By Kim Plummer Krull
While many are giving thanks that Hurricane Irene packed less force than forecasters feared, LCMS leaders are learning about pockets of destruction as they check on congregations and communities along the battered Eastern Seaboard.
By Tuesday (Aug. 30) morning, early reports told of LCMS congregations and households dealing mainly with flooding, fallen limbs and power outages. At the same time, LCMS World Relief and Human Care (WR-HC) was beginning to get requests for disaster grant assistance to help families who suffered more serious losses in the weekend storm.
LCMS staff will travel to the East Coast early next week to “be on the ground to assist with assessments and grant requests,” the Rev. Glenn F. Merritt, director of Disaster Response, said in an email on Tuesday. “As the extent of the damage becomes clear, The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod will support the outreach efforts of local congregations and districts across the stricken region.”
To date, 40 deaths in 11 states have been blamed on the storm, according to news reports, since Irene played havoc from North Carolina to Maine, causing historic flooding in some areas.
In response to a Monday morning email from LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, district presidents in impacted states have so far reported no LCMS-related deaths or substantial damage to congregations or schools. Merritt stressed, however, greater needs may surface as assessments continue.
As he followed up on reports from district leaders, Rev. Carlos Hernandez, director of Districts and Congregations with WR-HC, spoke with two LCMS members who experienced Irene’s wrath:
- Retired LCMS principal Bob Schulze, whose wife, Mary, traveled to the hospital with a rescue squad after trees crashed into the couple’s Richmond, Va., home. When Hernandez spoke to Schulze on Tuesday, Mary was bruised but out of the hospital. “They will be out of their house for probably six weeks and are in need of transitional housing,” said Hernandez about the couple, members of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Richmond.
- The Rev. Lloyd Gaines, a facilitator and director of multicultural ministries with the Southeastern District, whose Clinton, Md., home was damaged when high winds ripped away siding and caused water to leak throughout the house.
While Irene left church basements filled with water and cancelled many worship services, LCMS leaders also shared reports of how members reached out during the disaster:
LCMS New Jersey District President Rev. William Klettke tells of pastors in that state who went “the extra mile,” making sure senior members were evacuated or cared for and volunteering at a local evacuation center.
In Laurel, Md., members of Our Savior Lutheran Church helped provide 400 meals to a local shelter, according to Deaconess Sally Hiller, executive director for Congregational Outreach and District Operations with the LCMS Southeastern District.
When neighbors in Newport News, Va., lost power, Resurrection Lutheran Church sponsored a “Hurricane Irene” party, complete with electricity and air-conditioning. “They cooked out, enjoyed one another’s company and delivered meals to those without power (using up the meat that was thawing in refrigerators and freezers),” Hiller said in an email.
As LCMS leaders continue to check with congregations in hard-hit communities, Merritt reiterated that early reports do not mean Irene caused no substantial damage in LCMS congregations and communities.
“We will be on the ground when we know where to go,” Merritt said. “Until then, we need to let the disaster coordinators do the assessments and the district presidents report in.”
To make a gift to help WR-HC assist families suffering from Hurricane Irene:
- Mail checks (noting “Hurricane Irene Relief” in the memo line) to LCMS World Relief and Human Care, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.
- Call toll-free 888-930-4438.
- To make an online donation, click here. To designate your gift, please include “Hurricane Irene” in the comments box of the giving form.
Any funds not needed for this relief effort will be used for other disaster purposes as determined by LCMS World Relief and Human Care. Your gift is tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.
Kim Plummer Krull is a freelance writer and member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Des Peres, Mo.
Posted Aug. 30, 2011