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.

Haiti: Gressier Village Dedication

Posted on February 18, 2013 by Matthew Ley
Stone garden at Gressier Model Village.

Stone garden at Gressier Model Village.

This past Friday, February 14, the Gressier Model Village in Haiti was dedicated. This idea, implementation and finally realization of this model village has been a major part of the ELCA’s long-standing commitment to walk with our companions in Haiti, the Lutheran Church in Haiti (ELH), in their response to the devastating earthquake which struck the country in January 2010.

This model village is located in Gressier, southwest of the country’s capital Port-au-Prince. This area was heavily damaged after the earthquake and many people lost whatever home they had at that time. The village is an opportunity to not only rebuild the homes of those left most vulnerable after the earthquake but to also build up their community. The eventual 150 families living here will have eco-friendly homes, using things like rainwater catchment systems and solar panels to lessen their impact on and financial strain from services. They will also have a community space in which to gather and to share their voice, as each member has a say in the running of the village.

This example of what can be born from destruction, is an beautiful glimpse of Easter in this season of Lent. And of a church always being made new, never defined by the rubble but by the resurrection.

To hear one resident’s story, read this great feature from the Lutheran World Federation: A New Home She Never Dared to Hope for in Haiti

New Resource: Hurricane Sandy Situation Report #3

Posted on January 15, 2013 by Matthew Ley

A new situation report giving an update on the situation in the northeastern United States and Caribbean as well as the ELCA’s response is now available. Some of the highlights are the joint Lutheran World Federation-ELCA delegation which visited New York and New Jersey in late November/early December as well as the strong outpouring of support from ELCA members, with donations topping $2.4 million. Please help us spread the word of how the ELCA is engaged in the response and what people can do to help.

Here is a link for your convenience: Hurricane Sandy Situation Report #3 (January 11, 2013)

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

Haiti: Three Years Later

Posted on January 12, 2013 by Matthew Ley

Today marks three years since the massive earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010. Anniversary moments like this can strike us in a number of ways, as we are called to remember and reflect back. For some this moment calls to mind the tragedy of the event: the 220,000 left dead, the over 300,000 injured and the 1.5 million people left homeless. One can also recall the struggling infrastructure of an impoverished country brought to a standstill or an international community scrambling to respond. Adding to the tragedy, one can also recall the number of subsequent disasters that have stuck the country, from Hurricane Tomas (November 2010) to Tropical Storm Isaac (August 2012) to Hurricane Sandy (October 2012).

When one looks back in this way it a can all seem a little overwhelming and something better forgotten or ignored. Disasters have a way of doing that. They can tax us as they not only bring their own set of problems to the communities they affect, but also have a way of heightening problems that existed beforehand. This is particularly true of those communities and locales which exist in a state of poverty. And so the double tragedy of disaster: those who least can afford the costs of a disaster are the ones most affected by it.

It is a depressing and devastating place to be. And it is here, in these moments of despair and tragedy, that the church is most relevant to the response. For the church can name and acknowledge the reality of these situations while continuing to claim that they are not the final word. That, like many moments in our lives, in the midst of these tragedies God is still present weeping with us at the pain of the events and also calling us to new life in the midst of them.

As we look back on the past three years in Haiti this call to new life urges us to also look forward, formed but not defined by these events. In Haiti this can be seen in the outpouring of support from around the world to come to the aid of our brothers and sisters in need (the ELCA alone saw an outpouring of gifts topping $13 million). It can also been seen in the thoughtful and intentional focus on projects funded by the ELCA that build on assets already available in the community, helping them invest in their own future.

Here are some of these opportunities. A poultry project started by Lutheran Church of Haiti that has brought stability to prices and therefore hope to those in the program. There is the vocational training center where local Haitians are partnering with companions from the U.S. to learn trades that can be used within their local communities. There is the model village in Gressier, which will provide sustainable (financially and environmentally) housing for 200 families structured with community input and control. There is also the cholera work of The Lutheran World Federation and Lutheran Church in Haiti, working to inform and protect local communities from disease unknown to the region before the earthquake.

