Disaster Response – From Hurricanes and Beyond

Oct 25, 2022

By Chris Markert, Bishop’s Associate for Mission

We are already out of the most active part of Hurricane Season, and coming slowly to the end of the 2022 season. And, luckily, our part of the Gulf Coast has been spared. However, other parts of the country and the world have not been spared.

Specifically, Hurricane Fiona and Hurricane Ian wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico, Florida, and South Carolina. Also, in August Dallas was hit with unexpected and extreme flood flashing that affected two ELCA congregations and many individual homes and businesses.

In response, the Gulf Coast Synod Disaster Team provided $1,000 (in the form of ten $100 gift cards) to Puerto Rico, hand delivered by Bishop Mike to Bishop Idalia of the Caribbean Synod during the Conference of Bishops gathering. Also, the Team gave a $1,000 emergency disaster relief grant to the Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod to assist with their response to the flooding.

We also heard that Gethsemane in Chalmette, LA gave $500 to support the work of recovery in Florida and $300 to Puerto Rico. We suspect other congregations and individuals from our synod have given both funds and in-kind gifts. Disaster response is one way for us to show how we are stronger when we are church together.

Another way our Disaster Team has supported disaster response and recovery is partnering with St. Paul Lutheran Church in Lake Charles, LA and LEAD. Following the devastation of Hurricane Laura, St. Paul entered a period of discernment about its future and its mission. After doing deep community listening, in consultation with LEAD, the congregation received a $38,000 grant to assist them with moving forward in ministry.

The Disaster Team is also working to expand the synod’s ministry in building resilient communities before disaster strikes, especially in resource-limited and vulnerable areas. The Team is collaborating with a group of trained leaders to recruit and train crisis compassion caregivers throughout the synod. These trained caregivers will provide compassion care ministry in their local contexts, and will be ready to deploy as teams during and after larger scale disasters. If this is something you might be interested in being trained in, please email [email protected] for more information.

We welcome to Evangeline Dai as our synod’s new Ministry Coordinator. Evangeline will be relating with the Disaster Team to assist in the development of resilient communities. Evangeline will also collaborate with the Bishop’s Associate for Mission, especially in administrative responsibilities. Also, in partnership with the Gulf Coast Synod, and with a special grant from Lutheran Disaster Response, the synod welcomes Philip Diaz as the new Resilience Coordinator at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in New Orleans, LA. Philip is working with Bethlehem’s Community Table, and will be a co-conspirator with our Disaster Team as we expand our disaster preparation into three regional hubs. Philip will be also building relationships with local community organizations. Welcome Evangeline and Philip!

Even as we come towards the end Hurricane Season, the work of disaster preparedness and response never ends. We are grateful for our partnership with Lutheran Social Services Disaster Response of Upbring (our local LDR affiliate), Good Shepherd in Bridge City, TX (serving as our current disaster hub and trailer storage), and those who serve on our synod’s Disaster Team: Brian Deckinger, Paul Zoch, Shelli Williamson, Jessica Vermilyea, Glenn Holt, Rozella White, Morgan Gates, Dorie Jones, Glady Wilson, Will Starkweather, Evangeline Dai, and Aimee Elles.