By Cheryl Magness
On Aug. 27, at around 1 a.m. CDT, Hurricane Laura came ashore near the tiny town of Cameron, La., as a Category 4 storm. With sustained winds of 150 miles per hour, Laura snapped trees, knocked down power lines, tore roofs off buildings and shattered windows across the area.
While the worst damage was in Louisiana, the storm’s impact was also felt in parts of Texas and Arkansas. According to weather.com:
- An estimated 14,000 people have been evacuated.
- The storm is responsible for at least 14 deaths in Louisiana, four deaths in Texas and 23 deaths in the Caribbean.
- Nearly 300,000 people remain without power and 180,000 don’t have running water. It could take weeks to fully restore both.
In a Facebook post shortly after Laura made landfall, the Rev. Eric Johnson, president of the LCMS (Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod) Southern District, asked for patience and prayers:
“At times like this, concerned congregations and individuals look to the [district] office for guidance and leadership in disaster relief and recovery. As we move forward together, there will be need of financial, material and volunteer help. … I ask you to be patient as we partner with our district disaster relief teams and the Synod’s disaster relief to be able to go in and provide spiritual and material aid.
“While we wait, let us pray for those devastated, injured and hurt. Pray for the first responders, pray for the second responders, then be prayerfully prepared to give financial, material and volunteer help in the coming weeks and months, as relief and recovery is a long, slow process for us and especially for those devastated by this powerful hurricane.”
‘The Lord is good’
One of the areas most affected by the storm was Lake Charles, La. St. John Lutheran Church in Lake Charles sustained significant damage, including to its sanctuary, which had two opposing walls completely blown out, destroying the stained glass and ruining most of the building’s contents.
The Rev. Charles R. Miller, pastor at St. John, said, “As far as I can tell, everyone is safe. … One of my biggest concerns was my older people. A lot of our folks are with family out of town. Some are still here in town. Most people are just coming in and out as they need to.”
Much of the area is still without electricity and water. The sheriff’s department has asked that, until those are restored, people not stay overnight.
“The Lord is good,” Miller said. “He’s going to keep us and direct us, provide for us and do everything for us. … The biggest thing [for those affected by the hurricane] is being there and loving them … [and] bringing them Jesus. We’re not going anywhere and He’s not, either.”
Miller hopes to resume Word and Sacrament ministry soon — “Our people need that” — and requests continued prayers. “The prayers of God’s people availeth much, and we want those prayers. … And if you have the financial resources to give … please do. If not, just pray for us, please. Prayer is the biggest need we have right now, so that people can stay strong in the Lord.”
Trinity Lutheran Church in Sulphur, La., also suffered serious effects from Hurricane Laura, with damage to its roof, trees, outdoor crosses and signage.
An opportunity to serve
On Sunday, Aug. 30, LCMS Disaster Response Director Rev. Dr. Ross Johnson and Director of Disaster Training Rev. Michael Meyer traveled to Louisiana to meet with Eric Johnson, do an initial assessment and begin planning a response. Ross Johnson emphasized that the response will be a shared effort by multiple parties, including the affected congregations, the LCMS Southern and Texas districts, the Synod and several LCMS Recognized Service Organizations, including:
- Trinity Lutheran Church’s Rapid Response Team, Tyler, Texas
- Lutheran Disaster Care, Arlington, Texas
- Shepherd’s Heart Disaster Response Ministry, Gardendale, Ala.
“We have over a dozen Lutheran congregations in Louisiana and Texas that have been in some way affected by Hurricane Laura,” Ross Johnson said. “This will be a multiple-district, multiple-congregation response with a lot of moving parts over a period of at least six months, maybe longer. Collaboration will be key. As we move forward, we will seek to serve not only our LCMS churches and members, but our pastors and their families who are trying to care for their flocks while also dealing with their own challenges from the effects of this storm.”
LCMS Texas District President Rev. Dr. Michael Newman said that while the impact of the storm in his district was relatively minor, the district would be very involved in the response.
“While some churches and homes in Texas experienced some wind and rain impact, very little flooding occurred,” Newman said. “A key issue across the region is the absence of power and water. Texas disaster response teams are collaborating with the Southern District to assist some seriously affected areas in Louisiana. Chainsaw teams are being trained and deployed as well. Texas is housing many evacuees from Louisiana at this time.
“As we continue to pray for and assist all those who have experienced loss and heartbreak because of this storm, we offer our prayers of thanksgiving to God for His grace and protection along with the outpouring of prayer and support from around the Synod.”
There are no reports of any LCMS members being injured or killed by Hurricane Laura, but Eric Johnson emphasized that many homes were severely damaged or destroyed. He said the Southern District would be working with LCMS Disaster Response to facilitate the relief effort, with St. John, Lake Charles, serving as a base of operations. The response will include chainsaw and muck-out work; drywall removal; distribution of food, water and other needed supplies; and the preparation of hot meals for first and second responders as well as local residents.
Eric Johnson said, “The emotional and spiritual toll is hard to quantify, but people are shell-shocked and will need pastoral as well psychological support as they deal with great loss and go about the process of rebuilding. While terrible, disasters like Hurricane Laura give congregations an opportunity to serve their communities and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others they may never have had the opportunity to reach before. God causes all things to work together for the good.”
Ross Johnson echoed Eric Johnson’s concerns about the emotional and spiritual toll of such storms and added that, in future weeks, disaster chaplains will be key in helping to provide pastoral support to those affected. He also emphasized the benefit of having disaster funds on hand so that, when unexpected events occur, financial resources are readily available: “The many generous donors who have given to LCMS Disaster Response in the past and who continue to do so enable us to offer immediate assistance while proclaiming Christ to those who are suffering.”
Please visit the Southern District and Texas District websites for information about how to support each district’s disaster response effort:
To support the continued work of LCMS Disaster Response, please consider donating:
- Online at lcms.org/give/disaster.
- Via text (send keyword LCMSDISASTERS or LCMSHURRICANES to 41444).
- By phone at 888-930-4438, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Central time.
- By check (make payable to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, and write “for disaster response” on the memo line.)
Posted Aug. 28, 2020/Updated Sept. 1, 2020