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Situation Report: Hawai’i Wildfires

Situation:

A row of domed tents with box of supplies inside.

Supplies at the Kelawea Community Partnership Hub in Lahaina.

On Aug. 8, multiple wildfires broke out on Maui. Exacerbated by strong winds, they destroyed homes, businesses, and lines of communication. The town of Lahaina was the most impacted, although there was also damage from smaller fires near Kihei and Kula.

Response:

Lutheran Disaster Response is providing support to Kihei Lutheran Church, which is working with the Kelawea Community Partnership Hub. The hub collects and distributes items including drinks, food, clothing, baby formula and diapers for families impacted by the wildfires.

 

Be part of the response:

Pray
Please pray for those impacted by the wildfires in Maui. May God’s healing presence give them peace and hope in their time of need.

Give
Thanks to generous donations, Lutheran Disaster Response is able to respond quickly and effectively to disasters around the globe. Your gifts to Lutheran Disaster Response will be used to assist survivors of wildfires.

To learn more about the situation and the ELCA’s response:

  • Sign up to receive Lutheran Disaster Response alerts.
  • Check the Lutheran Disaster Response blog.
  • Like Lutheran Disaster Response on Facebook and follow @ELCA_LDR on Instagram.
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Reflections from the 2023 National VOAD Conference

A group of 10 people posing together in a ballroom.

LDR staff with members of the LDR national network.

At the beginning of May, five Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) staff members attended the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) conference in St. Louis, Missouri.  

NVOAD is a coalition of community-based, faith-based and nonprofit disaster response organizations throughout the United States. Its purpose is to serve as a forum in which organizations can coordinate responses. In addition to the more than 70 national member organizations (including LDR), there are also VOADs at the state and local levels. 

The NVOAD conference is an opportunity to network with other disaster organizations and attend various workshops, plenaries and vendor exhibitions. Pastor Matthew Zemanick, Program Director for LDR Initiatives,  was one of the presenters for a session entitled “The Power of Place, Historical Trauma, and the Lifting up of Cultural Humility in Disaster Response.” 

 

Reflections from LDR staff:

“This was my first time attending the National VOAD Conference, which had a record-breaking year with over 800 participants! It was amazing to see and notice how passionate the member organizations are about their work in disaster and love what they do. It helped me personally to see a bigger picture of how diverse the groups were and how important it is to have existing relationships with NVOAD members in the blue-sky times. My favorite time was connection with our LDR Community of Practice Members over meals and meeting with some of the LDR partners in person for the first time. It was a meaningful experience in many ways from networking, to making connections, to building new relationships, and being part of important discussions.”  

-Zaya Gilmer, Program Manager, LDR-US 

 

“The NVOAD conference was a wonderful opportunity to connect with new and long-time members of the LDR network. It was great to see people in person, to build and strengthen relationships, and deepen the bonds between LDR, our colleagues, and the institutions that provide humanitarian relief around the world.” 

-Sean Coffman, Program Director, LDR Networks and Training 

 

“This was my first NVOAD conference and I continue to be grateful for the opportunity to have learned alongside the wide range of partners and organizations involved in responding to disasters. I’ve come to this work from parish ministry and community chaplaincy in an environmental justice community. As someone who grew up with a single mom who was a nurse, for me, one striking parallel between both the environmental justice movement and the VOAD movement is the amount of people with working-class backgrounds in leadership. Representation matters, especially when disasters disproportionately impact working-class and impoverished households. I am humbled and honored to be surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, which gives me tremendous hope in the ways the Spirit is guiding us.” 

-Pr. Matthew Zemanick, Program Director, LDR Initiatives 

 

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Situation Report: March tornadoes in the Southern U.S.

A damaged sign on the ground in front of a destroyed building.

Destruction in Amory, Mississippi.
Photo: Southeastern Synod Disaster Response

Situation:

From March 24-25, a powerful line of thunderstorms swept through the southern United States, spawning at least 20 tornadoes. Across multiple states, tornadoes and strong winds damaged buildings and knocked out electricity. The largest tornado was an EF-4 that traveled through Rolling Fork, Miss.

Response:

Lutheran Disaster Response is supporting the Southeastern Synod to address the immediate needs of disaster survivors in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia through local congregations and partner organizations. The synod is also providing emotional and spiritual care to both survivors and responders.

Be part of the response:

Pray
Please pray for the people throughout the United States impacted by severe storms. May God’s healing presence give them peace and hope in their time of need.

