Today marks my last day working as the Program Interpreter for Lutheran Disaster Response. Over the past 2+ years I have had the great honor of helping share with you all our work responding to disasters in the United States and internationally. Searching to find the words to describe how disasters have affected those impacted and how the church is playing a role in there recovery has been at times difficult as I realized behind each word I write is a community, a family, an individual whose world has been torn apart.

Yet, the humbling gift of being present in those moments where the hope which cannot be contained shines through the actions of neighbor helping neighbor, whether next door or across the globe, is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. To witness as the church continues to be church in times of disaster, declaring “Here we stand. Our building and homes may be flooded, destroyed by earthquake, wind or rain, but we are not defined by this building. We are the body of Christ and whether we are at the cross or the tomb we lean on Christ and find comfort and the ability to comfort.”

As I think of this, two memories come to mind. First, are the words of Pastor Livenson, president of the Lutheran Church of Haiti: “We will not be defined by rubble but by restoration, for we are a people of the resurrection.” And the second is the worship of Peace Lutheran Church in Joplin, MO held in their parking lot the Sunday after a tornado destroyed their building. These bold words and actions, quietly spoken and solemnly engaged, stand for me as some of the truest examples of what defines church.

For these memories and the countless others that stand behind them, I am grateful. May God continue to bless this amazing ministry and the cloud of witnesses who find in this work the call God has put on their lives. Through your actions the love of Christ and the work of the kingdom have been made known. To this I add my most heartfelt Amen.

– Matthew Ley