It is also the presence of a young Lutheran church in Haiti finding its voice as it brings God’s words of hope and healing to God’s communities in need. This is summed up beautifully in the powerful words of the Lutheran Church of Haiti’s president the Rev. Joseph Livenson Lauvanus: “We Haitians will not be defined by the rubble, but by restoration, for we are a people of the resurrection.”

As we take this moment to remember, may we all be led to heed and celebrate the message of hope borne in these words.

Please take a moment of silence and/or prayer at 4:34 p.m. local Haiti time (EST), exactly three years after the earthquake struck.

Hurricane Sandy: The Pro-Active Disaster Response

Posted on December 14, 2012 by Matthew Ley

When disasters strike it is not usually with much forewarning. Even when there is it is measured in days or hours. Yet, when disasters happen some of the most crucial work occurs in the immediate days and weeks. Also, how a response effort is begun can have major and sometimes unforeseen consequences down the road. All of this is to say that part of the difficulty in disaster response work is coordination of staff and resources in a timely manner.

Beginning in 2012 that ELCA has been working through our membership in the Lutheran World Federation to help address this issue. This is being accomplished through the establishment of three Emergency Response hubs in areas of the world prone to disaster. One of these is located in San Salvador, El Salvador and was called into action following Hurricane Sandy. Four members of the Emergency Response hub were able, in part through the gifts to ELCA Disaster Response, to travel to Cuba to help them coordinate their disaster response efforts by assisting with staffing, damage assessment and next steps.

In the long run, this work will probably not be noticed. Yet, these seemingly small and quiet actions will have a positive and lasting affect on the response in Cuba. And they will continue to be a hallmark of how our church understands its role, as we work to promote disaster preparedness and mitigation, usually behind the scenes helping where the need is, whether or not its highlighted by a media spotlight.

I thought as we prepare to remember another one of those quiet, in the background, actions that had a major impact, it would be good to highlight this great aspect of our work. May God bless us all during this Advent season and call us to remember those actions and people who dwell in the background, that they too are blessed.

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

New Resource: Hurricane Sandy Situation Report #2

Posted on November 9, 2012 by Matthew Ley

A new situation report giving an update on the situation in the northeaster United States and Caribbean as well as the ELCA’s response is now available. Please help us spread the word of how the ELCA is engaged in the response and what people can do to help.

Here is a link for your convenience: Hurricane Sandy Situation Report #2 (November 9, 2012)

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

Guatemala: 7.5-Magnitude Earthquake Hits Country

Posted on November 7, 2012 by Matthew Ley

This morning a 7.5-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Guatemala killing at least 15 people and was felt as far away as Mexico City. As details continue to pour in please keep the people of Guatemala and our companion, the Augustinian Lutheran Church of Guatemala (ILAG), in prayer. Below is an update from ILAG on the situation.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This morning we had an earthquake off the coast of Guatemala that registered 7.5 on the Richter scale. It was felt throughout Guatemala with the exception of the Peten. We are on an institutional red alert throughout the country in case of aftershocks. The department of San Marcos suffered damage to roads and buildings. Quiche reported power outages– ILA Milagro de Dios, Las Rosas is in that region. Cell phones are not reliable at the moment. We talked to Jorge Mario Aba who is currently in Coban receiving HIV AIDS training with Pastor Karen Castillo and Irving Poou; they felt the earthquake but are well. The Lutheran Center did not suffer any damage and all staff are accounted for.

Thank you for your prayers. We will keep you updated if there is further activity.

In Christ,
Amanda Olson de Castillo

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

New Resource: Updated Hurricane Sandy Bulletin Insert

Posted on November 7, 2012 by Matthew Ley

There is a new bulletin insert on the ELCA Disaster Response website sharing about our work and need following Hurricane Sandy. Please share it with your congregations.

Hurricane Sandy Bulletin Insert

Hurricane Sandy: Situation Report #1

Posted on November 2, 2012 by Matthew Ley

A new situation report highlighting the ELCA’s response to Hurricane Sandy in the Caribbean and northeastern US is now available. Please help us share this update with your congregations and communities.

