Lutheran Disaster Response

Our response to disasters in the U.S. and around the world; look for sections of this blog related to specific disaster locations. Comments are welcomed and moderated.

Philippines: LDR Commits $1 million to Lutheran World Relief to Respond to Super Typhoon Haiyan

Posted on November 13, 2013 by Megan Brandsrud
Damage caused by Super Typhoon Haiyan. Photo credit: Jessica Dator Bercilla/ACT

Damage caused by Super Typhoon Haiyan. Photo credit: Jessica Dator Bercilla/ACT

Lutheran Disaster Response – International is committing $1 million to Lutheran World Relief to collaboratively address the needs of the people impacted by Super Typhoon Haiyan.  

Early Nov. 8, 2013, one of the world’s most powerful storms on record, Super Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, swept through the Philippines’ Eastern Visayas Region. Some areas experienced 235 mile-per-hour wind gusts, 16 inches of rainfall and waves as tall as 45 feet. Several of the areas impacted by Haiyan include communities with high levels of poverty and regions still recovering from the Oct. 15 7.2-magnitude earthquake, both of which are areas more vulnerable to the impacts of the disaster.

Approximately 9.5 million people have been impacted by the storm, and local officials estimate that up to 10,000 people have died in the Leyte Province city of Tacloban alone.

Lutheran Disaster Response – International is working with ACT Alliance partners—Lutheran World Relief (LWR), Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and Philippines ACT Forum Coordinator, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP)—to coordinate response plans.

Lutheran World Relief’s assessment team has traveled to Northern Cebu and Western Leyte identifying immediate needs. The LWR Philippines office in Mindanao is in communication with other ministry partners, non-governmental organizations, the United Nations and local government officials.

LWR’s prioritized response plans include

  • Distribution of water
  • Distribution of non-food items in evacuation centers, specifically cooking utensils
  • Revitalization of economic life through cash-for-work programs and restoration of affected fishing villages
  • Debris removal and road reconstruction

Lutheran World Relief’s skills, competencies and capacity with local organizations in the Philippines make them a trusted partner for Lutheran Disaster Response – International to coordinate with for long-term recovery and rebuilding in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan.

Lutheran World Federation has sent their Regional Emergency Response assessment team to the Philippines; our LDR – International Program Director, Vitaly Vorona, is in Geneva and has had conversations with LWF and ACT Alliance regarding assessment of the impacted areas.

Lutheran Disaster Response – International will also respond within the capacity of our companion church, the Lutheran Church in the Philippines, and in coordination with LWF.

We are committed to working through these partners. Their on-the-ground presence will best steward our resources so that our brothers and sisters in the Philippines can be assisted both now and through long-term recovery.

You can give now to help us work with our partners toward recovery and rebuilding in the Philippines.

Hurricane Sandy: One Year Later

Posted on October 29, 2013 by Megan Brandsrud

nj damage clean up - hurricane sandyOne year ago, Hurricane Sandy swept through the Caribbean and northeastern United States, bringing heavy rain and strong winds. The areas were impacted with widespread flooding and fallen trees, which damaged and destroyed homes and businesses. Areas were without power and heat for several weeks. Water supplies were contaminated and the number of outbreaks of cholera increased.

People like you quickly responded with prayers and financial support to help the church assist our brothers and sisters through their recovery and rebuilding. Through your generous gifts, Lutheran Disaster Response raised more than $4 million to assist with Hurricane Sandy recovery. And because we are a trusted partner, the American Red Cross granted us $1.9 million to support our commitment to assist the millions of people affected by Hurricane Sandy. This grant has enabled us to expand our response efforts.

Working with our partners in the U.S. and in the Caribbean, we have played an active role in the recovery process.

Maryland – Working with Diakon Social Ministries, we have served 81 households, rehabbed 52 homes, helped in the construction of two homes, and have begun construction of six other homes in Maryland. Disaster case managers are matching client needs for counseling, health issues or food support. More than 130 volunteers have given their time and energy to help this community rebuild.

