By Jeni Miller
In the wake of two devastating earthquakes a little more than two weeks apart in Nepal, LCMS congregations and individual members are responding with gifts — and prayers — to help those who are suffering.
A report from one member of an LCMS congregation mentions that loved ones in Nepal had lost everything and were huddled together under a tarp — praying for peace, comfort, sustenance and sanitary living conditions.
The 7.8- and 7.3-magnitude earthquakes on April 25 and May 12, respectively, have affected 39 of 75 districts in the nation, killed nearly 8,000 people and injured at least 17,000 more. Following the April quake, tremors were felt across northern India and neighboring Bangladesh and Pakistan, with the most affected areas being Gorkha, Lamjung and Sindhupalchok, as well as the Kathmandu, Bhakktapur and Lalitpur districts.
By the grace of God, the LCMS is reaching out in mercy and compassion to the victims of this disaster.
Through its 70-year partnership with Lutheran World Relief (LWR), Baltimore — a relief and human-care agency that has boots on the ground in Nepal — the LCMS is disbursing $235,000 in grants to go directly for immediate provisions such as food, personal-care kits and water-filtration units. Of that commitment, $25,000 comes from the remaining disaster reserves that are funded entirely by donations, while the $210,000 supplement was made available from LCMS mercy/human-care reserves.
As of May 11, the LCMS had reached nearly 12,000 individuals, providing 1,988 15-day ration food packs and distributing more than 2,000 temporary housing shelters through its LWR partnership. In light of the May 12 earthquake, the LCMS via LWR will incorporate further acts of mercy into its existing response to help bring relief to the many affected people of Nepal.
“The LCMS continues to keep the people of Nepal in prayer as this second earthquake shook apart buildings that were already weakened by the devastating April earthquake, bringing additional trauma to people who have already lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods,” said the Rev. John Fale, associate executive director of LCMS Mercy Operations. “With God’s command to pray are His promises to bless. Our faith clings to those promises in the midst of being on shaky ground. We also continue to provide financial support to Lutheran World Relief.”
Added Fale: “We appreciate the compassion and generosity of LCMS members who have informed us that they are praying for the people of Nepal and have sent gifts for this relief work. We are very mindful that they have been motivated by the sacrificial love of Jesus and His call for us to love our neighbor as He has loved us, so we seek to be good stewards of these loving expressions of care.”
‘An avenue’ to care
Since the LCMS does not have a partner church or missionary activity in Nepal, this strategic partnership and the LCMS Disaster Response grants provide an avenue for Synod congregations, members and friends to pull together as the body of Christ and directly care for their suffering neighbors.
“Typically,” said Fale, “LCMS Disaster Response enables the LCMS to respond globally with and through our partner churches, field staff, and other relief agencies. It is the work of the LCMS — our church body provides relief and acts of mercy as we together provide care for the ‘least of these’ in our midst, even if a partner is doing the work, as in the case of Nepal.”
“When I choose to direct my help through Disaster Response, I join with other LCMS Christians to provide that which is needed to comfort and help,” explained Mark Hofman, executive director of LCMS Mission Advancement. “More important, though, I join my faith in Christ with theirs and speak that faith through my church body to make known Christ’s mercy and forgiveness as faithfully as circumstances allow.
“To be certain,” Hofman said, “dozens of people combining financial resources makes a greater impact than anything I can do alone; still more important, I participate in a great chorus of confessing action to proclaim the faith that God has entrusted to the LCMS. Acts of Christian mercy and compassion often open doors for witness to share the peace that comes only from knowing and trusting Jesus.”
Hofman said that LCMS Disaster Response grants also provide a way for contributors to hear of the specific impact of the grant funds in the affected region and help ensure that the interests and integrity of LCMS members and congregations are uncompromised and used in ways that connect mercy with spiritual care, especially via Word and Sacrament.
