By Megan Mertz
On Wednesday, Nov. 7, a team from the LCMS International Center met with leaders of the LCMS Atlantic District at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Brooklyn, N.Y. The team included the Rev. Glenn F. Merritt, director of LCMS Disaster Response; the Rev. John Fale, associate executive director of Mercy Operations; the Rev. Carlos Hernandez, director of LCMS Church and Community Development; and Al Dowbnia, director of Digital Media with LCMS Communications.
The meeting was planned months in advance, so the group did not expect to be coordinating continued relief efforts following Superstorm Sandy, which hit the region Oct. 29. This is the second team the Synod has sent to the area. The first Superstorm Sandy assessment team visited New York and New Jersey Oct. 31-Nov. 3.
Recovery efforts were slowed on Nov. 7 by the arrival of a nor’easter, which dropped several inches of snow on Sandy-damaged areas.
“We were in the middle of a big snowstorm, with 50-mph winds coming off the ocean,” said Merritt. “It’s brutal for those people without power and heat.”
According to Atlantic District Disaster Response Coordinator Derek Lecakes, about a dozen LCMS church workers also have been personally impacted by Sandy. Among them is Deaconess Janine Bolling, who serves St. Peter’s, Brooklyn. Bolling and her parents have not been able to return to their Far Rockaway, N.Y., apartment because it still had no power, water or gas (as of this writing on Nov. 8). So the family has been sleeping in the basement of a school in Brooklyn until they can return to their home.
Still, the Bollings fared better than their downstairs neighbors, who lost everything, including their cars, to floodwater. “They have nothing,” Janine Bolling told Reporter.
“LCMS Disaster Response has pledged the full material, financial and people resources of the LCMS in support of this effort,” Merritt said.
Despite the multiple challenges of damage, debris and power outages from the superstorm and the following nor’easter, the Atlantic District has been working hard to provide relief in affected neighborhoods. On Nov. 7, a team distributed clothing, flood-relief buckets and gift cards in the Rockaway area, where 110 houses were destroyed.
The Atlantic District is working to establish three bases of operation in New York: Staten Island, Brooklyn/Queens and Amityville. The district’s Disaster Response Team also is working to hire a coordinator to work with the various governmental and nongovernmental agencies over the next two years.
Peter Labenberg, Atlantic District treasurer and Lutheran Church Extension Fund representative, put some perspective on the scope of the superstorm’s damage, noting that 11.6 million people have been affected in New York state alone.
Labenberg provided these statistics on the makeup of the area:
- 43 percent white, 25 percent Hispanic/Latino, 19 percent black and 11 percent Asian.
- 42 percent speak a language other than English.
- 12 percent of families are below the poverty level.
- 43 percent of homes are owner-occupied, while 57 percent are rentals.
“The assistance the Office of National Mission brings is the result of many, many donors throughout the U.S. who care for them, pray for them and support them in their efforts to bring relief from suffering as they witness to the saving work of Jesus,” said Fale. “We continue to give God thanks that He blesses this effort daily.”
To help those affected by the storm:
- make an online gift at https://www.lcms.org/givenow/disaster.
- mail checks payable to “The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod” (with a memo line or note designating “LCMS Disaster Relief”) to The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.
- call toll-free 888-930-4438 (8:10 a.m. to 4:10 p.m. CST, Monday through Friday).
In addition to Reporter Online, continuing updates about the Synod’s response to Superstorm Sandy will be posted on the LCMS website at www.lcms.org, Twitter (www.twitter.com/thelcms), the LCMS Facebook page (www.facebook.com/thelcms) and the Mercy Forever blog (http://mercyforever.lcms.org).
Megan Mertz is a staff writer for LCMS Communications and a member of Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Brentwood, Mo.
Posted Nov. 8, 2012