New Jersey – Partnering with Lutheran Social Ministries of New Jersey(LSM/NJ), we have provided more than 30 unmet-needs grants to help families cover hurricane-related expenses not covered by FEMA or insurance, such as rental assistance and repair costs. A volunteer hosting site at Reformation Lutheran Church, in partnership with Long Branch Covenant Church, has housed more than 125 volunteers, culminating in more than 896 volunteer hours for site support. We also helped bring Camp Noah to New Jersey – a fun and safe environment that has helped more than 90 children heal after Hurricane Sandy.

New York – With Lutheran Social Services of New York, Lutheran Disaster Response is providing case management for more than 260 families to assist them with unmet needs. We’ve also provided lodging for more than 60 volunteers, culminating in more than 1,400 hours of rebuilding in Queens, N.Y.

Cuba – Working with the Cuban Council of Churches, a partnership of 20 Protestant churches, Lutheran Disaster Response provided food security, water, shelter, roof reconstruction and livelihood restoration to more than 1,000 families.

Haiti –In collaboration with The Lutheran World Federation and the Lutheran Church in Haiti, Lutheran Disaster Response worked to drain excess water to help reduce the risk of cholera outbreaks following the hurricane.

Recovery from disaster carries on long after the headlines change, and so does our work. In New York, New Jersey and Maryland, we continue to provide volunteer coordination, home reconstruction management and disaster case managers, who advocate for individual families’ needs.

Please continue to pray for the people and communities affected by Hurricane Sandy as they continue to restore their homes, lives and hope.

Syria: Raising Awareness Against Gender-Based Violence

Posted on September 30, 2013 by Megan Brandsrud

 

Children from Za'atri camp attend a puppet show that raised awareness against gender-based violence.

Children from Za’atri camp attend a puppet show that raised awareness against gender-based violence.

Since the onset of the Syrian conflict in March 2011, the crisis has continued to grow in size and scope. Millions of Syrians are seeking refuge in neighboring countries. In coordination with Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Lutheran Disaster Response is assisting the Syrian refugee population in Za’atri camp, located in northern Jordan. Za’atri camp is hosting approximately 125,000 Syrians, who are all seeking life-saving assistance.

In addition to providing shelter and non-food items, LWF is also implementing psychosocial interventions at Za’atri. In August, LWF hosted a puppet show to raise awareness against gender-based violence. The show was attended by many women and children, who are the most vulnerable among Syrian refugees as they are particularly at risk of sexual harassment and exploitation. The activity provided a fun and safe atmosphere for the attendees.

These refugees have been driven from their homes due to violence and hunger. Through your generous gifts, we are there to provide basic humanitarian needs, and we are also there to implement these important programs that educate about conflict and how to re-build. As security in the area of Za’atri continues to be a concern, these programs can be life-saving. We will continue to work with LWF to provide assistance to this impacted population.

Introduction from New Lutheran Disaster Response Program Interpreter

Posted on September 25, 2013 by Megan Brandsrud

Greetings!

My name is Megan Brandsrud, and I am both excited and thankful to be the new Program Interpreter for Lutheran Disaster Response. As I begin my second week at the ELCA Churchwide office, I am grateful for all of the welcoming colleagues who continue to help me orient myself into this role.

Coincidentally, the flooding in Colorado occurred just before I started working in this role, so I had the opportunity to be a part of initial conversations and meetings between staff and affiliates in the impacted area. It was humbling and impressive to hear of the dedication and efforts being carried out by leaders in the areas affected by the flooding.

I look forward to sharing Lutheran Disaster Response’s powerful stories with you as we put God’s work into action and help those impacted overcome the effects of disaster.

New Home New Hope

Posted on August 2, 2013 by Joseph Chu

Two months ago, Duane Moudy, the Lutheran Disaster Response US Regional Coordinator of Lutheran Family and Children’s Service of Missouri gave me a tour of Joplin, MO, a city ravaged by an EF5 tornado on May 22, 2011. We visited the McGuirk family at their new home. The 4-bedroom house newly built by Habitat for Humanity and partially funded by Lutheran Disaster Response is beautiful, inviting and filled with warmth.

