By Sarah Schafer
The LCMS began reaching out Monday, Feb. 11, to LCMS families and the Hattiesburg, Miss., community after a tornado struck the city Sunday, Feb. 10. The storm caused major damage. According to early reports, it injured as many as 67 people and left up to 15 hospitalized.
Located just a half block from the tornado’s path, St. John Lutheran Church in Hattiesburg was spared. However, at least two homes of St. John members are located in the path the tornado took.
The Rev. Dennis Rhoads, pastor of St. John, arrived early Monday, Feb. 11, at the severely damaged home of one couple belonging to the congregation. They were not at their home, and he is working to contact them.
Another member’s home was in the path of the tornado, but as of early Feb. 11, Rhoads had not been able to enter that part of the community.
LCMS Southern District President Rev. Kurt Schultz has asked Southern District Disaster Response Coordinator Rev. Ed Brashier of Shepherd’s Heart Ministries to respond. Brashier plans to arrive in Hattiesburg on Tuesday, Feb. 12, to assess needs with Rhoads and St. John members.
Brashier and LCMS Disaster Response Director Rev. Glenn F. Merritt are working to provide aid and assistance to Rhoads and St John Church as quickly as possible.
“LCMS Disaster Response is prepared to offer the material, financial and people resources of the Synod,” Merritt said.
“This is an example of how I anticipated our [disaster response] model of ministry would play out.” Merritt added. “President Schultz is on top of things and keeping us in the loop. Ed Brashier, as the district disaster response coordinator, is deployed and will assess the needs, working with the local pastor and congregation. It’s a classic example of ‘Plan the work; then work the plan!’”
Schultz also encouraged St. John to open its building and grounds to the public and to volunteers as the recovery begins.
To support those affected by the tornado or other natural disasters or man-made calamities:
- 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).
Sarah Schafer is a freelance writer based in Fairfax, Va., and a member of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Springfield, Va.