As of Nov. 6 — a week after Superstorm Sandy tore across the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, cutting a huge swath of destruction and leading to the deaths of at least 113 people across nine states — The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod is preparing to disburse $65,000 in emergency disaster grants to assist in the recovery.
Included in the new batch of grants is $25,000 to the LCMS Atlantic District and $40,000 to the LCMS New Jersey District, bringing the total of LCMS disaster funds earmarked for Hurricane Sandy to $100,500 so far.
Earlier, on Nov. 1, the Synod gave a $15,000 emergency grant to the Atlantic District to provide transitional housing and to help affected families replace food, clothing and other personal items destroyed in the storm. Grants also have been awarded to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti ($10,000) and the Cuban Mission Society ($10,500) to replace roofs and for water filtration systems.
The latest U.S. grants will be used for food, clothing, housing, generators and to provide other “basic human needs — what people need to live,” according to the Rev. Bart Day, director of the LCMS Office of National Mission.
Day, who as part of an LCMS disaster-response team traveled through superstorm-damaged areas in New York and New Jersey Oct. 31-Nov. 3, told Reporter “the magnitude of the devastation was unbelievable.” It was, he said, “like Hurricane Katrina on steroids” because of the enormity of the storm’s path of destruction.
“That’s in no way meant to diminish the devastation that happened with Katrina,” Day said. “But Sandy affected the entire Eastern Seaboard … and there are places that are just absolutely obliterated.”
In order for the LCMS to meet the long-term needs created by the superstorm, “we’re going to need lots and lots of money for a very long time,” Day said.
“What the Synod does very well,” he added, “is that we get in there immediately and then stay for the long haul. And we work with the people on the ground assessing — and meeting — the needs.”
Among those needs are some 30 LCMS families with destroyed homes and at least another 36 who reported storm damage, according to the Rev. Glenn F. Merritt, director of LCMS Disaster Response, who was with Day as part of the initial LCMS disaster-response assessment team. (Also on the team were the Rev. Carlos Hernandez, director of Church and Community Development, and Al Dowbnia, director of Digital Media, Communications.)
To date, no deaths among LCMS congregation members have been reported.
Merritt plans to return to the East Coast Nov. 7-8 “to continue to encourage and support the ministries of the Atlantic and New Jersey Districts and their local congregations.” LCMS staff who will be accompanying Merritt are Hernandez, Dowbnia and the Rev. John Fale, associate executive director of Mercy Operations.
Said Merritt: “Now is the time for the Church to shine in all her glory, meeting immediate and urgent physical, emotional and spiritual needs all across the Eastern Seaboard.”
Another storm is predicted to hit the Northeast Nov. 7, complicating the already serious situation. (More than 880,000 people in New Jersey and New York were still without power as of Nov. 6.) The nor’easter is expected to bring heavy rain, wet snow and wind — with more flooding possible, particularly along the Sandy-damaged coastline.
As Day, Merritt and Hernandez met with LCMS district and congregational leaders in New York and New Jersey on their initial four-day trek, their message, according to Day, was, “We’re coming alongside you as you work through your local congregations to meet urgent needs. We can put the word out to the greater Missouri Synod — our people are extremely generous — for people, material and financial resources. And we can bring dollars, hopefully millions of dollars, to help you help your members, your congregations and your communities.”
Vicki Helling, assistant executive director for Mission Advancement, echoes that sentiment. The LCMS is “unique” in disaster response, she says, because no matter where or when a disaster strikes, the church body is already “on the ground, meeting the local needs through its local congregations. We’re there.”
In times of disaster, she said, LCMS congregation members are always willing to give their time and treasure to help others.
Helling said she was moved by a woman who called the Synod’s toll-free disaster-donation line Nov. 3 to make a contribution, even though relatives were living with her because they had lost their home to the superstorm.
That woman could easily have considered caring for her houseguests as her contribution to Sandy relief, Helling noted, but she didn’t stop there: “She took the time to call and make a gift.”
That’s just one example, say LCMS disaster staff, of Lutherans doing what they do best: helping others.
Mark Hofman, executive director of Mission Advancement for the Synod, says LCMS congregations and their members “are beginning, once again, to collectively flex our church’s disaster-response muscles.
“The number of phone calls from people inquiring about how to help and asking questions about the Synod’s response strategy is increasing,” he told Reporter, and “gifts typically follow.”
Hofman said his staff expects “a strong response” to a special “disaster-gram” appeal that is being mailed Nov. 8 to some 154,000 LCMS donors nationwide.
“It’s impressive to witness how the Holy Spirit moves and works through God’s redeemed,” he said.
To help those affected by the storm:
- make an online gift at https://www.lcms.org/givenow/disaster.
- mail checks payable to “The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod” (with a memo line or note designating “LCMS Disaster Relief”) to The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.
- call toll-free 888-930-4438 (8:10 a.m. to 4:10 p.m. CST, Monday through Friday).
In addition to Reporter Online, updates about the Synod’s response to Superstorm Sandy will be posted on the LCMS website at www.lcms.org, Twitter (www.twitter.com/thelcms), the LCMS Facebook page (www.facebook.com/thelcms) and the Mercy Forever blog (http://mercyforever.lcms.org).