LCMS President Gerald B. Kieschnick and Rev. Matthew Harrison, executive director of LCMS World Relief/Human Care, announced Sept. 8 a new plan to better assist and support congregations and church workers in the Synod’s hard-hit Southern District in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The plan goes into effect immediately and partners LCMS districts with affected Southern District congregations, according to a memo from Kieschnick and Harrison to members of the Council of Presidents. The council is comprised of leaders of the Synod’s 35 districts.
Southern District President Kurtis Schultz has expressed support for the plan, which is described in the memo as “the best way to cope with the current overload being experienced by the Southern District staff and infrastructure due to the inaccessibility of and damage to the Southern District office and due to the traumatic affects of Katrina on the congregations and church workers of the district.”
The LCMS Southern District covers Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle.
LCMS World Relief/Human Care is in the process of matching districts with specific Southern District congregations as districts express their willingness to participate.
Kieschnick and Harrison outlined the plan Sept. 7 in a conference call with district presidents. Many district leaders immediately offered their participation.
Harrison said he expects every district will participate to the extent it is able, depending on individual capacity. Smaller districts may partner with another district.
“In the wake of this horrific disaster, we believe this is the best way we can bring maximum LCMS capacity to aid our LCMS people and their broader communities,” Harrison said.
The new plan represents a shift away from LCMS World Relief/Human Care shouldering the challenge of matching the multitude of needs in the Southern District with the multitude of offers of assistance from the greater LCMS community. Both requests for assistance and offers of support have poured into the ministry’s St. Louis-based office since Katrina hit Aug. 29.
Instead of contacting LCMS World Relief/Human Care, LCMS members are now encouraged to contact their respective district offices to participate in hurricane relief assistance. (For contact information for your specific district office, call your local LCMS congregation or click here.)
People are asked to avoid calling the Southern District, which is operating out of temporary offices and has limited communication capability.
Harrison stressed that the matching of districts with congregations in need is a process that has just begun and will evolve as needs continue to be identified.
“It is vital that districts now swing into action,” Kieschnick and Harrison said in the memo. “This is a great challenge, but also a great opportunity to share Christ’s love with people whose lives have been dramatically affected by this horrific storm.”
The basic points of the new disaster assistance and support plan are:
- Prayer: LCMS World Relief/Human Care is providing districts with information about the needs of Southern District congregations and church workers so those needs can be remembered in prayer.
- Presence: Following a quick needs assessment, districts are asked to send support personnel (clergy, counselors, critical care personnel, etc.) as soon as possible to their assigned Southern District congregations.
- Work: Affected congregations will supply districts with information about specific needs for assistance with clean-up, debris removal and eventually repairing and/or rebuilding severely damaged homes and churches. Guidelines for shipping material aid will be provided. To ensure that recipients are prepared and equipped to handle relief shipments, no supplies should be sent without a specific local request for goods and a specific destination.
- Advocacy: Districts will help direct congregations and church workers to assistance opportunities. These opportunities include Concordia Plans Services, which is waiving all premiums, co-pays, deductibles, etc., for employees covered under its benefit plans.
The Lutheran Church Extension Fund will provide consolidation loans for rostered workers and Laborers For Christ teams to assist congregations in damage assessment and repair.
- Funds: Districts are encouraged to provide fiscal resources for immediate hurricane relief needs. LCMS World Relief/Human Care will distribute funds according to greatest need.
For more information about the new disaster assistance and support plan and other Hurricane Katrina relief efforts and giving opportunities, visit the LCMS World Relief/Human Care Web site.
Posted Sept. 13, 2005