Lutheran Disaster Response brings God’s hope, healing and renewal to those whose lives have been disrupted by disasters, in the United States and around the world. When the dust settles and the headlines change, we stay to provide ongoing assistance to those in need.
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Resilience, Human Kindness and Hope in OklahomaPosted on June 19, 2013 by Joseph Chu, Associate Director, Lutheran Disaster Response
When I visited areas decimated by the May tornadoes near Oklahoma City with the Lutheran Disaster Response team last week, I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the destruction, particularly in the city of Moore.
Yet destruction does not have the last word; stories of courage, resilience and signs of human kindness are everywhere.
St. John Lutheran Church is located in Shawnee, about 30 miles east of Oklahoma City. The destructive path of the tornadoes came through Shawnee on Sunday, May 19, killing two residents and destroying nearly 100 homes. Fortunately, neither the congregation nor its members were affected. But when we visited Pastor Karen Fowler-Lindemulder and some leaders of St. John, they spoke passionately about the losses and sufferings of their neighbors and how they were “forgotten” by the media because the destruction in Shawnee was relatively “smaller scale.” Immediately after the event, members of the congregation rose up and volunteered at a local congregation that has set up a disaster relief operation. Working alongside other community volunteers, they delivered relief supplies to numerous survivors and were often amazed by their sense of self-reliance and resilience.
READ MORE on the LDR blog.
Colorado Wild Fires — June 2013
People in Colorado, particularly those affected by the 2012 wildfires that devastated many communities in the state, are again traumatized by major wildfires. The Black Forest Fire and the Royal Gorge Fire have already destroyed more than 480 structures, forcing thousands to evacuate and sadly, causing fatalities.
For members of Christ the King Lutheran Church, in Colorado Springs, the Waldo Canyon Fire of 2012 and the Black Forest Fire of 2013 is personal. During last year’s fire, the areas around the church were under mandatory evacuation. The fire came very close to the church but left it unscathed. Unfortunately, members lost their homes to the fire. Thankfully, this year, the threat of fire is not imminent but members, like the rest of the Colorado Springs community, are feeling traumatized. When visiting with Pastor Julie Bristch of Christ the King about the fire, she used words like stunned, anxious and a deep sense of loss to describe the mood of the community. “There is a lot of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder around as the same communities are being traumatized two years in a row,” said Pastor Julie.
On Thursday, June 13, Pastor Julie hosted a special evening prayer service at Christ the King Lutheran Church that was open to the community. During the gathering, participants shared heart-wrenching stories of individuals and families who are deeply impacted. Some of them have left their communities devastated by the 2012 fires and moved to a new area to build their lives; and now they are traumatized again in their new homes. Some church members have family ties with firefighters who have lost their homes as they are giving of themselves to save lives, which only increases the sadness and the stress of the situation.
Yet in the midst of the trauma and chaos, hope and grace abound! Pastor Julie reported she is moved by the selflessness and love in the community through last year’s fires, during the recovery after the fire and now during the current crisis. An interfaith group made up of 21 houses of worship has risen up to respond to the fires and to assist survivors with their unmet needs.
Pastor Ron Roschke, the Synod Minister for Shared Ministries of the Rocky Mountain Synod, attended the prayer service on behalf of the Synod. He spoke movingly of the experience of the prayer service and highlighted the deep connectedness between individuals and communities in times of crisis and recovery as a source of God’s grace. “In disasters people feel alone. But when we can find ways to let people know that they are not alone, people can find strengths to deal with their challenges,” said Pastor Ron.
Lutheran Disaster Response, in collaboration with our local affiliate Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains, and the Rocky Mountain Synod, have been actively engaged in the responses to the 2012 Colorado fires. Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains has offices in areas affected by the fires and is providing disaster case management services to those impacted by the 2012 fires. Together, we are well positioned to understand the scope of what need to be done. We are monitoring the situations closely and will conduct careful assessments after the fires have been put out. We will then determine our best course of action in cooperation with local authorities and partnering with ecumenical, faith-based and civic organizations. Through Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains, Lutheran Disaster Response will be there for the long haul of recovery.