Delbert McGuirk, Shandie Reed and Jackie McGuirk in front of their newly built home.

Delbert McGuirk, Shandie Reed and Jackie McGuirk in front of their newly built home.

The McGuirk family has five members – Delbert and Jackie McGuirk, their adult daughter Shandie Reed and their two granddaughters, 4 and 10. When the twister hit, their three-story rental home was decimated and the collapsed debris inflicted varying degrees of injuries on everyone in the household. Delbert’s right leg was badly injured; he had to undergo multiple surgeries and the amputation of a part of his right leg. Shandie, who is in her early 30s and has juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, was also wounded.  The injuries have further complicated her multiple medical and mobility related issues.

But the tornado did not shatter their perseverance and resilience.  When I met Delbert, he was walking around with his prosthetic limb. He is maintaining his sense of humor and forward looking attitude. Shandee is a true inspiration. She is youthful, poised and energetic; she carries with her a strong sense of purpose. I later learned that she and her mother Jackie are the true heroes. Jackie has been Shandee’s caretaker for years, and together, they would not allow injuries, disability and even disasters deter them.  Today, against all odds, Shandee is still walking, driving and holding a job with a local non-profit organization.

Immediately after the storm, the family rented a tiny house as their temporary home. Trying to rebuild their lives and dealing with complicated health and mobility issues was extremely challenging. They needed a new home that would work for them and not against them.  A year ago, Shandee wrote a passionate letter to present their case to the local Habitat for Humanity chapter, which is a member of the local Long Term Recovery Committee.  As you may recall, Long Term Recovery Committees are made up of faith-based and civic organizations as well as government agencies with the purpose of assisting individuals and families impacted by disasters.  Duane Moudy has been a member of the Joplin committee since it was formed in June, 2011.  Habitat for Humanity, hearing the McGuirk story, approved their application.  Subsequently, Lutheran Disaster Response, Lutheran Family and Children’s Services, and other local partners joined hands to contribute towards the building of the new home for them.  It is rewarding to see the McGuirks moving into their new.

In disaster recovery, individual perseverance matters but so does the support from the faith-based, civic groups and governmental organizations. Your support has enabled Lutheran Disaster Response US to be a vital partner in these communal efforts to help individuals and families like the McGuirk of Joplin to rebuild their lives. Thank You!

Lutheran Disaster Response webpage: www.elca.org/disaster

Donation Webpage: https://community.elca.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=358

The Journey of Peace Lutheran Church, Joplin, MO

Posted on June 27, 2013 by Joseph Chu

On Sunday, June 23, 2013, Peace Lutheran Church, Joplin, MO celebrated the dedication of their newly completed building. Bishop Gerald Mansholt of Central States Synod was present for the day of great joy and thanksgiving. “It was a marvelous event and we had a full house!” said Pastor Katherine Redpath of Peace Lutheran Church. While the building is charming and lovely, for members of the congregation the journey to reach this milestone has been filled with many twists and turns.

The newly completed building of Peace Lutheran Church, Joplih, MO

The newly completed building of Peace Lutheran Church, Joplih, MO

On May 22, 2011, the EF5 tornado that decimated Joplin, MO also leveled the church. Since then, the congregation has to deal with grief on many levels. One member was killed by the tornado. And due to circumstances beyond their control, the congregation had to find a new location to rebuild.

Although they had to abandon their location, Peace Lutheran Church did not abandon their ministry; immediately following the storm they began to worship at Bethany Presbyterian Church. In August, 2011, they received Pastor Kathy as their pastor. Incidentally, Pastor Kathy is a tornadoes survivor; nearly 40 years ago, her house in Ohio was destroyed by twisters and she lived through the painstaking process of recovery. Unbeknown to her at the time, that experience was good preparation her for the ministry of healing and hope she is bringing to Peace Lutheran.

According to Pastor Kathy, a key turning point for the congregation was the Praise Service they held under the big tent on the parking lot of the old church site on the one year anniversary of the storm. While embracing the pain and sufferings that came with the losses, the congregation recounted God’s grace and rededicated themselves to move forward into God’s unknown future.

