Greetings! This is my first opportunity to write to you as the new Director of Lutheran Disaster Response! I started on June 4 and have been busy getting oriented to the position. I consider it a privilege and an honor to serve in this capacity.
Before I go any further, I want to be sure to thank Ruth Reko for her great job of serving as the Interim Director. Since her first day, which coincided with a tornado in Alabama, she has hit the ground running. Her wealth of knowledge regarding the history of disaster response and the work of the implementing affiliates in Lutheran social ministry organizations have helped give direction to this work and are a gift for which we will be forever grateful. May the Lord bless her as she moves back into active “retirement”!
I can relate a bit to Ruth’s experience since when I was employed at Lutheran Services in Iowa (LSI) on May 24, 2004, I received a letter from Gil Furst with the news that I was named as the LDR Coordinator for Iowa. Later that afternoon, a tornado struck Bradgate, Iowa and then the next evening a flood struck Elkport and Garber, Iowa. So I was forced to learn what it means to be an LDR Coordinator and how to respond to a disaster fairly quickly. Throughout my time at LSI, I worked with over 20 communities experiencing disasters. In 2008, severe flooding impacted a large portion of Iowa. In our response, LSI provided disaster case management for 13 counties whereI served as the program manager. At the peak of the response, we had 20 people employed in disaster case management. I left the agency in December of 2010. Since that time I have served as an interim pastor in Clinton and Dubuque, Iowa.
Thankfully, my first few days in the office has not brought any new disasters. But I am keenly aware of all of the ongoing response and recovery work that is going on around the county. Thank you to all who have helped implement this work in their local communities and those who have traveled near and far to volunteer time and talents! It continues to hold true that where Lutherans respond to disaster there is Lutheran Disaster Response.
I believe my perspective as a former state coordinator will help me in this work, but I am also aware that many of you have a great deal of experience working with disasters as well. So as I begin my role here, I invite you to contact me with your thoughts and ideas as to how we can build on what LDR has been doing. And may the Spirit continue to lead as we engage in God’s work with our hands.