Disaster Preparedness and Response in Gulf Coast Synod

Feb 21, 2023

By Evangeline Dai, Ministry Coordinator

It’s amazing to have a disaster relief person on the staff

“What are you doing in the synod office?”

A bishop from another synod asked me this when she realized that I had become a staff member in our synod. I told her:

“My title is ‘Ministry Coordinator’… 70% of my time will be disaster response and resiliency, mainly for hurricanes and floods in the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast area, also some tornadoes, winter freeze, etc. 30% of my time will be administrative tasks and supporting DEM. We will see how that goes, this is a new position.”

“Wow! It’s amazing to realize synod staff need a disaster relief person,” she replied.

We are “lucky”

Yes, not all the synods in ELCA have someone who specifically works for disaster response, we are “lucky” to have one here at the Gulf Coast synod.

  • We are “lucky” to have quite a lot of disasters that we need someone to work on, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and winter freezes that cause floods, damage our properties, and threaten lives. Mostly hurricanes.
  • We are “lucky” to be approved to receive a 3-year grant from Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR). Thanks to the grant that will help our synod’s disaster response and preparedness ministries.

Disasters won’t wait

I started working for the synod after the last hurricane season. I have taken time to learn our synod’s operation, administrative tasks, our conferences, Deans, leaders, and congregations. I have attended several synod events and all kinds of meetings; visited churches; collected information; written articles; reviewed materials; etc.

But disasters won’t wait for us to be ready. While I felt I haven’t had a chance to work on preparedness, two disasters already visited us. One was the tornado that hit New Orleans, Louisiana last year in December. Rev Chris was on vacation and I was panicking when I heard about the disaster from an ecumenical clergy friend in New Orleans. The Dean of the Bayou Conference helped to calm me down by reporting back the situation among our leaders and congregations. An emergency relief grant was distributed to Gethsemane in Chalmette to help a family connected to the congregation. The second disaster was the big storm on January 24 that went through both Texas and Louisiana with Tornadoes. It caused severe damage. Four emergency relief grants have been distributed to individuals or communities that need help.

Meeting and sharing visions

Rev Chris and I met LDR leaders online after the damage in Pasadena, TX that got attention on the national level. LDR leaders wanted to check in to see how we were doing and how they can support us; we also use the meeting to share our plans, visions, and resources as we move forward.

I have sent out a congregational survey that will help us to build a database for disaster history and capacities, etc. We plan to fix a bus that was donated to the synod to be up and running. We will make sure we have 3 hubs in our synod to be storage and disruption center for disaster response. At a wider level, we want to have a regional consultation that crosses several states/synods in the hurricane zone to support each other. In the near future, we will have meetings with the LDR Program Director for Training and Networks to plan some educational events for our synod.

Thank you for your help!

By reading this, you are already helping this ministry. You may help more by sending your feedback and ideas to the Ministry Coordinator or help financially by giving offerings to our Synod Disaster Fund or Lutheran Disaster Response (including general, domestic, and international funds that you may choose from the dropdown list).

A screenshot from the online meeting: Christ Markert (Bishop’s Associate for Mission, Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod), Maryn Olson (Director, Lutheran Disaster Response), Emma Akpan (LDR Southern Resiliency Coordinator), Zaya Gilmer (Program Manager, Lutheran Disaster Response—US), and Evangeline Dai (Ministry Coordinator, Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod).

1DEM is Director for Evangelical Mission, an ELCA churchwide term. In our synod, that is Bishop’s Associate for Mission, Rev Chris Markert; he had done and is still doing works for our synod’s disaster response, so our Ministry Coordinator will also support his ministries.