By Sarah Schafer
The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod released $35,000 on Monday, Aug. 27, to assist relief efforts in Haiti and the Dominican Republic following Tropical Storm Isaac, which struck the island nations Aug. 25.
The relief work will be carried out by the LCMS Office of International Mission.
The funds are “incredibly vital for the people of Haiti and the Dominican Republic,” said the Rev. Dr. Edward O. Grimenstein, manager of the LCMS’ Disaster Response ministry. “As a church body who responds to disasters, the LCMS’ goal is to ensure that both the physical and pastoral needs of people are provided for.
This is “much more than just money,” Grimenstein said. “This is the proclamation of the Gospel that Jesus Christ truly is alive and well and actively saving this fallen creation right before our very eyes.”
The first $10,000 will be used by Lutheran medical clinics in Haiti to prevent cholera and to meet other health-care needs as necessary.
“As public-health partners in Haiti, we must always be prepared for cholera whenever there is severe flooding or displaced people,” said Maggie Karner, director of LCMS Life and Health Ministries.
Cholera, a bacterial infection of the small intestine, frequently occurs in places with poor sanitation and crowding. Tropical Storm Isaac has created situations ripe for reigniting a cholera epidemic in Haiti, according to Karner.
The Lutheran clinics in Jacmel and Leogane are staffed with paid Haitian doctors and nurses and receive volunteer and other support from local Lutheran churches.
“This indigenous knowledge of complex local issues and health challenges offers patients the most comprehensive understanding of dramatic local problems,” said Karner.
Funding from the LCMS will provide clinics with oral rehydration supplies and sanitary materials to treat cholera patients.
Not yet established when the cholera epidemic in Haiti broke out after the 2010 earthquake, these clinics now facilitate pre-emptive and acute symptom care. “We’re very well-positioned to provide a niche of care because we have local staff plugged into the local communities and health-care structure,” said Karner.
“Ensuring that people have clean water, adequate lodging and that our medical clinics are prepared for a possible cholera outbreak is essential to our ministry of providing for the whole person in both body and soul,” said Grimenstein.
The LCMS also released $25,000 Monday to rebuild and repair damaged roofs of churches and homes in Leogane and Jacmel, as well as the roof of the new seminary in the Dominican Republic.
“Once again, we see our closest friends in the LCMS stepping up to the plate in both the aftermath of a storm and well ahead of it,” said Mark Hofman, executive director of LCMS Mission Advancement. “Their gifts are equipping our Synod’s disaster response and health teams with an ability to change lives in close proximity to Word-and-sacrament ministry. It’s a real joy to watch as the people of the LCMS act out in faith this way. We encourage others to join them in sharing Christ’s compassion and mercy over the weeks and months ahead.”
Three Lutheran villages in Haiti reported property damages and widespread flooding Aug. 25. Many people, including Lutheran church members, are homeless and sought shelter over the weekend in Lutheran churches in Jacmel and Port-au-Prince. Roads remain closed due to flooding, making delivery and distribution of supplies difficult.
The Rev. Ted Krey, LCMS regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, acknowledged that repairing homes will be a secondary response after all medical and immediate needs are met.
The Rev. Willy Gaspar, project manager for the LCMS in Haiti and a pastor in the Dominican Republic, will serve as “point person” to direct the funds. He will receive support from LCMS missionaries stationed in the Dominican Republic.
LCMS Disaster Response staff are monitoring Isaac’s path in the Gulf Coast.
On Monday afternoon (Aug. 27), the Rev. Gregory S. Walton, president of the LCMS Florida-Georgia District, praised God for the minimal damages in Florida from Tropical Storm Isaac.
In an email to Grimenstein, Walton said he “checked with our folks in Key West and South Florida and most everyone has fared well. Still dealing with some wind and rain, but nothing like what we anticipated. Now our thoughts and prayers move toward the Southern District.”
Grimenstein said LCMS Disaster Response will partner with the LCMS Gulf Coast districts and disaster-response coordinators to ensure that members are prepared and the LCMS is ready to show mercy in affected communities, caring for the physical and pastoral needs of the people.
For more information on the Synod’s response to Tropical Storm Isaac, follow the LCMS on Twitter (www.twitter.com/thelcms) or visit the LCMS Facebook page (www.facebook.com/thelcms) and Mercy Forever blog (http://mercyforever.lcms.org).
To help those affected by the storm:
- make an online gift (click here).
- mail checks payable to “The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod” (with a memo line or note designating “Hurricane Relief”) to The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.
- call toll-free 888-930-4438.
Sarah Schafer is a freelance writer based in Fairfax, Va., and a member of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Springfield, Va.
Posted Aug. 27, 2012 / Updated Aug. 28, 2012