Exactly one month after the South Asia tsunami hit, LCMS leaders took what LCMS President Gerald Kieschnick called a “first step” to move the church to a new level of collaboration and cooperation to meet physical and spiritual needs in hurting countries worldwide.
“While I am not excited about the terrible devastation that caused this (summit) to take place, I am excited about how people are responding and the ministry that is taking place in the name of Jesus,” Kieschnick said at the LCMS Summit Jan. 26 in St. Louis.
About 40 LCMS ministry leaders and representatives attended the summit, hosted by LCMS World Relief/Human Care. The goal was to start a dialogue among LCMS ministries that can play key roles in disaster-response leadership, funding, and communication and to begin building the Synod’s first-ever, comprehensive disaster response plan.
“Now is the time for our church to reach out in ways we never before have done,” said Rev. Matthew Harrison, executive director of LCMS World Relief/Human Care, who reported on his assessment visit to Sri Lanka in early January as part of the Synod’s first wave of disaster response.
Soon after the tsunami stuck and swept away more than 290,000 people, LCMS World Relief/Human Care and LCMS World Mission joined forces to begin addressing needs in South Asia. Although those ministries have tackled projects together in the past, this was an unprecedented response as partners to an international crisis.
“It is our hope that our quick, cooperative relief efforts in tsunami-ravaged countries will serve as a model for how all LCMS ministries can partner, in Jesus’ name, to help suffering people the next time disaster strikes,” Harrison said.
The Synod is blessed with tremendous resources, Harrison said. “But we have not used those resources to increase the capacity of our partner churches,” he said. “We have not lived up to our potential to reach out in times of disaster as the Lord calls us to respond, by Word and by deed, to body and soul.”
The summit included reports from Lutheran Hour Ministries, Orphan Grain Train and Lutheran World Relief on those ministries’ relief work in South Asia. Members of two LCMS assessment teams just back from Sri Lanka and Indonesia shared accounts that will be used to lay the groundwork for the Synod’s next phase of disaster response.
With an eye to continued collaboration, summit participants broke into small groups to identify each ministry’s unique resources that could be useful in times of disaster.
“We have an opportunity to move our church body to a new level of awareness and a new level of response to a hurting world,” said Dr. Daniel Mattson, associate director of LCMS World Mission.
Posted March 1, 2005