By Sarah Schafer
A group of 17 members from St. Paul Lutheran Church, Cincinnati, gathered after worship Sunday, March 4, and traveled half an hour to help homeowners in Clermont County, Ohio, clear debris left by a March 2 tornado there that killed three people and damaged more than 250 buildings.
They also brought hope to those homeowners through prayer and other acts of mercy.
The team was assigned by the Clermont County Volunteer Reception Center to assist a man named Brandall, whose mobile home was severely damaged by the tornado.
“He was overwhelmed and didn’t even know where to start when the team arrived,” said Deaconess Kim Schave, director of human care for the LCMS Ohio District and a St. Paul member. He “quickly became our friend,” she said.
Brandall was home during the storm which he later said he did not expect to survive — especially as the tornado began to lift his house when two trees fell, holding the trailer to the ground “like two arms.”
“Brother, the arms of God were wrapped around you,” the Rev. Steve Schave, pastor of St. Paul, said to Brandall.
That storm took the life of one of Brandall’s neighbors.
Armed with three chainsaws and servants’ hearts, the team cleared downed trees from Brandall’s truck and home.
“I didn’t know anybody knew about me or cared,” he told them.
Volunteers from St. Paul also came to the aid of others in the storm-tossed neighborhood. That included helping a man and his daughter two houses away from Brandell’s remove debris from their severely damaged property.
“They provided him with hope that people do care,” said Kim Schave.
Nearby, the team met Tina, whose home sustained heavy roof damage. The utility company refused to restore power to the home until a hole in the roof could be fixed, forcing Tina and her family to temporarily live with her mother.
“They were barely able to piece together enough [money] to get plywood to cover the hole,” said Deaconess Schave, who indicated that St. Paul members collected donations to help Tina’s family cover most of the costs for new shingles.
They learned that Tina’s husband discovered the body of a neighbor killed by the tornado. The victim was a friend of the couple’s teenage son, and often joined him for a game of chess.
“It was obvious the stress of such a loss was beginning to take its toll,” the deaconess said of those in the community. She added that the shocked reactions of Clermont County homeowners were similar to those she encountered when volunteering among Hurricane Katrina victims and among those affected by a tornado last year in northeast Ohio.
Reports indicate that as many as 50 percent of the homes destroyed in Clermont County were uninsured — including Brandall’s and Tina’s homes.
“The only hope Brandall and Tina have are the resources made available through voluntary organizations like ours,” Kim Schave said via email. “Together we can show those devastated by the storms how much Lutherans do care.”
She indicated that the LCMS Ohio District will send additional teams for debris removal and servant events into the tornado-ravaged area — caring for the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of those they serve. For more information about these teams, contact Kim Schave at 513-309-3268 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
By March 4, members of St. Paul, Cincinnati, also assembled 100 school kits for students impacted by the tornado.
In Northern Kentucky, which also is in the LCMS Ohio District, LCMS churches are likewise reaching out with Christ’s mercy to those in their communities who are affected by the string of March 2 tornadoes.
For instance, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Florence, Ky., is collecting monetary donations to help with long-term recovery efforts in the area.
To assist The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod’s response to those affected by widespread tornadoes:
- make an online donation (click here).
- mail checks (payable to The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and noting “Tornado Disaster Relief” in the memo line) to The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.
- call toll-free 888-930-4438.
Any funds not needed for this relief effort will be used for other disaster purposes as determined by Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod Disaster Relief. Your gift is tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.
Sarah Schafer is a freelance writer based in Fairfax, Va., and a member of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Springfield, Va.
Posted March 7, 2012