ELCA NEWS SERVICE
August 24, 2007
Lutheran Disaster Response Responding to Upper Midwest Flooding
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) staff, in partnership with Lutheran leaders and social ministry organizations in southeastern Minnesota and in the area near La Crosse, Wis., has begun its work to assist people affected by severe flooding there. A series of severe storms that dumped more than a foot of rain in the region caused rivers to overflow. The storms, remnants of Tropical Storm Erin, are responsible for at least 26 deaths across several states.
Severe flooding also occurred this week in northwest Ohio, particularly in Findlay. LDR assessments there have not yet been completed, said the Rev. Kevin A. Massey, assistant director, ELCA Domestic Disaster Response.
LDR is a collaborative ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
In response to the storms, LDR has fielded a number of inquiries from people wanting to volunteer to assist in helping people with cleanup efforts, Massey said. Only now are some communities beginning to emerge from the emergency phase of the disaster, he said, and some communities remain closed to the general public.
"Mechanisms for coordinating the volunteers will be soon coming," Massey said. "Our disaster response coordinators in Minnesota and Wisconsin are now making preparations to coordinate volunteers to help with the removal of debris (and) to help clean out flooded homes. However, at this moment we're not able to manage influx of volunteers until we make these preparations."
He asked volunteers to monitor information on the LDR Web site at http://www.ldr.org and the ELCA Domestic Disaster Response at http://www.ELCA.org/disaster/ on the ELCA Web site, about how and when to volunteer.
Massey traveled Aug. 22 and Aug. 23 to the ELCA Southeastern Minnesota Synod and the ELCA LaCrosse Area Synod to begin discussions with bishops, area clergy and disaster relief partners, including local social ministry organizations.
In the Southeastern Minnesota Synod, Massey said LDR is concentrating its response efforts in the synod in Houston, Rushford and Winona. Especially hard hit was Rushford Lutheran Church, where the basement was flooded with sewage. There was also flooding in the parsonage. In a message to the synod, the Rev. Harold L. Usgaard, bishop of the Southeastern Minnesota Synod, said a decision was made to cleanup Rushford Lutheran Church immediately, and a professional cleaning firm will be called in.
"The town is still very much closed off, and the town was significantly affected," Massey said of Rushford. "The main street of the town was completely flooded as was a majority of the homes present."
Rushford and Houston-area pastors will continue to offer pastoral counseling and assistance to people affected by the floods, Usgaard said. An interfaith organization is being formed to assist in response, he added.
Usgaard reported that several other congregations suffered some water damage. Some members reportedly lost homes, and other congregations in the synod were cut off because roads and bridges were washed out, his message said.
Massey also met with the Rev. April Ulring Larson, ELCA La Crosse Area Synod bishop, area clergy and local disaster relief partners in the synod. LDR is concentrating its efforts in Gays Mills and Soldiers Grove, Massey said.
Among the most seriously damaged churches was Luther Memorial Lutheran Church, Gays Mills, which was flooded. A wall collapsed in the parsonage basement, the synod reported. Several other congregations in the area suffered some kind of flood damage or were cut off because bridges and roads were washed out. Some members' homes were damaged, the synod reported.
LDR will coordinate its response through Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota and Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan Inc., Massey said. LDR provides hardship grants, volunteer coordination services, spiritual and emotional care, and case management services.
Audio comments from the Rev. Kevin Massey are at:
Information about flood response efforts in the ELCA Southeastern Minnesota Synod is at http://www.semnsynod.org/ on the Web; information about flood response in the ELCA La Crosse Area Synod at http://www.lacrosseareasynod.org/ on the Web.
Editors: When listing organizations receiving funds to aid survivors of major disasters inside the United States, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, please include:
ELCA Domestic Disaster Response, P.O. Box 71764, Chicago, Illinois 60694-1764
Credit card gift line: 1-800-638-3522
Credit card gifts via Internet: http://www.ELCA.org/disaster/
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John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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