Restoring and Rebuilding Texas
The work continues in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
“There were a lot of people right away, and now they are gone. But we still have needs,” said one Texas resident.
Julie Tucker, director of Disaster Response for the LCMS Texas District, reported that this is the common sentiment among many in Texas. They are grateful for all that has been done following Hurricane Harvey, but they are still at a loss. Many still clamor for daily necessities.
“It has been estimated that over 250,000 homes were flooded during Harvey and over 15,000 homes have been irrecoverably destroyed,” she said. “Families continue to live in tents in their yards in the Golden Triangle and in the Coastal Bend.”
The Coastal Bend includes towns near Corpus Christi, such as Rockport and Port Aransas. The Golden Triangle, which received almost 65 inches of rain in late August, is an area east of Houston that includes Beaumont and Port Arthur. Inland towns like Victoria and Refugio continue to struggle as well. Some in these towns are still living in mold-infested homes.
LCMS Disaster Response, in collaboration with the Texas District, provided Tucker to serve as the disaster recovery director and set up sites with area coordinators in Port Arthur (Trinity), Rockport (Peace), Corpus Christi (Trinity) and Beaumont (St. John’s). Future sites will include Nederland (Holy Cross — for summer opportunities) and Warton (St. John’s).
In addition, LCMS Disaster Response’s Lutheran Early Response Teams (LERT) from throughout the United States have provided important aid to the communities in Texas. “The LERT team in the Coastal Bend was instrumental in getting those communities back on their feet,” Tucker said.
As the greater Houston area continues to recover, congregations both help locally and serve as sites for distribution of supplies and workers to other nearby areas. Two such congregations are Salem Lutheran Church, Tomball, and Trinity Klein, Spring. Salem has provided warehouse space for supplies, and the congregation feeds and provides showers for volunteer teams. Trinity is tasked with the logistics of sending teams out to work.
One such team consisted of members from LCMS congregations in Columbia City and Seymour, Ind. They worked in homes devastated by floodwaters in Houston, where the muck-out process and demolition has been accomplished. Now the homes are in need of rebuilding.
In the midst of installing new drywall, Mike Terkula, vicar at St. John’s, Columbia City, found opportunities to witness to the homeowner, Mark, who is from Turkey and was raised Muslim. Although his children have been baptized, Mark remains unbaptized.
Terkula said that he enjoyed sharing Christ with him, but knows that isn’t the end. “I wanted to get him connected with the local church so he can learn more.”
Individual stories join together to communicate and witness to the work of the Church. From the beginning, one constant observation pervades: that this disaster has brought people together. Race, economic standing, political leanings and any other factors have faded in light of the needs and the desire to help those in need. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has been at the forefront of this effort, working in coordination with the LCMS Texas District.
“The first four or five months have been focused on mucking and cleaning out flood-damaged homes. Now, for the following years, the focus will be on restoring families in their homes,” said the Rev. Dr. Ross Johnson, director of LCMS Disaster Response. “One of the blessings has been the close collaboration with the Texas District, LCMS Disaster Response, Recognized Service Organizations and congregations as we network together to meet needs and serve our neighbor.”
The Work Continues…
In Puerto Rico
Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, knocking out the power grid and damaging houses, roads and other vital systems. In the days immediately following, the LCMS distributed $10,000 of food, water and children’s supplies to families in need. The Synod also has committed to providing more than $200,000 in long-term aid to assist with building repairs, neighborhood evangelism, and to start mercy houses alongside budding Lutheran congregations in Mayagüez and Ponce.
“Hurricane Maria hit the island hard, but it has also opened up new mission opportunities,” said the Rev. Charles St-Onge, area facilitator for the Synod’s Latin America and the Caribbean region. “Please pray with us that the Lord would use us to share His Gospel alongside our mercy work with the hurting people of Puerto Rico.”
In Sierra Leone
In August 2017, deadly mudslides swept through the outskirts of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Over 600 people were killed, including 30 Lutherans and their immediate family members. After consulting with the local Lutheran church leaders, LCMS Disaster Response gave a grant of $10,000 to provide housing for 15 families for an entire year, as well as food, kitchen utensils and other basic supplies for an additional 150 people. Disaster Response also sent spiritual care resources to the local church. As a result of the quick response by Lutheran church partners, there is interest in a future church plant in the neighborhood. Soli Deo Gloria!
Pray with Us
Almighty Father, You protect and provide for Your creation by Your gracious providence. As storms and disasters occur in our world, grant us grace and endurance. Work through Your Church to bring both physical restoration and spiritual healing in Christ. Continue to bless the relief efforts in Texas, Puerto Rico, Sierra Leone and all places touched by trial and suffering. May all find their refuge in Christ, the immovable Rock. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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