For Pastor Kathy, the dedication of the new building marks the beginning of a new phase of ministry. In her most recent newsletter article, she affirms “worshipping and building up the Body of Christ,” as key purposes of the newly relocated Peace Lutheran Church. But citing the story of King Solomon dedicating the new temple in Jerusalem (1 King 8), Pastor Kathy underscores the importance of “inviting and welcoming of ‘foreigners’ [–those who are not already in our faith communities–] who can come and learn more about this God whom they hear about from us.”

For “foreigners” and family alike, Peace Lutheran Church has a very compelling story of God’s Grace and Peace in the midst of chaos and turmoil. May God continue to bless the people of Peace Lutheran as they live into the future God is calling them!

For “foreigners” and family alike, Peace Lutheran Church has a very compelling story of God’s Grace and Peace in the midst of chaos and turmoil.

May God continue to bless the people of Peace Lutheran as they live into the future God is calling them!

A Tribute to Leon A Phillip, Jr.

Posted on June 24, 2013 by Pastor Michael Stadie

     With the passing of Leon Phillip last week, the person we consider the founder of Lutheran Disaster Response, we have asked Gilbert B. Furst to share some reflections on his life and ministry. We appreciate Gil taking the time to share these thoughts.

Leon A. Phillips, Jr. was greater than the sum of his parts. Leon, who died peacefully in his sleep last week, was an extraordinary person, family member, pastor, church leader, and director of Lutheran Disaster Response. His love and insight touched countless thousands of lives around the world. He brought hope to the hopeless, help to the helpless.

A brief history of Lutheran Disaster Response will provide a context for Leon’s disaster ministry. LDR emerged after the 1972 Hurricane Agnes flooded northeast Pennsylvania. Leon, who lost his home and most of his possessions, coordinated thousands of volunteers and material donations. In 1973 the Lutheran Church in America, The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and the American Lutheran Church discussed how disaster response could be part of the church’s ministry on a national level. The Lutheran Council USA oversaw an advisory committee of representatives appointed by the three church bodies. Disaster response was a small-scale program providing some training and sending small grants to places where there were disasters. Leon was appointed to be an LCA representative.

In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s many inter-Lutheran programs were cut back due to financial pressures and church issues. As the Evangelical Lutheran Church merger was planned, The LC-MS and the emerging ELCA agreed on three primary areas of inter-Lutheran cooperation: Lutheran World Relief, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and inter-Lutheran Disaster Response. An LDR board with ELCA and LC-MS representatives met for the first time in December 1987. One-fourth of Leon’s time was designated as LDR director.

Leon visualized a system that could expand during emergencies and shrink when there were none. He believed social ministry organizations could manage local programs, handle finances and volunteers. He trained a group of consultants, many from social ministry organizations. The consultant program worked well following Hurricane Hugo, in St. Croix, in Charleston, the Isle of Palms, and South Carolina coastal islands.

In 1992 Leon’s quarter-time position increased and he became the first full-time director. That year Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida and Hurricane Iniki struck Hawaii. In 1993 a major earthquake hit Oakland and San Francisco.

Lutheran cooperation came quickly and was deep. Leon also reached out to work with other church denominations, as well as FEMA, and the American Red Cross.

Leon was aware of clergy attrition following Hurricane Andrew. He had an LC-MS pastor-psychologist study the situation, and his conclusions led Leon to change response priorities. “Care for the Caregivers” became a primary focus. Over the next decade trained psychologists, counselors, and theologians provided care for pastors and caregivers, working through ELCA Synod Bishops and LC-MS District presidents.

Leon expanded the scope of disaster response to include human-caused intentional disasters (such as the Oklahoma City bombing) and technological disasters (such as the Times Beach chemical leaks).

During his ten years as director and response to 150 disasters, Leon developed a national network of responding agencies. His vision provided LDR with an effective means of carrying out responses, and enabled agencies to draw closer to meet the needs of their communities. When Lutheran Services in America was organized in 1997, a pattern was set to provide for the needs of disaster survivors.