Please keep in mind the Black Forest and Royal Gorge Fires are not the only wildfires threatening lives, there are others in Colorado and New Mexico as well; and new ones are starting every week since the area is very dry. Continue to pray for the evacuees and all who are in harm’s way, especially those who are trying to save lives and homes. May the Grace, Wisdom and Strength of God be with them!
Helpful information about how volunteer organizations work together in Colorado: https://covoad.communityos.org/cms/
Lutheran Disaster Response webpage: www.elca.org/disaster
Donation webpage: https://community.elca.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=358
We pray that God’s Spirit of Peace, Comfort and Strength will be with all who are affected by the string of tornadoes that ravages many communities in Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Illinois and Iowa the past few days.
Here is the link to the new blog on Tornadoes in May. Thank You!
Update from Bishop Mike GirlinghouseMay 21, 2013
Late this morning, I was part of a teleconference with Oklahoma VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters) to discuss needs and the coordination of resources for the disasters in Carney, Little Axe, Shawnee, Newcastle and Moore. They affirmed several things that I put in my letter this morning in terms of our immediate response to the disaster.
1. Our best immediate response is to hold up everyone involved — both victims and first responders — in prayer.
2. Making monetary donations are best. To address immediate needs, please direct donations to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma or the Central and Western Oklahoma Region Red Cross. To address long-term needs, please send donations to the Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod Office. Online donations can be made through the Synod Website.
3. Individuals with specific training (i.e. licensed mental health professionals) should contact the Red Cross before heading to OKC.
Some things are not needed right now:
1. In-kind donations. The infrastructure for receiving, storing and distributing in-kind donations is not in place yet. Also, those who have lost their homes do not have anyplace to store in-kind support either. In-kind donations will be needed down the road. We’ll let you know what is needed and when.
2. Individual or group volunteers. Again, the infrastructure for coordinating work groups and individuals who want to help is simply not in place yet. At this stage, volunteers can actually get in the way and slow down the work of first responders and trained search and rescue personnel. You can start to plan for these groups and we will let you know when they are needed.
This recovery will take a long time. Groups and donations will be needed for some time to come. While we all want to help immediately, patience is required. Thank-you all for your care, your compassion and your concern for the people of Oklahoma.
Bishop Michael K. Girlinghouse
Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod, ELCA
Hurricane Sandy Situation Report #2
Posted: 09 Nov 2012 02:22 PM PST
A new situation report giving an update on the situation in the northeaster United States and Caribbean as well as the ELCA’s response is now available. Please help us spread the word of how the ELCA is engaged in the response and what people can do to help.
Here is a link for your convenience: Hurricane Sandy Situation Report #2 (November 9, 2012)
Hurricane Sandy to make landfall
Even as clean up is still underway in the Gulf Coast, megastorm Sandy is nearing the most populated corridor of the United States. Please remember to keep all along the Eastern seaboard in your prayers.
For congregational worship resources, please CLICK HERE.
The damage from this storm could cost billions of dollars for clean up and recovery. Please remember the best, first response you can make is a financial donation. Online donations may be made to various agencies. Following are current suggestions — others made be suggested as the situation becomes stable.
ELCA Disaster Response [Online & check donations]
Lutheran Disaster Response [Online & check donations]
Central States Synod Disaster Response [Check box for "Disasters - Other" and add "Sandy"]
Images from Operation Gulf Coast — October 6, 2012
Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod
|By: Scott Carroll||8/29/2012|
As you are aware, Hurricane Isaac is continuing to pound Louisiana and the Gulf Coast with heavy rains and damaging winds which made landfall early today. This slow-moving storm, classified as a Category 1 Hurricane with 80 mph winds, brings a greater chance for flooding the longer it hovers, and the flood-producing rains are likely to continue for days with prolonged periods of tornadoes.
Across the region, schools and government offices have closed, hospitals and nursing homes have been evacuated, and some entire towns have been told to leave for higher ground. Serious flooding and widespread power outages from downed power lines are occurring along the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts. Many Louisiana residents of the low-lying coast left boarded-up homes; others in and around New Orleans are hunkered down, trusting in a strengthened levee system that failed famously under Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the area seven years ago to the day.
