By Roger Drinnon
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s disaster responders are preparing to assist the people of California’s North Bay area and members of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Napa, after a magnitude-6.0 quake struck there around 3 a.m. Sunday.
“We await damage and insurance assessments, which will help determine our plan of action for St. John’s and the Napa community,” said the Rev. Ross Johnson, director of LCMS Disaster Response, Office of National Mission.
There were no fatalities resulting from the earthquake, but there were at least 208 injured in Napa as of 9 a.m. Monday, according to the city’s website (cityofnapa.org). California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. declared a state of emergency Sunday for all of California due to the effects of the quake, which include 33 damaged buildings declared uninhabitable in Napa.
“The earthquake was very loud and very violent,” said the Rev. Michael Schmid, lead pastor at St. John’s. “Although it lasted only about 20 seconds, it felt much longer — some people are really struggling with the trauma.”
Johnson said his office typically assists congregations and communities impacted by natural disasters like this earthquake by “filling the gap,” which includes mitigating damage not covered by insurance policies. He said assistance could be in the form of grants or other financial help, but unlike other disaster-response agencies, his office also focuses on spiritual assistance.
“It’s also about the Greatest Commandment (Mark 12:29-31) — loving our neighbors and helping them get through a disaster spiritually and emotionally,” said Johnson. “It’s an expression of our appreciation for the Gospel and what Christ has done for us.”
“All those who have been affected by the earthquake are in our prayers, particularly St. John’s Lutheran Church and her members,” said the Rev. Michael Meyer, response manager for LCMS Disaster Response, Office of National Mission. “As they determine the extent of the damage, we pray that our Lord would give them strength and patience, as the recovery process is always frustrating and long.”
The Rev. Philip Zabell, LCMS California-Nevada-Hawaii District disaster-response coordinator, echoed the Synod’s sentiments, as the district also awaits damage assessments while standing ready to assist in concert with the LCMS.
Most of the damage at St. John’s involved the sanctuary.
“Some of the stonework above the front door of the sanctuary came down,” said Schmid. “There is also damage to the interior of the sanctuary. We are working on having the sanctuary and the rest of the campus inspected and the damage assessed, including the Mision de Jesus campus.The organ also sustained damage and is not usable until repaired.”
The damaged sanctuary prompted the church to hold its regular Sunday worship services outside, Aug. 24.
“We had services at both our main campus and the Mision de Jesus campus, which includes our Spanish-language ministry led by the Rev. Luis Alvarado,” said Schmid. “We wanted to offer services for those able to come, a time to gather as a church family, to pray for each other and our community and be blessed by our Lord.”
St. John’s Lutheran School, which currently accommodates 281 students in preschool through grade 8, had only minor damage, according to the school’s principal.
“The main effect was a huge mess in all of our classrooms and office areas and specialty rooms,” said Joel Wahlers, St. John’s Lutheran School principal. “Our school was closed [Aug. 25] in order to clean up our rooms and have the buildings inspected, but now, most of the mess is cleaned up and we plan to have school [Aug. 26], pending a required inspection.”
Schmid is calling for prayers for all those dealing with the aftermath.
“Please pray for the people of Napa and all affected by this quake — pray for the peace of God which passes understanding to fill our hearts and lives,” he said.
St. John’s Lutheran Church has been serving the Napa community since 1907. Its school was established in 1938.
Roger Drinnon is manager of Editorial Services for LCMS Communications.
Posted Aug. 25, 2014 / Updated Aug. 28, 2014