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.

China: Church Responds After Sichuan Earthquake

Posted on April 29, 2013 by Matthew Ley

Members of local church responding to Sichuan Earthquake. Credit: CCC

Members of local church responding to Sichuan Earthquake. Credit: CCC

In the morning of April 20, local time, an earthquake of magnitude 7.0 hit central China, Sichuan Province. Along with its thousands of aftershocks, the earthquake has caused heavy damage in the affected areas. The death toll has risen above 200, with more than 11,800 people injured. There have been over 2,000 aftershocks, leading to continued damage to structures like homes.

The ELCA has been in communication with our partner in the region, the China Christian Council, and has committed $15,000 to the relief effort. The immediate response has involved the delivery of food, tents, quilts and medicine. Future plans are to organize the distribution of relief materials, medical services and psychological care.

One of those churches involved in the response is one of the ELCA’s companion in the region, Luzhou Church. This church has built up a response team through past ELCA assistance and was able to send immediate response teams of pastoral staff, hospital personnel and teams with rescue dogs. This is a great example of why we continue to engage in disaster preparedness and mitigation efforts with our companions around the globe. The ability to respond quickly, efficiently and fully can make the difference in how wide the damages of disaster affect a community.

Let us hold those affected and those responding on their behalf in prayer. May we also give thanks for the ability of churches like Luzhou Church to engage in disaster preparedness activities and their ability to quickly respond to the needs of their neighbors.

Gifts to ELCA Disaster Response allow the church to respond locally and globally in times of need. Donate now.

Japan: Two-Year Anniversary of Earthquake & Tsunami

Posted on March 11, 2013 by Matthew Ley

It was two years ago today that a 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck off the east coast of Japan and triggered a massive tsunami that left nearly 19,000 people dead or missing and displaced another 300,000. Since then the ELCA has been walking with companions like Japan Lutheran Emergency Relief (a joint ministry of four Lutheran churches in Japan formed after the disaster) and the Asian Rural Institute in their response.

In the past two years much work has been done, from immediate housing and feeding for affected individuals to debris removal and spiritual care for survivors and victims. With disasters of this scale the recovery will be one of many years, so as these individuals and communities continue to rebuild their new normal, let us today raise our prayers in solidarity and remembrance.

As we do so, one get a sense of the damage caused by the tsunami and the large amount of recovery work done is presented by The Telegraph newspaper in a series of photos of affected areas title Then and Now. In this small glimpse you can sense the gravity and immensity of the what people in the affected areas and those who have been working on their behalf have been dealing with. You can see the photos here:

Japan Earthquake and Tsunami: Photographs of Devastated Areas Then and Now

Gifts to ELCA Disaster Response allow the church to respond locally and globally in times of need. Donate now.

China: Earthquake in Yunnan and Guizhou Provinces

Posted on September 18, 2012 by Matthew Ley

Emergency goods provided as part of CCC response.

On September 7 a 5.7-magnitude earthquake shook southwest China affecting people mainly in the Yunnan and Guizhou provinces. The quake was followed by numerous aftershocks, which mixed with heavy rains led to mudslides and landslides along the mountain slopes. 81 people have been reported dead with nearly 750,000 people affected. Within the Christian community 29 churches were damaged, three of which completely collapsed.

The ELCA’s companion, China Christian Council, has been responding in the area. Immediately after the quakes they were in communication with the churches on the ground, collecting reports of damage and potential need, as well as passing on prayers of sympathy and solidarity. The response has involved visits to affected households, particularly those who lost loved ones, and emergency food aid of rice, oil and water to 465 households (2,323 individuals). The ELCA has committed $25,000 to help with this response.

As the response continues, please keep the people of the Yunnan and Guizhou provinces in prayer. May God grant them peace of mind and the resources they need to engage in their recovery. Also, pray that those who respond within affected communities may have wisdom, patience and strength in the midst.

Gifts to ELCA Disaster Response allow the church to respond locally and globally in times of need. Donate now.

Japan: ARI Continues to Meet Needs of the Neighbor

Posted on July 10, 2012 by Matthew Ley

The Asian Rural Institute, located in Tochigi, Japan, has been dedicated to training grassroots rural leaders from Asia, Africa and the Pacific since 1973. In this way they have been living out their calling as global neighbor. Yet, since the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan in March 2011 they have also worked to make a concerted effort to be this same type of neighbor at home. The ELCA, through our Disaster Response program, has been working with them in this process, particularly helping to rebuild some of their damaged buildings so that they can continue to be a good neighbor. I thought it would be good to give a quick update on how ARI has been responding.

New buildings that will help facilitate the work of ARI are hoped to be done in August. There will be new community space and classrooms in the new Koinonia (Greek word used to denote intimate community) House. The ARI shop has found a new space to help promote the products produced by the school. There is also a new Administration Annex to proived reception space for visitors, printing, meeting space and a computer lab. This space is made available in part through gifts to ELCA Disaster Response.

Is My Food/Soil/Water Radioactive
One of the affects of the devastating earthquake and tsunami was damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Since that time there has been a fear around radioactive contamination. The question of whether food, soil or water is safe is simple to answer, providing you have a $40,000 Gamma Spectrometer to read the level of radioactivity. Recognizing that this type of equipment is not sitting in everyone’s living room ARI has made their Gamma Spectrometer and training on how to use it freely available to people who want to test their soil, food and water. These people range from local residents testing their gardens, to farmers testing their soil for growing to a Christian school which tests its food each day. In this way they are helping their neighbors have a little more peace of mind in the midsts of a frightening situation.

