By Kim Plummer Krull
A university student living in a mold-infested mobile home and congregation members struggling to clean up preschool classrooms are among the people an LCMS disaster-response team met while assessing damages from central Iowa’s severe flooding.
“People have been hit hard,” said LCMS World Relief and Human Care’s Rev. Carlos Hernandez, who visited flooded congregations and communities Aug. 16-18. “Many who are suffering were already struggling on the economic ladder.”
Hernandez – traveling with LCMS Iowa West District’s Ellie Menz and Cheryl Ross, director of children’s ministry and missions with Hope Lutheran Church, Des Moines – arrived in Iowa after heavy rains earlier in August inundated 32 of the state’s 99 counties. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has named the affected counties federal disaster areas.
Menz is director of the district’s Individual Outreach With Adults and Youth (IOWAY) program.
In Des Moines, Hernandez, director of Districts and Congregations with WR-HC, and Rev. Timothy Braun, pastor at Hope Lutheran Church, visited with evacuees from nearby mobile-home parks. Hope members Rick and Judy Yingling told Hernandez how they were forced to flee after 11 inches of rain pounded their area in one night.
Hernandez and Braun also met with families at a shelter. “All the families had to evacuate and are being housed at a shelter in a nearby school,” Hernandez said via e-mail. “Because school soon starts, the families are panicking about where to go next.”
Hope is working with WR-HC to provide financial assistance to help these working-class families cover transitional and relocation needs. About $1,200 can help a family with a first month’s rent and deposit, according to Braun. The congregation also is planning a furniture and clothing giveaway Aug. 27-28 for flood victims.
In Ames, Hernandez met with area pastors and church staff at Memorial Lutheran Church to discuss disaster response needs. Memorial Lutheran is located on the campus of Iowa State University, and several international students are among the area’s flood victims. Accompanied by Bessie Fick, Memorial’s coordinator of international ministry, Hernandez met Chinese student Huigang Shen, who continues to stay in his mold-infested mobile home because his family has nowhere else to go. Plans were made to follow up with the family about emergency needs.
At St. Paul Lutheran Church in Ames, drying fans ran full blast in the flooded basement. Preschool classes are scheduled to begin soon. Damaged supplies must be replaced, and the congregation faces heavy cleanup costs. Church members also must deal with their own flood damage, said Hernandez, who spoke with church council members about working with WR-HC, the Iowa West District and their own members about a disaster response plan.
Hernandez explained WR-HC’s congregation-based disaster response and its goal to help strengthen a congregation’s capacity to reach out to people in the congregation and community when a disaster strikes. He also discussed how congregations can apply for WR-HC grants to assist people in need.
During the day, Cheryl Ross distributed fliers about the Hope Lutheran Church furniture and clothing giveaway. The congregation wants people to know “the Lutherans want to help,” Hernandez said.
Gifts to help with WR-HC’s flood response in Iowa can be made in several ways. By mail, send a check to LCMS World Relief and Human Care, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861 (note “Central Iowa Floods” in the check memo line). By phone, call toll-free 888-930-4438. Or give online at http://givenowlcms.org.
Kim Plummer Krull is a freelance writer and a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Des Peres, Mo.
Posted Aug. 18, 2010