By Kim Plummer Krull
Lillie Lightford desperately wants to return to the mobile home where she and her sons lived in Huntsville, Ala., before a tornado peeled off the roof and rain drenched her possessions.
Rich Stimson probably shouldn’t sleep in his damaged home in Hanceville, but the senior citizen says it’s hard to stay away.
“When a tree went through Mr. Stimson’s home, his first concern was if anything had happened to his church, historic Trinity Lutheran, the oldest LCMS church in the South,” said LCMS World Relief and Human Care’s (WR-HC) Rev. Carlos Hernandez. (Trinity, Hanceville, was established in 1885.)
Lightford and Stimson are just two of the many LCMS members Hernandez and the WR-HC Disaster Response team have met since powerful tornadoes ripped through Alabama on April 27, claiming more than 230 lives in the state and decimating homes and businesses. (To watch a video interview with Lightford and other survivors and see tornado damage pictures, visit WR-HC’s YouTube channel or go to the WR-HC Facebook page.)
Along with WR-HC’s Rev. Darrell Howanitz, Hernandez is working with local pastors on grants to assist congregation and community members with necessities. “We’re seeing some very urgent needs — day-to-day survival needs for food, clothing, transportation assistance and to get trees off roofs,” said Hernandez, who trekked through hard-hit Alabama communities May 9-11.
Mold is starting to grow in the mobile home that belongs to Lightford, the mother of a preschool teacher at Ascension Lutheran Church, Huntsville. Ascension’s pastor, Rev. Bernard Ansorge, spoke with Hernandez about a grant request to buy plywood so Lightford’s son can repair his mother’s floor.
“There’s always a gap after a disaster and before FEMA arrives when people who have no insurance need something to tide them over,” Hernandez said. “That’s what WR-HC tries to do — provide at least some resources to help people survive until other resources kick in.”
Hernandez says that disaster survivors whose lives are turned upside down tell him that spiritual support is just as important as financial help. As the Disaster Response team surveys damages, Hernandez and Howanitz also pray with families and share God’s Word.
“When donors support our work, that allows us to bring spiritual care to devastated homes — not just money for grants,” Hernandez said. “Our presence, that the church is there for people, blows them away. It’s also an enormous encouragement to pastors who have their hands full when a disaster hits.”
Because LCMS World Relief and Human Care’s tornado relief fund was depleted by last year’s tornado relief efforts, gifts are urgently needed to respond to this spring’s historic onslaught of twisters and storms in the Midwest and the South.
To contribute to the Synod’s tornado disaster response:
- Mail checks (noting “Tornado Disaster Relief” in the memo line) to LCMS World Relief and Human Care, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.
- Call toll-free 888-930-4438.
- Donate online (click here).
Kim Plummer Krull is a freelance writer and member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Des Peres, Mo.
This story was produced by LCMS World Relief and Human Care.
Posted May 19, 2011