By Paula Schlueter Ross (firstname.lastname@example.org)
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey and the unprecedented amount of rainfall that on Aug. 29 was still coming down in Texas, a number of Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod churches, members, pastors and teachers — and at least one school — have reported damages.
Lutheran South Academy in Houston saw up to 2 feet of water in its buildings. Head of School Sheila Psencik reports that eight staff members and at least 30 families with students at the school have water damage to their homes.
”We have some challenging days ahead but I am confident that together we are going to shine God’s love to everyone that hears our story!” Psencik wrote in an Aug. 29 email to faculty, staff and families. ”As children of God, ours is a message of hope and salvation, even amidst the storm.”
According to an initial assessment of the Houston area from LCMS Texas District President Rev. Ken Hennings:
- More than 105 LCMS congregation members have water in their homes, and at least 30 have been evacuated from their homes.
- Two LCMS churches are flooded: St. John Lutheran Church, Cypress, Texas, has water in three of its buildings, and Memorial Lutheran Church, Katy, Texas, has water in its offices, preschool building, sanctuary and welcome center. Six others have roof leaks and three have minor damage.
- Five Synod pastors have flooded homes.
- Three LCMS church staff/teachers have flooded homes, and three more have been evacuated from their homes.
“There is no doubt that these numbers will be going up,” Hennings wrote in an Aug. 28 email to LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, since the initial assessment does not include the also hard-hit Corpus Christi, Rockport and coastal areas.
“I thank God that many churches did not sustain damage and many of them have already opened their facilities to the people in their neighborhood,” Hennings wrote.
And, he added, “a couple of congregations are willing for their site to be used as a staging area” and for housing those who need shelter as well as cleanup volunteers later on.
At least 10 deaths have been linked to the Category 4 hurricane that first hit the coast of Texas Aug. 26 and has now weakened to tropical-storm status. As of Aug. 29, rain was still falling, rivers were continuing to rise and people were still being rescued from flooded homes.
It has been called “one of the largest disasters America has ever faced,” and rain is expected through Friday, Sept. 1, over parts of Texas and Louisiana.
LCMS is ‘going all out to help’
Writing to the Synod’s rostered workers in an Aug. 28 “e-blast,” Harrison said the LCMS is “working hand-in-glove with officials in the Texas District” and “is going all out to help in any and every way possible those affected” by the hurricane and subsequent flooding in southeastern Texas.
“We do know it will require a lot of physical support and aid over the long haul, along with prayers, Word and Sacrament ministry, and pastoral counseling,” Harrison wrote, noting that “a truly effective response demands that the people of the Church walk and work in a coordinated way because no entity can handle something like this apart from the capacity others can bring to bear.”
LCMS World Relief and Human Care, along with its LCMS Disaster Response, are already “hard at work” in “close collaboration” with the Texas District, with ongoing assessments to find out from local pastors and other leaders the “greatest, immediate needs” of those with flood damages, according to Harrison.
Once stabilized, Synod congregations in affected areas, he added, will serve as “hubs of outreach in their communities,” responding to both physical and spiritual needs.
Initial financial support from the LCMS includes:
- a $50,000 grant to Austin, Texas-based Upbring (formerly Lutheran Social Services of the South) to meet the hurricane- and flood-related needs — including food, water, clothing and medicine — of more than 250 low-income families and 150 foster families; and
- $15,000 to $20,000 worth of gift cards to be distributed to those with emergency needs.
The Rev. Dr. Ross Johnson, director of LCMS Disaster Response, plans to lead an LCMS assessment team to Texas, departing Aug. 30 from St. Louis.
Johnson noted that with some 160 LCMS congregations in the flooded areas of the state, “everywhere that there’s substantial flooding, we have a congregation nearby,” providing “unique opportunities” for Lutherans to reach out to all hurting people with both physical aid and spiritual care, “bringing words of comfort and words of hope.”
“God is in the midst” of the devastation, Johnson said, “walking beside” those with needs — and those working to meet those needs.
Just as the Synod’s response to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina lasted many years — LCMS funding and volunteers helped complete repairs on more than 6,000 Katrina-damaged homes via the Southern District’s Camp Restore, he noted — its response to Hurricane Harvey also will be long-term, “to walk alongside disaster victims” … “for the months and years to come.”
And he’s confident, he added, that that comfort and care “will be a blessing and a light in a very dark time in many people’s lives.”
Harrison asks that all LCMS congregations, schools and groups consider one or more offerings to assist with the recovery.
“Your help and encouragement are vital to these efforts,” he wrote in the e-blast. “How robust our LCMS response will be depends on the people of the LCMS responding.”
If you would like to volunteer your time in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, please contact LCMS Disaster Response about opportunities to serve. Once the most immediate needs are determined, you will be contacted with more information.Volunteer
Donations for LCMS Disaster Response may be made:
- online at lcms.org/harvey.
- via text by sending a message to 41444, and typing LCMSHARVEY in the message field. You’ll receive a text with a link to a phone-friendly, secure donation form.
- by phone, using a credit card — call 888-930-4438 between 8 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. Central time weekdays. Saturday, Sunday and Monday of Labor Day weekend (Sept. 2-4), the phone line will be open from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
- by check, made payable to “The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod” or “LCMS.” On the memo line, please write “Disaster Response/Relief” or “Hurricane Harvey.” Mail your donation to The LCMS, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.
Posted August 29, 2017 / Updated August 30, 2017 / Updated August 31, 2017, with information about Lutheran South Academy