By Megan K. Mertz
When flooding and an explosion devastated parts of the densely populated capital city of Accra, Ghana, June 3, local Lutherans were quick to come together to show mercy to their neighbors in need.
Within four days, volunteers had collected offerings from congregations and individual members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana, an LCMS partner church, and partnered with Lutheran Hour Ministries’ (LHM) center in the country to prepare and distribute some 2,000 food packets to hungry residents of the affected areas.
“Some recipients [said] this was the first food they had eaten since the rain and flood,” said the Rev. Dr. David Erber, LCMS area director for West and Central Africa, who joined the 20-plus volunteers to distribute food. “Even getting safe drinking water was a major problem for people.”
Justice Oman, director of LHM’s center in Ghana, said thousands of homes were affected by the dual disasters, which killed at least 160 people and left many others homeless.
During the food distribution, Erber observed many residents who were still trying to salvage their stained or burned belongings from among the rubble. Others were searching for missing loved ones, presumably washed away by the floodwaters.
“A lot of the homes are just concrete-block homes,” Erber said. “Entire buildings collapsed and were just rubble on the ground. … There were piles of rubbish and trash all over the place and people everywhere who had lost everything that they had ever owned.”
Authorities believe that a leak in a gas station’s fuel tank caused the explosion when gasoline carried by the floodwaters came into contact with a cooking fire in a nearby home. The gasoline trail ignited and traveled back to the source, causing a massive explosion.
Since heavy rains are common for Accra in June, people were caught off guard by the disasters. A number of them had sought shelter from the rain under the gas station’s overhang when the explosion occurred.
“The Lutheran Church has been recognized by the city of Accra as being significant first responders,” said Justice Oman, director of LHM’s center in Ghana. “We have been able to make a lot of relationships through what we are doing. We have been trying to listen to people, give what little help we are able to give, and we are trying to encourage people the best we can. There is so much more we need to do.”
Megan K. Mertz (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a staff writer and managing editor of Lutherans Engage the World with LCMS Communications.
Posted June 19, 2015