By Kim Plummer Krull
As he waits for the insurance company to assess damages, the Rev. Joel Kotila says he knows many people are dealing with far greater losses since Hurricane Irene. Still, the pastor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Terryville, Conn., says he feels sad when he thinks of the damage to the church basement that filled with some 30 inches of water on Aug. 28.
“That’s where we hold Sunday school classes, and all the cloth partitions are probably shot. The kitchen area is where the altar guild and Sunday school store supplies. We have a closet full of [worship] banners that are probably ruined. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s a shame,” said Kotila, who is also awaiting estimates on flood damage to the church fellowship hall and parsonage.
The pastor and Holy Trinity members are among thousands dealing with damaged homes and businesses along the Eastern Seaboard, where the weekend hurricane turned tropical storm is now blamed for at least 44 deaths in 13 states, according to updated news reports.
In New York, the Rev. Derek Lecakes, disaster response coordinator for the LCMS Atlantic District, is monitoring needs in two of that state’s most impacted areas — Albany and the Catskill Mountains.
“So much water poured down the mountains that rivers are way beyond what’s normal, and [unstable] bridges that were never a problem are now a problem,” Lecakes said of the Catskill area, where he plans to go when emergency officials permit such travel. Preliminary reports indicate that floodwaters likely damaged homes of members of Resurrection Lutheran Church, Cairo.
In the Albany area, members of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Delmar were rescued “at the last minute” by boat, Lecakes said. “There’s a ton of damage in certain areas,” Lecakes said. “Even if the churches themselves weren’t damaged, they are looking for ways to help their communities.”
LCMS staff plans to be on the ground in New York beginning Sept. 1 and traveling with Lecakes to impacted areas. Watch for updates at www.youtube.com/mercytubewrhc and the LCMS World Relief and Human Care Facebook page at www.facebook.com/lcmswrhc.
In the southeastern states, Deaconess Sally Hiller continues to learn about storm devastation and works to match needs with assistance.
The homes of six members of Grace by the Sea Lutheran Church, Nags Head, Va., were “completely flooded,” said Hiller, executive director for Congregational Outreach and District Operations with the LCMS Southeastern District. The district is in the process of providing “flood buckets” of cleaning supplies requested by Hope Lutheran Church in Virginia Beach, Va.
Other LCMS-related damages reported by Hiller include:
- a buckled wall and collapsed ceiling at the building where the mission congregation, Crossway Lutheran Church, worships in downtown Norfolk, Va. “It’s so bad, the building is condemned,” Hiller said.
- severe water damage to at least two homes of members of King of Glory Lutheran Church, Williamsburg, Va.
- flooding at the home of at least one member family of Chesapeake Community of Hope Lutheran Church, Chesapeake, Va.
- damage to the home of a member of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Wilson, N.C., after winds blew down four, 100-foot trees.
In addition to massive cleanup chores, continued widespread power outages are beginning to affect peoples’ spirits. “They’re seeing their food waste away, and that’s beginning to wear on them,” said Hiller, who had just returned from the delayed opening worship at Baltimore Lutheran High School in Towson, Md.
A lack of electricity forced the school to push back the start of the academic year two days until Aug. 31. “At least half the teachers and many students are still without power,” Hiller said. “They’re frustrated, but they’re handling it.”
As LCMS World Relief and Human Care (WR-HC) gets new reports of damages on the stricken East Coast, the Synod’s mercy arm continues to check on needs and provide information about disaster grant assistance.
LCMS staff will be on the ground in New York beginning Sept. 1. The Rev. Glenn F. Merritt, director of Disaster Response with WR-HC, plans to assist congregations with assessments and grant requests early next week in New York, Connecticut and other areas.
In Terryville, Conn., Pastor Kotila says he appreciated a call from WR-HC’s Rev. Carlos Hernandez asking about Holy Trinity and its community.
“It’s awesome that we have a church body that is so caring in words and actions,” said the pastor, who, in turn, is checking on needs of members as well as neighbors. “That means a lot, especially in times like this.”
To learn more about the Synod’s response to hurricane victims, click here.
To make a gift to help WR-HC assist families suffering from Hurricane Irene:
- Mail checks (noting “Hurricane Irene 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.
- To make an online donation, click here. To designate your gift, please include “Hurricane Irene” in the comments box of the giving form.
Any funds not needed for this relief effort will be used for other disaster purposes as determined by LCMS World Relief and Human Care. Your gift is tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.
Kim Plummer Krull is a freelance writer and member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Des Peres, Mo.
Posted Aug. 31, 2011