By Sarah Schafer
A four-person LCMS team began meeting Oct. 31 with district leaders in areas impacted by Superstorm Sandy, which struck the U.S. Eastern Seaboard Oct. 28-29.
Team members are the Rev. Glenn Merritt, director of LCMS Disaster Response; the Rev. Bart Day, director of the Office of National Mission; the Rev. Carlos Hernandez, director of LCMS Church and Community Development; and Al Dowbnia, director of Digital Media with LCMS Communications.
They planned to first meet Oct. 31 with New Jersey District Disaster Response Coordinator Rev. Don Brand and then with Atlantic District President Rev. Dr. David Benke.
“Our goal is to listen and learn from those affected by the storm and from those providing aid and assistance,” said Merritt. “We are here to offer material and financial assistance as needed to LCMS districts and congregations as they reach out in their local communities.”
The LCMS Atlantic District assembled a team of three to assess damages along the district’s southern tier. As of early Oct. 31, the team had heard from all workers in the area that they were safe and that church buildings were not severely damaged. Benke said some church buildings lost roofing and that trees, limbs and other debris were reported on church properties.
The Atlantic District team planned to assist local pastors with assessing the needs of their members and in their communities.
“What we want to do in direly affected areas is to provide comfort, shelter, and basic needs as well as assistance in the mid-term for parishioners and community residents,” said Benke.
Brand reported fallen trees and power outages throughout most of northern New Jersey. He contacted many of the district’s church workers who reported no property damage or flooding. That included Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Point Pleasant, N.J., where media reports predicted there could be up to 3 feet of floodwater.
Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Mahwah, N.J., has power and offered its facilities as a shelter. However, the building is difficult to access because of downed trees and closed roads in the area.
“The brunt of the storm was in the south shore area,” said Brand. By late Oct. 31, he said he had completed contacting churches directly in the superstorm’s path.
Among those Brand contacted was the Rev. Mark Stillman, pastor at Village Lutheran Church in Lanoka Harbor, who reported some damage to the church. He also said that at least two members’ homes sustained significant damage and that the families would need help.
Stillman shared his concern for other members he had not yet reached who might also need help.
If church workers in the areas affected by Superstorm Sandy have not yet been contacted by their LCMS district offices to determine if workers are safe or have needs because of the superstorm, they are encouraged to try to call or email those offices. If they are unable to reach their respective district offices, church workers are encouraged to contact Tracy Quaethem with LCMS Disaster Response at email@example.com or 800-248-1930, Ext. 1711.
On Nov. 1, Merritt and his team plan to meet with leaders of Concordia College–New York, at Bronxville, N.Y. Classes were cancelled there Oct. 29-31 because of power outages and building damages caused by falling trees and tree limbs. Benke was optimistic classes would resume Nov. 1.
Merrit said that on Nov. 2, the LCMS team may travel to Springfield, Mass., to meet with New England District President Rev. Tim Yeadon.
He said he may also travel the week of Nov. 5 to the Southeastern District and the Eastern District.
In the Southeastern District (SED), Deaconess Sally Hiller reported an overall good state of affairs.
“A few leaks, some downed trees — generally reported as the worst of conditions. Overall, most did not lose power,” said Hiller, executive director for Congregational Outreach and District Operations for the SED.
According to Hiller, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and School, Kingsville, Md., had flooding in the lower level of the school building and lost a number of books in the library and Trinity Lutheran Church in Norfolk, Va., lost some flashing from the roof. One retired teacher’s basement was flooded.
“Throughout the district, people are responding to requests for assistance as local needs are being made known,” said Hiller.
Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Springfield, Va., and St. John Lutheran Church, Franconia, Va., retained power in areas of power outages and opened their doors to anyone without power.
“We are thankful for so many who respond to those who are in need. These are moments when we come together as community to share Jesus through compassionate acts of mercy,” said Hiller.
New England District President Yeadon personally called all active and retired church workers in his district after the superstorm. He indicated that most pastors and churches in Connecticut and Rhode Island are without power, but report no damage or personal property damages.
“New England District is well,” said Yeadon. “God was very gracious to us.”
To help those affected by the storm:
- make an online gift at https://www.lcms.org/givenow/disaster.
- mail checks payable to “The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod” (with a memo line or note designating “LCMS Disaster Relief”) to The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.
- call toll-free 888-930-4438.
In addition to Reporter Online, continuing updates about the Synod’s response to Hurricane Sandy will be posted on the LCMS website at www.lcms.org, Twitter (www.twitter.com/thelcms), the LCMS Facebook page (www.facebook.com/thelcms) and the Mercy Forever blog (http://mercyforever.lcms.org).
Sarah Schafer is a freelance writer based in Fairfax, Va., and a member of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Springfield, Va.
Posted Oct. 31, 2012 / Updated Nov. 7, 2012