Search and rescue teams have been mobilized and Louisiana officials have asked trained and authorized teams from Texas and six other states to be on standby. Lutheran Social Services Disaster Response (LSSDR) will play a key role in disaster response, as we have during Hurricanes Ike, Rita, and of course Katrina. Once again, LSSDR is committed to helping meet the immediate unmet needs as they become known, and to serving the affected communities working with our government agency and other faith-based partners over the “long haul,” however prolonged that turns out to be.
We have already received many calls and emails from individuals and churches asking, “How can I help?”
At this time, we ask our supporters to keep affected residents and responders in their prayers as we begin to learn the extent of the impact. I would also like to ask you to join me and LSS in preparing to help these survivors, with an online donation that will allow us to respond quickly to changing needs and reach out to those who will suffer loss and destruction. If you would like additional information about LSSDR’s disaster relief operations, please go to our website, www.lssdisasterresponse.org.
Field Report: Joplin, MO
Last week, I spent two days in Joplin, Missouri. Duane Moudy and Jim Eckrich from Lutheran Family and Children’s Services (LFCS) of Missouri were my hosts. While there are not many Lutherans in the Joplin area, Duane’s work in the community has raised the visibility of Lutheran Disaster Response a great deal; Duane is a key player in the Joplin Recovery efforts. Jim, a long time LDR Coordinator manages the Disaster Case Management Contract for LFCS. LFCS has subcontracted with several other agencies to provide these services.
Driving through the areas impacted by the May 2011 tornado, one can easily see Joplin is in full rebuilding mode. Many homes and businesses have been rebuilt; and there is a lot of construction work going on all over the impacted area. But interspersed among the completed homes are many empty lots and even whole blocks that have weeds growing up on them. Duane shared that most of these lots were rental homes where the landlord decided not to rebuild. MORE
Western Fires UpdateRocky Mountain Synod, ELCA — June 27, 2012
Our prayers continue
Prayers from throughout this Rocky Mountain Synod and from the wider church are united as our hearts are broken with the continuing news of devastating fires that burn in Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. We have received no additional specific information from those affected by the fires. However, the most recent reports are that 300 homes may have burned in Colorado Springs area alone, and hundreds more in the other fires.
God our comforter, you are a refuge and a strength for us, a helper close at hand in times of distress. Enable us so to hear the words of faith that our fear is dispelled, our loneliness eased, our anxiety calmed, and our hope reawakened. May your Holy Spirit lift us above our sorrow to the peace and light of your constant love; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen. (ELW Pastoral Care, page 360-361)
Sky Ranch Lutheran Camp remains evacuated; camp weeks at Highlands Presbyterian Camp
While many near the High Park fire have been allowed back in their homes, Sky Ranch Lutheran Camp remains in the evacuation zone. The hottest part of the fire is on the southwest corner, the area closest to camp about 7 miles from Sky Ranch. Authorities believe current fire lines should hold and protect Sky Ranch.
Camp Director Brad Abbott writes, “We are now in our third week of being evacuated and getting used to life on the road. We still have not been allowed to get back to Sky Ranch for personal items, equipment, or staff vehicles. I am amazed at the passion and servanthood shown by this year’s summer staff. They have literally left everything behind (at camp) to go and embody the Gospel wherever that might be.”
Read the full update from Brad Abbott including his invitation for donations, since the camp has incurred over $30,000 is unexpected expenses because of the fire.
Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains now coordinating disaster response
Today, Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains formally reinstated its Disaster Response program to address the needs of victims of wildfires currently burning in Rocky Mountain Synod states and are impacting hundreds of square miles. Hundreds of homes, structures, churches and businesses have been affected; and thousands of our neighbors, families, and friends are displaced.
The LFSRM staff are checking in with churches in the immediately impacted areas to ascertain the scope of the losses, needs and outreach already occurring in and through our partner churches and developing a needs and resource matrix that we can begin to address in the coming weeks, months and years, as we come alongside church and community victims with services that heal, strengthen and provide hope.
