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Lutheran Disaster Response

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.



Situation Report: Hurricane Ian

Situation:Map of the United States with the state of Florida highlighted

On Sept. 27, Hurricane Ian made landfall in Cuba, causing severe flooding and an island-wide power outage. The next day, it hit Florida as a high-end Category 4 hurricane. A dangerous storm surge, coastal flooding and strong winds damaged buildings and infrastructure, making rescue efforts more difficult. In total, at least 137 people died, with 126 of those deaths in Florida.

St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church in Fort Myers, FL





Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) is coordinating a response with the Florida-Bahamas Synod. The synod is providing small relief grants to impacted families and will continue to offer relief as additional needs are identified. LDR is sending a group of pastors to impacted areas to offer respite and emotional and spiritual care. The synod and Lutheran Disaster Response are also developing a long-term rebuilding and recovery response. In Cuba, ACT Alliance is responding with the Rapid Relief Fund, which LDR contributed to at the beginning of the year.

Be part of the response:

Please pray for people who have been affected by Hurricane Ian. May God’s healing presence give them peace and hope in their time of need.

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 Hurricane Ian and other disasters 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.