Give
Thanks to generous donations, Lutheran Disaster Response is able to respond quickly and effectively to disasters around the globe. Your gifts to Lutheran Disaster Response will be used to assist survivors of the tornadoes and other disasters in the U.S. and around the world.

To learn more about the situation and the ELCA’s response:

  • Sign up to receive Lutheran Disaster Response alerts.
  • Check the Lutheran Disaster Response blog.
  • Like Lutheran Disaster Response on Facebook, follow @ELCALDR on Twitter, and follow @ELCA_LDR on Instagram.
  • Download the situation report and share as a PDF.
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Advent, Disaster and Apocalypse

This past Sunday, across many Christian traditions, the season of Advent began. This season begins with apocalypse, revelation. Contrary to the popular and colloquial use of the term apocalypse, it does not mean “end of the world.”  Quite literally, apocalypse means revelation, pulling [the curtain] away. When a play begins there is an apocalypse – the curtain is drawn, and the show is revealed. When I was a child, every morning was apocalyptic; my mother would pull the covers off me, my day began exposed to the chilling reality of a new day.  

The entrance to a church sanctuary. There is debris across the floor and back pews. At the door threshold, a stone plaque in the ground reads "House of Prayer for All People."

The entrance to the sanctuary of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Fort Myers Beach, Fla. The plaque reads “House of Prayer for All People.”

Recently, I was honored to represent Lutheran Disaster Response alongside Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and Bishop Pedro Suarez of the FloridaBahamas Synod in bearing witness to the initial response and relief work in southwest Florida after Hurricane Ian. Many described the scene as apocalyptic – in both senses of the word. The power of creation manifest in a hurricane like Ian is awesome and horrifying. 

Disasters are apocalyptic. The fragility of human society and engineering is revealed in piles of rubble; the disparate impact disaster has on poor and working people, which are disproportionately communities of color. Mansions are left standing among the rubble of the homes of those who could not afford hurricane-resistant architectural upgrades. Those with strained finances fall further and further behind those with ample extra grain silos.  

Advent is also a season of hope. How can we hope in the midst of disaster, apocalypse? Jesus does not promise that his followers won’t be without suffering. In fact, throughout the Biblical witness, God is present in the midst of desolation and destruction. Even last Sunday, Jesus promised to be present during apocalypse, revelations of who we are as people, communities, and a society. The divine is not a source of the destruction, but the source of life which endures in its midst. Among the destruction in southwest Florida, one apocalypse of many, the Fountain of Life is alive and working through aid workers, emergency service providers, and neighbors offering mutual support; God’s voice echoes with those demanding justice; people from around the world are sharing their time and talents. Martin Luther is famed for teaching that humans are “simultaneously sinner and saint.” The apocalypse of disaster reveals both the shocking evil and persistent good. In this season of Advent, I invite you to join me in discerning the ways God is present in the midst of disaster, discerning what God is calling us to do, and participating in God’s saving, healing, feeding presence. 

 

 

Pastor Matthew Zemanick (he/they) is the Program Director for Lutheran Disaster Response Initiatives.

 

 

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Situation Report: Kentucky Disasters

Situation:A map of the United States with Kentucky highlighted in blue.

In December 2021, western Kentucky was hit by a series of deadly and destructive tornadoes, destroying over 1,300 homes. In July 2022, record-setting floods inundated communities in eastern Kentucky. The flooding caused heavy damage to homes and local infrastructure. Recovery in both areas will takes years.

A white house with a black door and a window with black shutters on each side of the door.

A rebuilt house in eastern Kentucky.

 

Response:

Since December, Lutheran Disaster Response has been working closely with the Indiana-Kentucky Synod in developing long-term recovery plans for each disaster. In each region, the synod is collaborating with local partners to repair and rebuild homes damaged by the tornadoes and flooding. The grants from Lutheran Disaster Response are being used for construction material and labor costs.

 

 

Be part of the response:

Pray
Please pray for people who have been affected by the tornadoes and flooding in Kentucky over the past year. May God’s healing presence give them peace and hope in their time of need.

Give
Thanks to generous donations, Lutheran Disaster Response is able to respond quickly and effectively to disasters around the globe. Your gifts to Lutheran Disaster Response will be used to assist survivors in Kentucky and around the world.

To learn more about the situation and the ELCA’s response:

  • Sign up to receive Lutheran Disaster Response alerts.
  • Check the Lutheran Disaster Response blog.
  • Like Lutheran Disaster Response on Facebook, follow @ELCALDR on Twitter, and follow @ELCA_LDR on Instagram.
  • Download the situation report and share as a PDF.
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