How you can help
Disaster Response ministries are funded by contributions to the Lutheran Disaster Response. No church-wide funds are budgeted to support disaster responses. The financial resources needed to give life to our Lutheran Disaster Response will require considerable support from individuals and congregations throughout the Rocky Mountain Synod and across the country. If you would like to make a financial contribution to help provide the spiritual, emotional, physical and financial support necessary for the long-term recovery of thousands of families, children and special needs populations, please send a check made out to the Rocky Mountain Synod marked ”Rocky Mountain Area Wildfires” to:
Rocky Mountain Synod
455 Sherman Street, Suite 160
Denver, CO 80203
Or, you may give a credit card donation through PayPal. You do not need a PayPal account. Click on “use credit card” when given that option.
Western FiresRocky Mountain Synod, ELCA — June 24, 2012
In Colorado, a total of at least eight fires are burning. But fires are also burning in Utah and New Mexico.
In New Mexico, a lightning-caused wildfire that destroyed 242 homes and businesses is 90 percent contained. The 69-square-mile fire near Ruidoso began June 4. Meanwhile, the largest wildfire in state history was 87 percent contained, having burned more than 464 square miles after two blazes merged on May 16.
The High Park Fire west of Fort Collins is at 82,000 acres as of last night with 45 percent containment – the second-largest fire in Colorado’s history. Some residents are being allowed back in their homes, but the hot, dry, and windy weather continues to be a challenge. The official number of homes that have burned is 191.
In Utah, a 12.5-square-mile blaze around Fountain Green in Sanpete County was threatening 200 homes in four rural subdivisions, forcing 800 people to 1,000 people to flee. BLM says the human-caused fire erupted Saturday afternoon and is 4 percent contained. Officials report progress on a 9-square-mile wildfire around Saratoga Springs, about 40 miles south of Salt Lake City.
Pastor Julie Britsch of Christ the King Lutheran Church in west Colorado Springs, has provided the above photo of the Waldo Canyon Fire. She says, “We have folks in mandatory and voluntary zones, and some of our nursing home folks have had to move. This went from 0-2500 acres in a small number of hours.” The 5,000 residents of Manitou Springs were ordered to leave yesterday hours after the Waldo Canyon fire erupted in El Paso County. It quickly grew to more than 2,500 acres amid tinder dry conditions, gusty winds and temperatures that reached into the 90s. The Denver Post reports that a total of 11,000 persons have been evacuated.
Yesterday, also, an Estes Park cabin caught fire just after noon Saturday, sparking a wildfire that quickly grew to 20 acres in the hot and dry weather and consumed 21 homes and cabins. Homes and cabins on the southwest side of the tourist town of Estes Park within a mile of the fire were evacuated.
Litany in Time of Wildfires
This litany may be used by those who are concerned by the destruction of wildfires.
Holy God, in the wake of fires that devour and consume,
Refresh us with the water of life.
In the barren places of ash and dust,
Restore us with the water of life.
When all we can see is devastation and despair,
Renew us with the water of life.
When those whose vocations are to protect the property of others are tired and weary,
Renew them with the water of life.
When the creatures of the forest are frightened, displaced, or injured,
Renew them with the water of life.
When the fires have ceased, the cycle of renewal begins, and the plants and animals return,
Renew them with the water of life.
In Christ, we are washed clean.
We are refreshed.
In Christ, we drink from the wellspring of hope.
We are restored.
In Christ, we dance in the fountain of life.
We are renewed.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Director for Administration and Communication
Rocky Mountain Synod
Missouri launches Web site to help Missourians be prepared for tornadoes and severe storms
Missouri StormAware Web site includes videos on sheltering and storm warning systems; stormaware.mo.gov also includes links to severe weather texting services to alert Missourians to severe weather in their area
JEFFERSON CITY – The State Emergency Management Agency today announced Missouri has launched a new Web site to help inform and prepare Missourians for severe weather. Stormaware.mo.gov includes detailed videos on how to take shelter in specific types of buildings, important information about tornado sirens and weather alert radios, and links to severe weather texting services that can alert people across Missouri to upcoming severe weather.
[Ed. Note: Even though this is a Missouri sponsored site, Missouri non-residents are also encouraged to visit for disaster preparedness.]