Hurricane Sandy Situation Report #1 (pdf)

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

Hurricane Sandy: Mark on the Caribbean

Posted on October 29, 2012 by meganbradfield

Greetings to All!

Last week the world was just hearing about Hurricane Sandy.  I was in Haiti visiting our companions and discussing work still underway from other large disasters from recent years. The rain was pouring from the time I touched down in the country early Tuesday until I left late Thursday.  Haiti typically gets stints of rain that last a few hours, but a few days?  In the context, a little bit of rain can go far and a lot of rain can destroy people’s livelihoods, health and well-being. 

FNGA, partner of the Lutheran World Federation, mobilizing their emergency team.

Upon my departure from Haiti, I began to hear stories of towns under water and people missing.  Now, four days after the storm has passed Haiti more accurate information on Sandy’s destruction is known.  Haiti has reported over 50 people dead and many more missing.  For Cuba that was more directly hit by the storm, Sandy is the second deadliest storm to hit the island nation in fifty years killing 11 people.  Elsewhere, Jamaica has confirmed one person dead and the Bahamas two. 

The ELCA has been gifted with relationships and networks of actors all around the world that can pull together in times of need.  As we work with our companions to respond to the needs of under-served families devastated by Hurricane Sandy in the Caribbean, we are also in thought of our communities in the US that are bracing for the impact of the storm. 

I encourage you to find time in your day to give thought in prayer to those who have already experienced loss and for those that will in the days to come.  Please also participate in the response either through your giving of time, prayer or resources.  Tomorrow we will be issuing an appeal with ways to give and more information about the response of your church, the ELCA.

Peace,

Megan Bradfield, Director for International Disaster Response

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

El Salvador: “Without Retaining Dikes, There is No Food”

Posted on September 17, 2012 by Matthew Ley

The title of this post comes from an advocacy piece written by ELCA Missionary Stephen Deal entitled “Sin borda…no hay comida”. The phrase has become the rallying cry of communities who live along a 10 kilometer stretch of the Paz River in the southwest corner of El Salvador. These communities, including many Lutherans, have been affected by annual flooding, like that of last October where 10 days of torential rains led to heavy throughout Central America and especially along the Paz River.

Much of this flooding occurs due to the lack of a system of retaining dikes at key points along the Paz River – which serves as the border between El Salvador and Guatemala. The consequences are predictable and often tragic: destruction of crops, homes, roads, bridges, farm animals and even the loss of human life. To help lift up this issue the communties formed the Inter-Community Association for the Development of Southern Ahuachapan (ADICO) which has been adovacting Salvadorian authorities for these dikes since the massive flooding of Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Yet for the most part these pleas have fallen on deaf ears and efforts have fallen off.

After last years major flooding event the communities decided to redouble efforts with ADICO and have been blessed with positive results. The authorities were beginning to listen and actions were starting to take shape, like a dredging project to help mitigate some flooding. A great victory and step forward this action offers a short-term fix to a longer-term problem.

“We are tired of being treated as victims; tired of being the recipients of charity . . . we want to be listened to.” – Inter-Community Association for the Development of Southern Ahuachapan (ADICO) representative in El Salvador

The communities are continuing to advocate for a dike system or another alternative to bring a permanent, sustainable solution to the problem of flooding. The ELCA is helping in this important work of disaster risk reduction and preparedness, through generous gifts to our Disaster Response fund and continued relationships of support with our local companions as they work to fulfill the quote above, to move from victims and recipients to empowered citizens engaged in their own solutions.

I think Stephen sums it up best in the closing words of his article: “Thanks be to God for the dedication of ADICO and Lutheran church leaders as they work to bring a measure of peace and stability to the lives and livelihoods of everyone living in this part of El Salvador. Thanks be to God also for the opportunities we have to accompany them through our prayers, visits & offerings!”

Read Stephen’s Update No Borda…No Hay Comida

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