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Lutheran Disaster Response

“God’s work. Our hands.” Sunday Ideas

“God’s Work. Our Hands.” Sunday will be here before you know it! 2023 is the tenth year of GWOH Sunday, which is a day of service dedicated to community service. This year, it falls on September 10.


GWOH Sunday is a great opportunity to participate in disaster response and preparedness work with your congregation. Here are just a few ideas for activities:

  1. Assemble preparedness kits. Some things you may want to include are:
    1. Small flashlight
    2. First aid materials, like bandages
    3. Whistle
    4. Snacks
    5. Water bottles
    6. Hand sanitizer

More ideas for kits can be found at

You might need other things for different kinds of weather. For example, in a winter weather preparedness kit, include items like gloves, socks and hand warmers. Distribute the kits locally – in your congregation, community, local shelters, etc.

  1. Identify disasters that could impact your community. Flooding? Hurricanes? Wildfires? Figure out the biggest threats in your area and come up with a plan for both your congregations and for families that can be shared in your community. Look at what resources you can offer during and after a disaster.


  1. Volunteer (locally). If there has been a disaster of any kind in your community, find a local organization that is doing response work and actively seeking volunteers.


  1. Advocate. Ask your congregation to reach out to your local representatives and voice your support for these policies. ELCA Advocacy has two calls for action posted online:
    1. Simplify and Improve Disaster Response Policies – The Disaster Survivors Fairness Act of 2023 would make several major improvements to our public policies aimed at addressing natural disasters, including creating a simplified “universal application” for federal disaster assistance and enabling federal agencies to better coordinate with each other and authorizing FEMA to reimburse state-level disaster solutions, and require FEMA to report to Congress new post-disaster solutions for renters.
    2. Support Policy that Improves Disaster Relief and Prevention – The Reforming Disaster Recovery Act, would, among many changes, increase federal response transparency with community partners, raise commitments to long-term resiliency after reconstruction, and authorize the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) disaster relief program into formal law.


  1. Form partnerships. Many of these activities can be done in collaboration with other local organizations or emergency management. It’s essential to form these relationships before a disaster, so your congregation is prepared to mobilize if a disaster does strike.


  1. Give. As you do disaster response/preparedness activities, collect a special offering for Lutheran Disaster Response. Gifts to Lutheran Disaster Response help us respond to disasters quickly and efficiently.


If you do any of these activities, or others related to disaster response, resilience or preparedness, let us know! Send your stories and photos to

Disaster Response and Human Rights

Eleanor Roosevelt, Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights, holding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Photo: FDR Library

On December 10, 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), written to address the atrocities committed during World War II. Since then, the United Nations and other bodies have adopted additional documents on human rights. The International Bill of Human Rights includes the UDHR, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Every year, International Human Rights Day is observed on December 10. To celebrate, we  are reflecting on a few of the articles in the UDHR in the context of disaster response and recovery.


Article 1: All humans are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

Article 2: Everyone is entitled to the rights and freedoms in this document, regardless of gender, sex, race, etc.

When a disaster hits a community, everyone is impacted in some way, but all too often,  some populations, including people of color and people living in poverty, are disproportionately affected by disasters and don’t have the resources to recover in the same way as more privileged communities. But after disasters, every human deserves to be able to recover and live with dignity and security, no matter their situation or background.


Article 13: Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state; Everyone has the right to leave any country, including their own, and to return to their country.

Article 14: Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

Lutheran Disaster Response accompanies migrants and refugees around the world. Many are fleeing conflict, local violence, or economic hardships. Additionally, climate change is expected to be the biggest reason for migration this century. When people’s lives are disrupted by drought, constant flooding, hurricane after hurricane, some choose to move to a place less impacted by the intensifying disasters. People have the right to leave their home countries and seek safer lives, whatever the reason.

Alongside local partners, LDR supports refugees in Eastern Europe fleeing countries in the Middle East, Northern Africa and recently, Ukraine. LDR works with AMMPARO to accompany migrants from South and Central America that arrive in the United States.


Article 25: Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of [themself] and [their] family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond [their] control.

Disasters, whether natural or human-caused, affect the standard of living and quality of life for people impacted. Survivors can lose their home, belongings, jobs and may sustain injury due to disasters. LDR and our partners work to ensure that disaster survivors have the rights of Article 25 upheld. Our partners distribute food, clothing, hygiene supplies and items to ensure an adequate standard of living for disaster survivors. They also provide temporary shelter and repair and rebuild homes. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when many people around their world lost their jobs, LDR and our partners provided for families affected by the economic impacts of the pandemic, so people were able to meet their families’ needs.