“Disasters are naked reminders of how helpless we are and that we depend upon God’s daily provision of body and soul, which He teaches us through the First Article of the Apostles Creed and the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer,” said Fale. “God invites and commands us to come to Him in prayer. So in humility, but with great confidence through Jesus, we bring our helpless cries for mercy to a gracious God and He blesses. The Lord blesses and provides through the compassion and generosity of those who are moved by such suffering. Our collective gifts — as a church body walking together, loving together, caring for our neighbor together — have more impact when they are pooled together.”
Pooling funds to help
Fale and Hofman indicated that this “pooling together” of funds for the purpose of caring for people around the world who are suffering is a long-standing practice in the LCMS — so much so that the disaster-response fund often hangs in the balance between catastrophic events. Since the Synod is careful to provide not only immediate disaster response, but also ongoing care of people for years following a disaster, funds needed to provide these tangible expressions and acts of mercy and care need to be refilled on a near-constant basis.
In the past few years alone, the LCMS has been responsive to a number of disasters in the U.S. and across the world map.
“In the U.S.,” Fale said, “LCMS Disaster Response has been in Minot, N.D; Joplin, Mo.; Moore, Okla.; West, Texas; New York; several communities in New Jersey, several communities in Colorado, and three communities in Illinois to assist the local pastors and congregations in reaching out to the community to provide gift cards that enabled people to purchase medicine, food, clean water, and safe housing.
Fale continued, “We were on the ground, with the pastors and local congregation members, to listen to people process their feelings of loss and disbelief, hug them and pray with them. We assisted them with resources that enabled them to have their homes repaired and restored, cars repaired following a disaster so they could get to work and maintain employment, and have a temporary church structure built because their church was literally blown away. We enabled a district to establish a mercy center called Hope and a Prayer Center in an impoverished, drug-infested community near a public school, which now offers a variety of human-care services as well as counseling and Bible classes with an eye toward establishing the first Lutheran presence of any kind in that area. As a result of this work, hope was restored to the community as they saw this work and the formerly open drug dealers and prostitutes [who] are no longer this near to the school.”
Ongoing help for others
Victims of natural disasters who have seen significant support from LCMS Disaster Response include those affected by Superstorm Sandy, the 2004 South Asia tsunami, and Typhoon Haiyan.
Fale said that the work of LCMS Disaster Response will continue throughout the course of restoration for those affected by the earthquakes in Nepal.
“Our Lord has provided and will continue to provide for the needs of His people in the LCMS, so that they might serve their neighbors in Nepal and elsewhere,” he said. “The church never tires of showing mercy, and LCMS members likewise have shown tireless generosity and compassion to those in need. Through their support, people who have suffered the loss of loved ones, homes, provisions, and livelihoods have received the mercy of God through pastoral support, safe shelter, proper nutrition, clean water and work. In some areas where there was no Lutheran presence, the Gospel is now present through Lutheran pastoral care, mercy centers that care for body and soul, and efforts to establish permanent Lutheran congregations.
“We live in a … broken world … , seen most obviously in an event like Nepal, or Pilger (Nebraska), or [Hurricane] Katrina where death and destruction seem to reign,” explained Hofman. “Sin is what creates a seemingly never-ending need for mercy care and human relief, and its pressure to secure funding to help make it possible. In the face of all fear and doubt, God reassures us that His promises will remain unbroken.
“He gives us, through His bride the Church, His Word and the sacraments, the very forgiveness and strength He promises will be with us to the end of the age. It’s in the church that God supplies those who pray, give, offer words of encouragement and reassurance.
“We don’t ask for support because a fund balance happens to be low,” said Hofman. “Rather, we invite the church again and again to carry Christ’s love and compassion — through us and alongside others — to where a true need exists, and where opportunities to vigorously make known the love of Jesus in word and deed has been laid before us.”Give now for earthquake relief Give now for ongoing LCMS Disaster Response work
Deaconess Jeni Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance writer and member of Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Atlanta.
Posted May 1, 2015 / Updated May 2, May 3, May 13 and May 22, 2015