By Melanie Ave
After Monday’s monstrous tornado devastated parts of Moore, Okla., killing at least 24 people — many of them children — LCMS Disaster Response staff are requesting prayers and gifts to help with the Synod’s ongoing relief effort.
The tornado swept dozens of homes and buildings off their foundations, shredded cars and trucks, littered streets with debris and power lines, and injured more than 200 people in the Oklahoma City suburb. The tornado struck two schools and a hospital.
Emergency crews continued their frantic search for survivors Tuesday (May 21) morning in the area, which was declared a federal disaster by President Obama.
The Rev. John Fale, associate executive director of the LCMS Mercy Operations Group, and LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison have been in touch with LCMS Oklahoma District President Rev. Barrie E. Henke. LCMS Disaster Response staff plan to visit the area as soon as it is feasible.
On Monday evening, the Rev. Mark Bersche of St. John Lutheran Church in Moore reported that he had been unable to assess the damage since, according to district administration, “he is virtually trapped in his home because of debris-filled streets.” It was unclear Tuesday morning whether any members of St. John were injured or suffered damages.
Lutheran Church Charities’ K-9 Parish Comfort Dogs were scheduled to visit with the public May 22 at St. John’s, Moore, and Messiah Lutheran Church in Oklahoma City, Okla. Both churches and Trinity Lutheran Church in Norman, Okla., also were planning May 22 prayer services.
Aaron Uphoff, a vicar from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., is serving at Trinity, Norman, Okla. He spent Monday evening in Moore, praying with and comforting those who survived the devastation.
“I prayed with as many people as I could,” Uphoff said. “I asked Christ for comfort and for the peace that surpasses all understanding, which is ours by virtue of Good Friday and Easter.”
Fale said the LCMS response in Moore will be similar to the LCMS reaction to the deadly tornado that decimated parts of Joplin, Mo., in 2011. That EF5 twister killed 160 people and destroyed or damaged about 8,000 homes.
More than a third of the Synod’s 6,000 congregations, and many Lutheran partners, helped with the multi-pronged LCMS relief effort in Joplin. Working in partnership with Lutheran Church Charities of Addison, Ill., more than 3,000 volunteers worked on 800-plus projects and properties.
Monday’s tornado touched down at 2:56 p.m., 16 minutes after the first warning, and stayed on the ground for about 40 minutes, according to the National Weather Service. It hit the town of Newcastle before heading to Moore, about 10 miles away.
On May 3, 1999, 44 people were killed by a tornado with recorded winds of 302 mph that devastated Moore and the south Oklahoma City area. Monday’s tornado followed a spate of tornadoes in Kansas, Oklahoma and Iowa.
Fale requested prayers for the tornado victims and the emergency workers, and LCMS Oklahoma District officials asked that LCMS members “wait patiently until there is an assessment of the damage and the need.”
In the meantime, LCMS congregations can best support the relief effort by contributing to LCMS Disaster Response instead of sending material goods or traveling to Moore, Fale said.
Those who want to give are encouraged to designate the Synod’s general disaster fund.
“In the short span of one year, thousands of LCMS members have stepped forward in faith to support our Lord’s hands of mercy through the work of the Synod’s Disaster Response,” said Mark Hofman, director of LCMS Mission Advancement. “From Superstorm Sandy, the Sandy Hook Elementary attack and the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, God’s people in the LCMS have boldly lived out our Savior’s encouragement to ‘love one another, as I have loved you,’ ” Hofman said, quoting Scripture. “I have no doubt our Synod’s congregations and members are preparing to do so again to aid those affected by these storms.”
Hofman said the LCMS is increasingly advocating gifts to the Synod’s general disaster response fund because it supports the most robust response possible when a need arises, while enhancing the agility of any response effort.
“The capability to combine the generosity of many, regardless of when they make their gift, has a greater impact than the effect of any one gift or any tightly designated fund,” Hofman said. “Working together this way deploys more resources to the field that show our Lord’s mercy in tangible ways and in proximity to Word and Sacrament ministry.”
To support those in need:
- Make an online gift at https://www.lcms.org/givenow/disaster.
- Mail checks payable to “The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod” (with a memo line or note designating “LCMS Disaster Relief”) to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.
- Call toll-free 888-930-4438 (8:10 a.m. to 4:10 p.m. CST, Monday through Friday).
Melanie Ave is senior writer and social media coordinator with LCMS Communications.
Updated May 22, 2013