Effective disaster response upholds all the rights described in the UDHR and subsequent documents. Even when people’s lives are upended by natural or human-caused disasters, their human rights should not be at stake. That’s why the work of LDR and our local partners in the U.S. and around the world is so important – after a disaster, when our neighbors are living in uncertainty, we walk with impacted communities, responding to their needs and supporting recovery efforts while simultaneously celebrating their strength and resilience.


Get involved


  1. Visit the ELCA Advocacy Action Center to contact your congress members about vital issues impacting our communities, including government disaster response program reform and supporting refugees.
  2. By volunteering in local disaster response through your synod or regional social ministry organization, you can ensure that survivors’ right to adequate living is met.
  3. LDR is a trusted partner in disaster response. Your gifts to LDR help accompany our neighbors when their lives are upended by disaster. 100% of your gifts to a designated disaster go to disaster survivors.

Situation Report: Mass Shootings in the U.S.

Buffalo, NY


On May 14, a mass shooting occurred in a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, NY. 10 people were killed and three others were injured in the racially-motivated attack.


The Upstate New York Synod, with support from Lutheran Disaster Response, is partnering with VOICE Buffalo, an organization addressing peace, reconciliation, and trauma counseling. The synod will hire a coordinator to work on a new-start mission with VOICE Buffalo, called “Community of Good Neighbors.”

From the ELCA’s statement on the mass shooting: “Our hearts grieve for those who have been killed and our souls cry out against more lives lost to the hatred birthed by racism. As we mourn those lives lost as a result of the racially motivated killings in Buffalo, we ask God to ease the continued suffering and trauma of our Black siblings throughout the nation and in our church. We are one body in Christ, so when one part suffers, we all suffer.”

Uvalde, TX


On May 24, a mass shooting occurred at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX. 19 students and two adults lost their lives. This is the deadliest school shooting in the United States since Sandy Hook in 2012.


Lutheran Disaster Response is accompanying the Southwest Texas Synod, in which Uvalde is located. The synod can use the solidarity grant to provide emotional and spiritual care to the Uvalde community through ELCA chaplains and other clergy, offer financial support for funeral services and participate in prayer and healing activities.

From the ELCA’s statement on the school shooting: “We reaffirm our commitment in calling for greater gun safety, including preventing easy access to assault-style weapons and strengthening our federal system of background checks for all gun sales. As people of faith, we hold on to our belief in caring for our neighbors and striving for justice and peace in all the earth.”

Be a part of the response:


Please pray for people who have been affected by the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. May God’s healing presence give them peace and hope in their time of need.


These shootings call our attention, yet again, to the urgent need to pass legislation that would strengthen background checks for those purchasing deadly weapons in our nation. Action is possible, but our voices are needed now. Call your senator today at 202-224-3121, ask for your senator and urge them to pass bipartisan legislation to expand and require background checks for all gun purchases in our country.



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 (LDR-US) will be used to assist the impacted communities.

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.

5 Ways to Support Refugees and Migrants


At the end of 2019, there were 79.5 million displaced people around the world. That’s 1% of the world’s population.

The Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, where nearly 1 million Rohingya currently live. Photo: Y. Franklin Ishida

26 million of them are refugees, people who leave their countries of residence due to conflict or persecution. 45.7 million of them are internally displaced people, who, for the same reasons, move to other areas in the country. Refugees are protected under international laws. There’s also 272 million migrants worldwide. Migrants choose to cross borders for many reasons – searching for work or education, escaping hardships as a result of natural disasters, reuniting with family – and are protected under domestic laws, but not international law. Lutheran Disaster Response is dedicated to supporting displaced people – and so can you! Here are a few ways to support refugees and migrants in your daily life: 


1. Worship with refugee and migrant communities 

There are ELCA congregations around the country with ministries that support refugees and migrants from around the world. The ELCA is a sanctuary denomination, meaning that our faith calls us to walk alongside refugees and immigrants. Through the AMMPARO strategy and support of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, the ELCA shows its dedication to welcoming immigrants and refugees, regardless of country of origin.   

2. Help children gain perspective on refugees 

By talking about refugees with children, you are showing why it is important to be compassionate and treat others with dignity. Learning about refugees and immigrants from a young age can prepare children for when they interact with them throughout their lives. Try using this educational toolkit from the United Nations Refugee Agency or find age-appropriate books 

3. Support migrant and refugee-owned businesses 

Find refugee-owned businesses in your area and support them. If there aren’t any in your town, try online! If you own a business yourself, try to source from refugee or migrant artisans. This is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, when small businesses of any variety are struggling. 

