Pandemics Don’t Stop Disasters — or the Church’s Response
Natural disasters were not slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and neither was the work of LCMS World Relief and Human Care Disaster Response. Throughout 2020 and into 2021, Disaster Response continued to partner with LCMS districts and Recognized Service Organizations (RSOs) to bring mercy, aid and the message of hope found in Christ to those devastated by disaster.
“Even as the entire world was distracted and overwhelmed by COVID, our response in time of natural disasters never ceased,” said the Rev. Michael Meyer, director of disaster training for the LCMS. “We continued to be good stewards of what the Lord has given … through the many and various donations to Disaster Response in the past. We were able to engage in a significant response without asking the church at-large for additional assistance during a time of great uncertainty for so many in our church body.”
2020 saw four major hurricanes across five southern states — Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida — as well as deadly tornadoes in Tennessee, flooding in Michigan that led to the evacuation of thousands, and a huge derecho storm that tore through Iowa with hurricane-force winds.
Two hurricanes struck the LCMS Southern District in a matter of weeks — Laura on Aug. 29 and Sally on Sept. 16. After these storms, Disaster Response was able to help in two ways: by providing grants to cover certain repairs and insurance deductibles for LCMS congregations and pastors, and by supporting the work of a network of Lutherans across the country trained and prepared to provide hands-on assistance after disasters.
By partnering with other organizations, Disaster Response was able to make their existing funds stretch much further through the work of thousands of dedicated volunteers.
For example, a grant of $58,000 was given to Shepherd’s Heart Disaster Response Ministry, an RSO in Gardendale, Ala., for coordinating and overseeing multiple volunteer chainsaw camps involved in hurricane recovery work. Thanks in part to this grant, work was done on eight LCMS churches and 248 homes, including 10 LCMS pastors’ homes. In total, 945 trees were cleared, saving the churches and homeowners an estimated total of $1.5 million in clearing and repair costs.
“All of the work that we do with LCMS Disaster Response and volunteers is done in the name of Christ and of the local congregation, letting people know that in the midst of tragedy, there are people in the faith that care about them, love them and serve them in the name of Christ,” said Disaster Response Director Rev. Dr. Ross Johnson.
After the hurricanes in 2020, Disaster Response provided:
- $252,686 to help cover 15 LCMS congregations’ and schools’ insurance deductibles
- $42,900 to assist 17 LCMS pastors with deductibles or repair costs
- $137,500 to support the work of local disaster response
Staff editor and writer for LCMS Communications.