Emergency Clean Up Buckets
It is Spring and the country has already experienced hundreds of Spring storms. The supply of Emergency Clean up Buckets are running low. You can help by making clean up buckets and delivering them by May 1 to the Festival of Sharing office in Columbia, 3009 David Drive or in Kansas City the Heartland Presbytery office, 3210 Michigan Ave. (where our synod office used to be), Monday through Thursday from 9 am to 4 pm. The list of items for this Church World Service Kit can be found on the Festival of Sharing webpage — click HERE.
From State of Missouri Department of Public SafetyMarch 27, 2012
Join Gov. Jay Nixon and leaders from Missouri’s faith-based and volunteer communities for a tremendous opportunity to advance our state’ s ability to prepare for, and respond to, disasters. The Governor’s Faith-Based & Community Service Partnership for Disaster Recovery will hold six regional conferences around the state from April 24 to May 4, and your participation is invited and encouraged. All conferences are from 10 a.m.—3 p.m. unless otherwise noted and lunch will be provided.
April 24: Jefferson City; April 26: Cape Girardeau; April 27 (9-noon): Webster Groves; May 1: Springfield; May 3: Lee’s Summit; May 4: St. Joseph.
For more information and how to register for these free events, click Invitation to Disaster Response Meetings.
From ELCA Disaster ResponseMarch 6, 2012
U.S. Severe Spring Storms
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Between February 22 and March 3, 2012, a deadly series of storms raced across the Midwest and the South, spawning at least 64 violent tornadoes that killed more than 50 people and injured many more in 14 states. Hundreds of homes, farms and businesses were damaged or destroyed during the outbreak.
Currently, ELCA Disaster Response and ELCA congregations are providing spiritual care, coordinating volunteer response through local partner agencies and laying the groundwork for further response as communities repair and rebuild. No ELCA congregations have reported severe damage.
Please help now with your contribution to ELCA Disaster Response designated for “U.S. Severe Spring Storms.” Your gifts designated to U.S. Severe Spring Storms will be used entirely (100 percent) to help families whose lives and livelihoods have been impacted by these disasters.
Wondering what else you can do? Please share this bulletin insert with your congregation and tell others of the ELCA’s response.
Your prayers and your partnership are greatly needed and deeply appreciated. Thank you.
The Rev. Daniel Rift
Director, ELCA World Hunger and Disaster Appeal
Winter tornadoes batter MidwestMarch 5, 2012
A series of tornadoes rampaged through the Midwest last Wednesday (Feb. 29), badly damaging various parts Illinois, Kansas and Missouri, including the entertainment resort town of Branson, Mo.
According to a preliminary report from the National Weather Service, the massive 400-yard wide tornado that hit Branson was on the ground for about 20 miles, and reached winds of up to 120 to 130 mph. The tornado caused about $10 million worth of damage, and at least seven miles of the city’s commercial strip was destroyed.
Harveyville, Kan., (population 250 — southwest of Topeka) was also badly damaged, with initial estimates of 40% of the structures either damaged or destroyed. Included in the damage was the United Methodist Church and parsonage, both of which were destroyed.
Although there were no reported deaths in Central States Synod, at least 9 people were killed overall in the midwest tornado flurry that roughed up Missouri, Kansas and Illinois. Volunteers are pouring in to all sites, and in some cases being turned away as the areas are just not ready or safe. At present the best assistance is financial donations.
Please send contributions (payable to Central States Synod, noting “Disaster Response”) to:
Central States Synod, ELCA
21 N. 12th St., Ste. 210
Kansas City, KS 66102
Undesignated disaster funds will be used for current responses. If you would like to designate a specific location, please note that on your check.
ONLINE donations: If you would like to make a contribution by credit/debit card, please click:
Davey and Goliath – PSA – “Working Together” – Disasters
In this public service announcement produced for radio and television, Davey reassures Goliath that no matter what happens, God is there through the people who help after a disaster.
After the Flood
A video report from LDR following the 2008 flooding in Iowa: After the Floods
Make a Gift
Financial contributions are VERY MUCH needed. Give through your congregation or the synod, or donate online through the ELCA. Visit www.elca.org/disaster/giving/ for instructions and details on how to get your donation to the desired fund.