Iraqi refugees crossing the Hungarian border. Photo: ACT Alliance/Fekete Dániel

4. Understand why this issue matters 

As people of God, we are called to love our neighbor and care for those in need. The ELCA social message on immigration says “The presence of newcomers in our church and society heightens our awareness of these realities and of the experience of new immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in the United States. This awareness makes us more appreciative of the gifts our new neighbors bring and of the barriers as well as the opportunities they encounter. 


5. Donate 

Lutheran Disaster Response supports refugees and host communities around the world. Donations to the South Sudan fund, the Middle East and Europe Refugee Crisis fund, and AMMPARO will be used in full to support our work with refugees and migrants to bring them hope and renewal in a tumultuous time.  



Adapted from “5 ways to support refugees during the coronavirus crisis from the UNHCR 


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

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

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

South Sudan: Reflection from the Field

Sarah Dreier is the Legislative Representative for International Policy, a position shared jointly between the ELCA Washington Office and the Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations. She reflects upon her recent trip to South Sudan and suggests how you can get involved.

Resilience amidst uncertainty: Lessons from South Sudan

“But what do you do to cope?” I asked my new friend, Anne, who coordinates Lutheran World Federation refugee programming in Kenya and lived in the Dadaab refugee camp for several years.

Anne looked up at me with a sparkle in her eye.

“In Dadaab, we dance. Every night, we dance.”

South Sudanese dancing and singing at an afternoon celebration in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. Credit: ELCA/Megan Bradfield

I saw this same resilience thriving across South Sudan, amidst the conflict, poverty, and desperate need for development – thriving over the daily trials. It was in the young woman, gracefully carrying gallons of water overhead as she strolled down Bor’s dusty, dirt road. I saw it in a local performance troupe, dancing and singing under Juba’s scorching afternoon sun. It was in Jonglei State’s tribal leaders as they returned once again to try to negotiate a peaceful resolution to their tribal conflicts that have taken so many lives this year. I felt from my fellow worshipers in the vibrant, packed Cathedral in Juba late Sunday morning and into Sunday afternoon. And I heard it in the powerful voice of South Sudan’s Minister of Labour as she commanded international aid agencies to hire more South Sudanese employees.

This is a resilience that the South Sudanese carry along with their looming memories of incomprehensible turmoil and their expectations for future uncertainty. I learned that one local development colleague who is working tirelessly to strengthen South Sudanese agricultural capacities while addressing the daily realities of malaria, poverty-based hunger, and conflict, had been kidnapped as a small boy to become a child soldier. Another young man had fled to a Ugandan refugee camp as a baby and returned to his country—on foot with his wife and two young children—only last year, when South Sudan became independent.

“How long did it take you to walk back?” I asked.

“Three or four days, only. But for you, it would take much longer,” he said with a grin.

Workers building an LWF emergency response compound outside Bor. Credit: ELCA/Megan Bradfield

It is hard for me to comprehend the daily challenges and insecurities the South Sudanese face. The tribes in Jonglei State just last week arrived at a delicate peace agreement to end violence, cattle raiding, and child abductions amongst them and have begun an equally precarious disarmament process focused (in part) on retrieving weapons from youth. South Sudan’s escalating war with Sudan (driven in large part by oil) has absorbed precious state resources away from development, forcing South Sudanese to live with unpaved dirt roads, insufficient education, bare-minimum health care services, and little capacity to farm their nutrient-rich land. Meanwhile, South Sudanese and other Christians living in the north face increased persecution and those living in the border regions live under the constant threat of random attack or starvation. But through it all, the South Sudanese remain resilient, wise, and capable.

Yet U.S. policies and rhetoric do not reflect the South Sudanese’ promising capacity to thrive and flourish—by growing their own food, for example—which is tragically thwarted by a severe lack of resources.

Americans should shift our narrative—and the United States government its development policies—in South Sudan, away from assumptions of despair, to reflect this Sudanese capacity for resilience.

Tell your Representative to join the 14 Republicans and 62 Democrats who support HR 4169, the Sudan Peace, Security, and Accountability Act of 2012, and to support the bill’s underlying commitment to sustainable peace and development by supplementing U.S. food assistance with robust funding to U.S. programs that invest in agricultural development and small-scale farming in South Sudan and around the world.

For more information check out the e-Advocacy Alert.