Out of Sight But Not Out of Mind
(The Rapidly Changing News Feed!)
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” – Isaiah 43:1-2
By the time that you read this article, our disaster relief team will be travelling to St. Louis for LCR’s 16th disaster relief trip since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. I suspect that many of our members will be unaware or have forgotten that St. Louis experienced epic flooding in December 2015. With the vast number of natural disasters the last few years it is hard to keep track of all of them. And yes, it takes years, even decades to restore some areas that experience significant disasters. We will be working through The Salvation Army, a partner of Lutheran Disaster Response, in the St. Louis area. (See Julie Pahutski’s article about LDR on page 5.) Once again, members of Allen Temple AME Church will be joining us.
I am amazed at the speed that stories cycle into and out of our news feed in the digital age! Just think, when was the last time that you saw a story in the news on the progress, or lack thereof, from Hurricane Harvey in Texas or Hurricane Irma in Florida? Three weeks ago, I got my first email from LDR with an update from Texas and a plea to join in the recovery efforts there.
“Just last week (the end of September), the Lutheran Disaster Response – US team spent the week in Texas meeting with the Southwestern Texas Synod, Gulf Coast Synod, Upbring (Lutheran Social Services of Texas), and several individuals and congregations. We learned that individuals and congregations are overwhelmed. They are overwhelmed with the reality of just how much work is required to recover from a disaster such as Harvey, but they are also overwhelmed with the response of the community. Beverly Davis, Director of Congregational Care at Christ the King in Houston said it best, ‘People are overwhelmed with the process, but they are also overwhelmed with love of the church, the neighbor, and the stranger.’
In the midst of a strong local response by individuals and congregations, the groundwork has been laid for the extended long-term recovery work of disaster case management, emotional and spiritual care, volunteer coordination and construction management. As a church, we’re standing by our neighbors who have been affected as they begin the long road to recovery.”
I am gratified by the three expressions of the Lutheran Church – national, synodical, and local congregations – in how we respond to disasters. I am aware that all of our hearts were tugged this summer by the disasters in Texas and Florida. It is just too soon for us to respond to disasters that far away. However, I am in communication with the Cincinnati Lutheran churches with hopes that we might charter a bus in 2018 to travel with a large group to one of these distant disaster sites. We know that the Lutherans are not always the first on the scene, but that we are among the last to leave.
You have heard many gut-wrenching, heart-warming stories from our past disaster relief trips. In January, I’m sure you’ll hear witness from our trip to St. Louis. Disaster relief has developed into one of LCR’s primary service ministries. There is a place for all persons and diverse skill sets on these trips. Every team amazes me as I see the Body of Christ come together and work the gift of restoration! I encourage you to pray about joining the trip in 2018… and please pray for us in St. Louis from November 5-10.
The prophet gives witness that God walks with us through floods and fires (and all other disasters and challenges in life). In my experience that God is often wearing our skin, hammering nails with our hands, and offering hugs of consolation with our arms.
Please pray for our team, pray for those seeking to recover, and pray that you might be the one God wants to send with compassion on the next trip.
About the Author: Pastor Henry Zorn is Co-Pastor of Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Cincinnati, OH. A vibrant and welcoming community of faith and a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.