Leon provided a strong confessional-rooted theological approach to disaster response, and he saw LDR as an integral part of the church’s ministry and life. Under his leadership Lutherans were relied upon for case management, rebuilding, advocacy, pastoral care and spiritual care.

The needs of children traumatized by disasters became apparent following tornadoes in southwest Minnesota. In cooperation with LSS-Minnesota, Camp Noah became a ministry program for disaster-affected children across the country.

Leon once told me, “Each disaster was an affirmation that God finds resources and ways of lifting people up…the church in action….”

Leon was not constrained by “ordinary” practices. He often carried a pocketful of cash – much to the consternation of church officials – and distributed it to pastors following disasters. He felt that “$50 now when it is needed is worth ten times that much in two months.”

One agency executive recalls, “In 1997 in the early days of the Red River flood that occasioned the evacuation of 60,000 people, at the NW Minnesota Synod office a pastor and his wife came into the office. Leon was standing by the front desk. Before the pastor said a word, Leon said: ‘do you have a place to stay tonight?’ ‘No.’ Leon turned to me and said, ‘Go get a key.’ Dutifully I went into the conference room and got a key to a motel room and returned. Leon gave the key to the pastor and said, ‘Now, tell me your story.’ The pastor did, confessing his conviction he could be of no help to his people. Leon dug into his pocket and pulled out a thick wad of $50 bills. He said: ‘Here; Take this. Find your people. Tell them the church cares.’ The pastor did and became one of the heroes of the Red River Valley flood.”

If your life was touched by Leon, your life was changed. Many are attesting to the influence Leon had in their lives. Here are some of their remarks:

·       “He was truly and in all sincerity a man with a great heart. And one to be remembered for what he did for others.”

·       “God’s peace to one who was such a gentle spirit among us. Prayers for all who feel the loss of this loved one.”

·       “Leon helped me understand what it meant to be a pastor and what it meant for us to be a community of faith in immediate, concrete ways!”

·       “Rest in peace, brother Leon, God’s servant!”

·       “We are better people knowing him. Working with him over the years was a true blessing.”

·       “We have been blessed and enriched by his life that he shared so generously.”

·       “A great and faithful and graceful guy.”

·       “He was a gentle man full of knowledge and compassion. Enjoyed working with him.”

·       “A fine man who was committed to service. I learned so much from him. Well done good and faithful servant. Rest in peace.”

·       “He changed my life forever as did you Gil. I am so much richer for knowing him. Rest now Leon.”

·        “We all stand on the shoulders of greats who have gone before us in the faith. What a heritage we have!”

I add my simple personal words. It has been my privilege and blessing to know Leon over the years as a colleague, pastor, travel companion, and most-of all, friend. We were together in an amazing number of places and situations, from floods in Fargo to balconies in Budapest; from Virgin Island hurricane destruction to tuk-tuks in Bangkok; from German halls to San Antonio floods; from Denver courthouses to Prague cathedrals; from celebrating life with East Germany colleagues to enjoying friends on his patio. He was my colleague, my mentor, my friend.

So we say “ave atque vale“ – “Hail and Farewell.” Thanks be to God for Leon’s partnership in a multitude of ministries through these years; for his creativity, sensitivity, warmth, support, leadership, guidance; and for his personal friendship. We give thanks for his life, rejoice in his faith, and mourn his passing.

Resilience, Human Kindness and Hope in Oklahoma

Posted on June 19, 2013 by Joseph Chu

When I visited areas decimated by the May tornadoes near Oklahoma City with the Lutheran Disaster Response team last week, I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the destruction, particularly in the city of Moore.

A familiar scene on the streets of Moore, OK.

A familiar scene on the streets of Moore, OK.

Tributes paid to tornaodes victims at the site of Plaza Towers Elementary School, one of the two elementary schools destroyed on May 20.

Tributes paid to tornaodes victims at Plaza Towers Elementary School, which was destroyed on May 20.

Yet destruction does not have the last word; stories of courage, resilience and signs of human kindness are everywhere.

