry.

Church members and guests gave the international buffet high marks.

Former chef Larry Rager and his wife, Alice, joined the church four years ago and have become active members in what they describe as a "great community."

As for the food, Rager said it was outstanding.

"Everything was excellent," he said, adding it would be impossible to pick a favorite dish.

Nashua resident Melissa Sowell said she read about the event and decide to come and sample. Like others guests of the church, she was amazed at the warm welcome and the fact that Grace Lutheran threw open its doors to offer a dinner to anyone who wanted to join them.

"My favorite dish was from India," she said. "It was a sweet bean and chicken dish that was spicy, but really very good."

Church member Bob Lecklyder, who was a big fan of the chicken cacciatore, said the dinner has become an annual tradition but this year saw the biggest turnout.

Margie Pries, a member of the church's World Mission Board, said she and her husband brought the brisket.

"My husband cooked it, but I was the one who bought it," she said with a laugh. "Let's give credit where credit is due."

Pries was hopeful that as more people learned about the work Grace Lutheran was doing, they would jump in and lend a hand.

"There are so many ways to be involved," she said.

Wherry said the church's door is open to anyone who wants to get on board and help, and for those who might be seeking some spiritual support and companionship.

"We are trying to reach out and let people know we are here as a resource," she said. "You can come and work with us or you can just come."

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