In barely two months from the start of spring to June 1, LCMS World Relief/Human Care responded to need caused by destructive storms and other disasters with pastoral care and grants totaling $564,629.
For instance, tornadoes and massive flooding in many areas of the United States affected Lutheran members and strained congregations serving their neighbors’ needs. In one community alone — Greensburg, Kan. — the LCMS congregation lost its church building and 13 member families lost their homes to a tornado that all but flattened the town.
Overseas, fire broke out in the Philippines and the need for tents and other essentials accompanied repatriation of Lutherans in Southern Sudan and Liberia.
In all, LCMS World Relief/Human Care had made some 20 emergency grants from the start of spring through June 1.
“As believers, we never become weary in doing good and we never give up when it comes to helping those in need,” Rev. Glenn Merritt, director of disaster response for the mercy arm of the Synod, wrote in an e-mail accompanying a list of grants he supplied to Reporter.
“On behalf of our Synod,” Merritt continued, “LCMS World Relief/Human Care continues to reach out with ‘a touch of mercy’ to the victims of disaster and tragedy. Over the past few months there have been many matchless opportunities for continuing our ministry of mercy to the hurting and helpless here at home and around the world.”
Throughout that period, Merritt and Rev. Carlos Hernandez, director of districts and congregations with LCMS World Relief/Human Care, were on the scenes of various disasters — assessing damage, meeting with pastors and local leaders, and praying and offering Christian encouragement to many of those affected.
What follows is a run-down of grants the Synod mercy arm made in all but the last three weeks of spring 2007. For information on how to donate to help those with general or specific disaster-relief needs, go to http://worldrelief.lcms.org or call (800) 248-1930, Ext. 1380.
- $16,500 to Immanuel Lutheran Church, Clovis, N.M., the LCMS Rocky Mountain District, and Lutheran Family Services of Colorado, to assist the needy in Clovis after a tornado struck there March 23.
- $20,926 to the LCMS Southern District for rebuilding assistance for LCMS families recovering from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Volunteers housed at Camp Restore, located at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in East New Orleans, help with cleanup and rebuilding. The funds were used to purchase building materials to repair and rebuild homes in the community.
- $58,642 when additional assistance was needed to continue the recovery process after massive flooding struck the Colonias of El Paso County, Texas, in April. The number of families living in extreme poverty within this Texas-Mexico Border community is staggering. In the Sparks neighborhood alone, about 300 families are in dire need. Massive flooding during the last part of 2006 completely washed away some houses.
Other modest housing is in dire need of repair and attention due to falling ceilings, warped floors, leaking roofs, crumbling dry walls, and faulty heaters. Fungus and mold continue to cause major concern. These impoverished families have no choice but to try to survive in these deplorable conditions.
Also, LCMS World Relief/Human Care, in partnership with Lutheran Social Services Disaster Response (LSSDR) and Ysleta Lutheran Ministries, is bringing Lutheran teams of volunteers into the area through Servant Events.
- $46,200 to help congregations and members hit with devastating floods after a Nor’easter swept across several states April 14-20. Congregations assisted include Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Delmar, N.Y.; Our Savior Lutheran Church, Albany, N.Y.; Zion Lutheran Church, Orange, Conn.; Redeemer Lutheran Church, Gorham, Maine; and St. John Lutheran Church, Bound Brook, N.J.
- $20,000 to assist those affected by the April 24 tornadoes that struck Eagle Pass, Texas, and across the border in Piedras Negras, Mexico. Partnering with Orphan Grain Train and with help from Concordia Lutheran Church, San Antonio, LCMS World Relief/Human Care provided new clothing, shoes, and bedding, plus personal-hygiene items. Ten lives were lost and more than 700 homes and businesses were destroyed along with two orphanages and a Catholic church.
- an immediate grant of $30,000 to help 13 families of Peace Lutheran Church, Greensburg, Kan., after the massive F5 May 4 tornado there that completely destroyed 13 Peace families’ homes and the church building. Merritt and Hernandez were on the scene working with the pastor and members of Peace — along with the LCMS Kansas District — to provide help as requested. In addition, LCMS World Relief/Human Care has offered the district a matching grant of $200,000 to assist with additional tornado and flood damage from storms that hit Kansas throughout the week of May 4-11.
- $10,000 through St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Plankinton, S.D., to assist a member family whose ranch and business were destroyed in a May 5 tornado.
- $10,000 for cleanup and repair to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Aberdeen, S.D., after more than nine inches of rain that fell May 10-12 caused more than two feet of raw sewage to fill the church basement — destroying walls, carpet and tile, chairs, kitchen appliances, hymnals, a piano, Sunday school and choir material, and more. An estimated 75-90 percent of homes and businesses in Aberdeen received flood damage. Additional grant requests were still coming in June 1 as recovery continued across South Dakota.
- $1,500 to provide short-term relocation assistance for an LCMS member and his family forced to relocate to Camp Wood, Texas, in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita, through Trinity Lutheran Church, Uvalde, Texas. The family had lived in Beaumont, Texas, but was unable to repair their older home due to damage and mold that caused extreme health issues.
- $5,000, plus other relocation assistance through Zion Lutheran Church, Columbus, Ohio, for a Lutheran pastor and his family who had relocated to Columbus after Hurricane Ivan, and who needed to return to Florida for health reasons.
- $2,750 for a loc