St. John Lutheran Church is located in Shawnee, about 30 miles east of Oklahoma City. The destructive path of the tornadoes came through Shawnee on Sunday, May 19, killing two residents and destroying nearly 100 homes. Fortunately, neither the congregation nor its members were affected. But when we visited Pastor Karen Fowler-Lindemulder and some leaders of St. John, they spoke passionately about the losses and sufferings of their neighbors and how they were “forgotten” by the media because the destruction in Shawnee was relatively “smaller scale.” Immediately after the event, members of the congregation rose up and volunteered at a local congregation that has set up a disaster relief operation. Working alongside other community volunteers, they delivered relief supplies to numerous survivors and were often amazed by their sense of self-reliance and resilience. 

Located just a few miles from the EF5 tornado’s path, Trinity Lutheran Church of Oklahoma City escaped damage but five member families lost their homes. Another seven families with close ties to the church also had severe damage to their homes. But when we visited with Pastor Roger Bruns, he did not dwell on the losses but spoke of the faith and courage of the survivors. One of the survivors was a teacher at Briarwood Elementary schools, which was destroyed by the twisters. She was injured while trying to protect her students, was taken by ambulance to the hospital, treated and released. She and her young children with special needs are now staying in temporary housing. Another member whose house was demolished by the storms managed to stay on top of her young children to protect them when the storm passed. These two families are now sharing the same temporary housing. 

Pastor Michael Stadie (left) Program Director of Lutheran Disaster Response, Pastor Roger Bruns of Trinity Lutheran Church at the table that serves meals to volunteers who come to Oklahoma City to help with clean up.

Pastor Michael Stadie (left) Program Director of Lutheran Disaster Response and Pastor Roger Bruns of Trinity Lutheran Church at table that serves meals to volunteers.

While Trinity Lutheran Church is not a large congregation, its members have a deep sense of service to the changing communities around them and have strong partnership with other congregations and community organizations in the area. Immediately after the May 20 event, the congregation partnered with the adjacent May Ave Wesleyan Church and other small not-for-profit organizations to provide assistance and relief to those whose lives have been turned upside down. In addition, they are actively working together to host volunteers pouring into the area to help with the clean up. We are grateful for the ministries of these congregations. 

Between June 24 and June 28, Camp Noah will conduct a summer camp for children impacted at University Lutheran Church in Norman. On June 28, Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson will visit people and congregations in the Oklahoma City areas affected by the tornadoes.

Lutheran Disaster Response, working closely with the Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod and the Lutheran Social Services of the South are actively assessing needs in the areas.  In collaboration with our partners and government agencies, we will determine the best ways to help those impacted over the long haul.  But we are already in action.  Please continue to keep those impacted by the storms  in your prayers and join us in sharing God’s hope and renewal.

For more information about Lutheran Disaster Response, please look to our webpage: www.elca.org/disaster

To donate, please click: https://community.elca.org/page.aspx?pid=840

Colorado Wild Fires – June 2013

Posted on June 17, 2013 by Joseph Chu

People in Colorado, particularly those affected by the 2012 wildfires that devastated many communities in the state, are again traumatized by major wildfires. The Black Forest Fire and the Royal Gorge Fire have already destroyed more than 480 structures, forcing thousands to evacuate and sadly, causing fatalities.

For members of Christ the King Lutheran Church, in Colorado Springs, the Waldo Canyon Fire of 2012 and the Black Forest Fire of 2013 is personal. During last year’s fire, the areas around the church were under mandatory evacuation. The fire came very close to the church but left it unscathed. Unfortunately, members lost their homes to the fire. Thankfully, this year, the threat of fire is not imminent but members, like the rest of the Colorado Springs community, are feeling traumatized. When visiting with Pastor Julie Bristch of Christ the King about the fire, she used words like stunned, anxious and a deep sense of loss to describe the mood of the community. “There is a lot of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder around as the same communities are being traumatized two years in a row,” said Pastor Julie. 

