Gustav damages LCMS churches, member homes in Louisiana

Although its punch was less than feared, Hurricane Gustav nevertheless downed countless trees and branches, damaged thousands of homes, and cut ogustav-keim-house.gifff electricity to 1.4 million households in Louisiana after hitting the coast Sept. 1.

Particularly hard hit was Baton Rouge, where some 400 homes were severely damaged and another 2,000 residents reported slight damage from the hurricane.

As of Sept. 7, more than half of residents there still were without power.

Amid information gathered by the Synod’s Southern District, the hurricane:

* blew out a large stained-glass window and damaged the roof at Grace Lutheran Church in coastal Houma, La.

* caused a leaking roof and water damage at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Pineville, in central Louisiana. Water reportedly penetrated the building and soaked carpets and flooring in the balcony, stairwell, nursery, and a restroom.  Rev. Robert Martinek, pastor of nearby Redeemer Lutheran Church in Alexandria, La., on Sept. 4 described Pineville as “an absolute mess,” with no power, no water, and limited phone service.  Martinek, who lives in Pineville, said his house took on water and his road “looks like a bomb went off” with downed trees and power lines.  At least one member of Redeemer, Alexandria, had major damage to her home, and another was “seriously injured” as a result of the storm.

* caused serious damages to several LCMS members’ homes in Baton Rouge, and power is expected to be out for two weeks in some parts of the city.  With a generator powering fans and a public-address system, Trinity Lutheran Church there welcomed “a few hundred members” to worship Sept. 7, according to Pastor Scott Schmieding, who likened conditions to “a campout that never ends.”

The church’s biggest need right now, Schmieding told Reporter, “is for funds to help us rent a huge generator to power up our church and school” at a cost of about $5,000 a week.  “We pray God will help us ‘power up’ to get some normalcy and ministry happening again for our families,” he said.  “Baton Rouge Lutheran School has 198 students and our child care has 35 children.  Parents are desperate to get back to work and get their children back in their usual routines.”

Other Synod congregations in coastal areas from New Orleans to Pensacola, Fla., reported no damages to church buildings and minor damages to members’ homes, according to Southern District President Kurtis Schultz.

Schultz added that an elder at an LCMS congregation in Lake Charles, La., was reportedly injured in a head-on automobile accident in Center, Texas, while trying to return home, and, at this writing, remained hospitalized in Shreveport, La.

According to news reports, 10 deaths have been attributed to Hurricane Gustav — including six during the pre-storm evacuation.  Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal called the hurricane “a very, very serious storm that has caused major damage in our state.”

A number of Lutherans reached out to local residents before and after the storm:

* Trinity, Baton Rouge, housed dozens of local nursing-home workers and their families — more than 75 people — for two days as Gustav approached.  Since the storm, a half-dozen chainsaw teams from the church have removgustav-ice2.gifed fallen trees and helped clean up homes in the community.  Trinity also cooked and distributed free jambalaya for residents still without power, and gave away three truckloads of ice with partial funding from LCMS World Relief and Human Care.  The congregation also has agreed to house cleanup volunteers during September as a partner of Camp Restore, the Southern District’s volunteer camp in New Orleans.

“We know God will see us through these challenges brought on by the third large hurricane to hit our area in three years,” said Schmieding.  “Gustav is the worst one the Baton Rouge area has experienced in decades.  We are tired and stressed, but we are still able to laugh — and even have fun — as we put our faith in action as Christ’s agents of mercy in the midst of a disaster zone.

“Our people are praying together, witnessing the hope of Christ to the Baton Rouge area, and are demonstrating how resilient they are as they depend on God’s grace in Christ.  We thank God for your prayers, love and support.”

* Bill Vogt, a vicar serving Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Pineville, took his personal home generator and gasoline to a nearby evacuation shelter so that residents would not have to be without electricity.

* Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Brandon, Miss., housed disaster-response staff from Camp Biloxi in Biloxi, Miss.

* Rev. John Karle of Christ the King, Natchitoches, La., and another member family took in two families who evacuated their homes.

* A delegation from LCMS World Relief and Human Care, including Executive Director Matthew Harrison, arrived on the Gulf Coast Sept. 2 to spend several days visiting LCMS pastors, church workers, and members to assess needs and provide emergency aid and pastoral counseling.  While in Diamondhead, Miss., the group helped a Thrivent Financial for Lutherans representative clean out his flooded home.

“The people, pastors, congregations, organizations, institutions, and districts of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod are to be commended for the faithful love, care, and concern demonstrated for the many people who will once again be displaced by a most unwelcome intruder from the Gulf,” wrote LCMS President Gerald B. Kieschnick in a Sept. 1 e-mail to members.  “May our gracious God cast His mantle of protection upon all those in the path of Gustav; may He bless the hospitality extended to the many evacuees who are arriving in states across our land, in need of safety, security, shelter, food, clothing, and spiritual care; may He keep all affected by this powerful storm safe and secure in His grace, mercy, and peace; and may His love for us in Jesus Christ motivate our generous response to the needs of His people.”

For more information about the Synod’s response to Hurricane Gustav, visit the Web site of LCMS World Relief and Human Care at or call (800) 248-1930, Ext. 1380.  Also available on the site is a free, downloadable bulletin insert; an audio interview with Rev. Glenn Merritt, director of disaster response; and a “blog” by Harrison.

To help with cleanup, contact Camp Restore, a ministry of the Southern District, at (888) 248-2636 or Trinity Lutheran Church, Baton Rouge.

To make a donation that allows LCMS districts and congregations to share Christ’s mercy with their communities by providing temporary housing; food, water, and other goods; and Christian care, send che

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