I’ll Take My Oil Green
Another affect of the radiation leak at the Fukushima plant was Cesium contamination of soil, including at ARI. To address this situation in a sustainable way, ARI is growing soy beans. They are working with local farmers to do the same. The reason for this is that soy bean plants actually take Cesium out of the soil, storing it in their stalks, and leaving the oil void of radiation. So they are growing a crop that can be sold while addressing the problem of contaminated soil. Also, in a sign of knowing their community they are using soy beans, even though other plants like sunflowers have a higher absorption rate of Cesium. This is because the local farmers have a equipment and experience for growing soy beans but not for sunflowers. So they are meeting the needs of the neighbor by first knowning what these needs are and what resources the neighbor has.

Go With What You Know
With these new projects they are still keeping up their work training grassroots leaders around the wider region. They had 27 graduates in the class of 2012 from as far away as Brazil. We give thanks for this great ministry of being neighbor, whether that be across the street or around the globe.

Gifts to ELCA Disaster Response allow the church to respond at home and globally in times of need. Donate now.

Indonesia: Finalized Update on 11 April 2012 Earthquake

Posted on April 12, 2012 by Matthew Ley

Sherry Panggabean has put together a finalized report on the earthquake and subsequent aftershocks that struck off the west coast of Sumatra yesterday. It has a good map showing where the quakes happened and is a much appreciated update on how those in the region were affected.

Read the report: Final Report Earthquake 11 April 2012

Indonesia: Tsunami Scare Highlights Disaster Preparedness

Posted on April 11, 2012 by Matthew Ley

A powerful earthquake, registering at 8.7 on the Richter Scale, hit Indonesia around 4pm local time (4am CST). It was located off the west coast of Simeulue Island in Aceh Province (150 km off Western coast of Aceh and about 140 km Northwest of Nias Island) and was felt as far away as India. The earthquake was followed by three powerful aftershocks and a tsunami warning issued immediately after the initial quake.

Initial worries were heightened since this same area was struck by a major earthquake and tsunami in December 2004, which led to over 170,000 deaths and major damage to the coastal regions. Thankfully, the earthquake did not trigger a major tsunami and according to Sherry Panggabean with the Center for Disaster Risk Management and Community Development Studies, which is funded by the ELCA, the warning was called off at 8pm local time.

Sherry also reported that their staff in other regions of Indonesia had reported back that there were no major injuries or structural damage. The ELCA Global Mission Director for Asia – Pacific Continental Desk Franklin Ishida has been in contact with our one missionary in the region, Megan Ross, and has shared that she is unaffected.

With the threat of a major disaster passed, this event has given us time to pause and marvel at disaster preparedness work in action. Working with other Lutheran World Federation partners the ELCA supports the Center for Disaster Risk Management and Community Development Studies (CDRM&CDS) which has as part of its mission “to facilitate community disaster management and risk preparedness”. This involves activities like people immediate evacuating to the streets following an earthquake, getting to higher ground when hearing of the warning of a possible tsunami and the offices of CDRM&CDS checking in with each other to be communication centers for their communities.

And this is exactly what happened. The community knew what to do and did it. Through disaster risk reduction and preparedness, fears were mitigated by a solid plan of action, confusion was not given sway because of proper communication channels and at the end of the day lives that may have been in danger were kept safe. A huge prayer of thanksgiving to the staff of CDRM&CDS for their work and ministry.

Indonesia: Update on Possible Political Unrest

Posted on March 30, 2012 by Matthew Ley

The following update is from Sherry Panggabean of the Center for Disaster Risk Management and Community Development Studies (CDRM&CDS), located in Medan, Indonesia. This program is sponsored by the Lutheran World Federation. In particular I would lift up her request for prayers on behalf of the people of Indonesia during this time of political turmoil. For possible petitions see the ELCA Worship prayer resource Violence. (pdf)

Dear all,

The Government of Indonesia plans to raise fuel prices by around 30 percent to keep the state budget healthy, as soaring global oil prices have strained the state coffers’ ability to pay for subsidies aimed at keeping fuel prices below the market price. The plan that is slated to come into effect on April 1 had caused protests across the nation this week, starting from Monday 26.3.2012.

Pakistan: Video of CWS Response

Posted on March 15, 2012 by Matthew Ley

The following video shows the affects of the July-August 2011 flooding in the Sindh province of Pakistan and Church World Service’s (CWS-PA) response. The ELCA, through its Disaster Response program, helped fund this response. It’s a good video describing how this work changes lives and how relief transitions into development.


Japan: One-Year Anniversary Litany

Posted on March 8, 2012 by Matthew Ley

The following litany was translated and shared by Rev. Franklin Ishida, Director for Asia – Pacific Continental Desk. They come from the National Council of Churches in Japan in commemoration of the One Year Anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011.

Prayers for the first year remembrance of the East Japan Great Disaster
L: Let us pray to God the Father, who accompanies us in our sorrows.
O God, hear our voices. These are the voices of those who met their tragic deaths.
C: Lord, hear our prayers

L: O God, hear our voices. These are the voices of those who grieve the loss of loved ones
C: Lord, hear our prayers

L: O God, hear our voices. These are the voices of those who have had to leave their homes, threatened by radiation.
C: Lord, hear our prayers

L: O God, hear our voices. These are the voices of those who are giving their hearts out to embrace survivors in their every need.
C: Lord, hear our prayer

L: Gracious Father, look upon us who cry out to you in pain and sadness. Help us to trust in your mercy from the depth of our hearts. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, we pray.
C: Amen

National Council of Churches of Japan
Catholic Central Council