National Lutheran News

Lutherans respond to Hurricane Katrina disaster

Assistance flooding in from around the world

TO CONTRIBUTE:

ELCA Domestic Disaster Response, P.O. Box 71764, Chicago, Illinois 60694-1764
Credit card gift line:
1-800-638-3522
Credit card gifts via Internet:
www.ELCA.org/disaster/katrina

LCMS Gifts for hurricane relief may be made out to LCMS World Relief and sent to LCMS World Relief and Human Care, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-9810; designate checks to “Hurricane Relief 2005.” Or call the credit card gift line, 1-888-930-4438, or give online at http://worldrelief.lcms.org.

WELS Committee on Relief, 2929 N. Mayfair Rd., Milwaukee, WI 53222-4301.

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As residents of Louisiana and Mississippi struggle to put their lives together, Lutherans, both in Minnesota and nationwide, have stepped forward to help.

Lutheran Disaster Response, a ministry shared by the 4.9 million member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the 2.5 million member Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS), was on the scene in both states soon after Hurricane Katrina roared through. Christus Victor Lutheran Church, Ocean Springs, Mississippi, opened a temporary shelter and health clinic capable of serving 500 persons. Many Lutherans in the storm zone opened their homes to refugees.

As of September 8, members of the ELCA had raised $1.5 million to support hurricane relief and recovery efforts. Most of the money came from members, while some arrived from overseas churches. One such group was the Lutheran Church in Malaysia and Singapore, a companion church with the ELCA’s Southeastern Synod, which includes Mississippi.

The Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church sent $4,500 to the ELCA to assist with the rescue efforts.

Leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada said their members are funneling support through U.S.-based Lutheran Disaster Relief.

Minneapolis-based Thrivent Financial for Lutherans announced on September 8 it would help Habitat for Humanity build more affordable housing in the U.S. Gulf Coast area. (See another story this month.)

The Missouri Synod’s hard-hit Southern District has 140 congregations. More than half were affected, with several destroyed.

According to the Rev. Paul Blom, Bishop of the ELCA Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, no one knows the full status of homes and (ELCA) churches located in southern Louisiana. The synod is made up of 130 congregations, with 19 located in Louisiana. As many as 10 congregations in Louisiana may have sustained damage from wind and flood produced by the hurricane.

Christ the King Lutheran Church, Kenner, Louisiana, was under somewhere between five and eight feet of water, said Blom.

He added, “To our knowledge, St. Mark Lutheran Church, Metairie, Lou-isiana, did not suffer from flooding.”
Gethsemane Lutheran Church, Chalmette, Loui-siana, and Grace Lutheran Church, New Orleans, were definitely under water, he said. Bethlehem Lutheran Church, New Orleans, may have flood damage, and Peace Lutheran Church, Slidell, Louisiana, may have sustained wind damage, according to Blom.

Congregations in the “west bank” of the Mississippi River in Louisiana may not be flooded but may have sustained damage from hurricane winds, said Blom.

Lutheran Church of Our Savior, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and St. Paul Lutheran Church, Baton Rouge, did not sustain damage and were serving as ‘staging areas’ to provide emergency services to congregations affected by the hurricane.

“My biggest concern is care for our pastors and associates in ministry who will have no homes, no congregations and no paychecks, since everything is shut down or destroyed,” Blom said.

Responding to Blom’s concern, the ELCA’s Minneapolis Area Synod, which has a partnership relationship with the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, organized an emergency task force to coordinate response from Minnesota. A synod-wide relief offering was received in Minneapolis Area congregations on September 25. The synod took on the responsibility of building a partnership with three congregations in the New Orleans area in greatest need of assistance: Christ the King Lutheran, Kenner; Grace Lutheran, New Orleans; and Gethsemane Lutheran, Chalmette.

Funds collected on September 25 were earmarked for food service on September 26 and 27 in the Houston Astrodome and other shelters. (Lutherans and Episcopalians were jointly responsible for providing food on those days.)
Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSS) created a special ministry for children experiencing trauma following flooding in the Red River Valley, focused on Grand Forks, several years ago. “Camp Noah” proved to be a useful tool in that crisis, enough so that LSS is rolling it out again this fall.

For more information about Camp Noah, call Melanie Davis, 651/969-2345 or write to mdavis@lssmn.org.