On Thursday, June 13, Pastor Julie hosted a special evening prayer service at Christ the King Lutheran Church that was open to the community. During the gathering, participants shared heart-wrenching stories of individuals and families who are deeply impacted. Some of them have left their communities devastated by the 2012 fires and moved to a new area to build their lives; and now they are traumatized again in their new homes. Some church members have family ties with firefighters who have lost their homes as they are giving of themselves to save lives, which only increases the sadness and the stress of the situation.

Yet in the midst of the trauma and chaos, hope and grace abound! Pastor Julie reported she is moved by the selflessness and love in the community through last year’s fires, during the recovery after the fire and now during the current crisis.  An interfaith group made up of 21 houses of worship has risen up to respond to the fires and to assist survivors with their unmet needs.

Pastor Ron Roschke, the Synod Minister for Shared Ministries of the Rocky Mountain Synod, attended the prayer service on behalf of the Synod. He spoke movingly of the experience of the prayer service and highlighted the deep connectedness between individuals and communities in times of crisis and recovery as a source of God’s grace. “In disasters people feel alone. But when we can find ways to let people know that they are not alone, people can find strengths to deal with their challenges,” said Pastor Ron.  

Lutheran Disaster Response, in collaboration with our local affiliate Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains, and the Rocky Mountain Synod, have been actively engaged in the responses to the 2012 Colorado fires. Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains has offices in areas affected by the fires and is providing disaster case management services to those impacted by the 2012 fires.  Together, we are well positioned to understand the scope of what need to be done. We are monitoring the situations closely and will conduct careful assessments after the fires have been put out. We will then determine our best course of action in cooperation with local authorities and partnering with ecumenical, faith-based and civic organizations. Through Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains, Lutheran Disaster Response will be there for the long haul of recovery.

Please keep in mind the Black Forest and Royal Gorge Fires are not the only wildfires threatening lives, there are others in Colorado and New Mexico as well; and new ones are starting every week since the area is very dry. Continue to pray for the evacuees and all who are in harm’s way, especially those who are trying to save lives and homes. May the Grace, Wisdom and Strength of God be with them!

Helpful information about how volunteer organizations work together in Colorado: https://covoad.communityos.org/cms/

Lutheran Disaster Response webpage: www.elca.org/disaster

Donation webpage: https://community.elca.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=358

Remember the Forgotten

Posted on May 30, 2013 by Joseph Chu

It has been more than a week since the multiple tornadoes hit Oklahoma and adjacent states. The destruction in the City of Moore is indeed heart wrenching. But the impacts of tornadoes on May 19 and 20 around Oklahoma City are much more widespread.  The website of the State of Oklahoma has very helpful maps and information about the tornadoes: http://www.ok.gov/okstrong/Impact_Maps/index.html.   

Let us not forget that just a few nights prior, on May 15, a series of tornadoes devastated Granbury, Texas, 30 miles southwest of Fort Worth. The powerful storms left six dead and nearly 120 homes destroyed. Some of these homes were built by Habitat for Humanity.

The nature of media cycle and perhaps the nature of human attention always make us focus on high profile disasters and their developments within a short period of time afterward. Very soon, the tornadoes in May will become distant memories in our collective memory. And yet, for the thousands of individuals and families in Oklahoma, Texas and other states impacted by the string of tornadoes in May, the recovery process has just begun.

In the last few months, I have the opportunity to visit the long term recovery work of Lutheran Disaster Response in various states for individuals and families impacted by events that are no longer on the nightly network news – the tornadoes in Alabama in 2011 and 2012, the flood in Duluth in 2012, Hurricanes Lee and Irene in 2011,….. The one thing I have heard from the impacted residents as well as workers who assist them is “We are forgotten!”

Let us continue to keep ALL who are working very hard to put their lives together after disasters in our prayers. May God’s strengths, comfort and hope be with them through the many peaks and valleys in their recovery process.  Let us work hard together so that they will not be forgotten!

To see a listing of the places where Lutheran Disaster Response is actively responding to a disaster, please check out our website where you will see where we still have volunteer opportunities.

Lutheran Disaster Response webpage: www.elca.org/disaster and click on the volunteer button.

Donation Webpage: https://community.elca.org/page.aspx?pid=840