ELCA NEWS SERVICE
August 31, 2012
ELCA synods affected by Hurricane Isaac begin to assess damage
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- In the past week Hurricane Isaac has caused flooding and damage across parts of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's (ELCA) Southeastern and Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synods. Both synods are now working with ELCA Disaster Response and their congregations, as well as other social service providers to assess needs in the area and begin the clean-up process.
In the ELCA Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, where Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans seven years ago this week, most of the damage has been caused by heavy winds and flooding.
"The good news is this has not been as bad as Katrina," said the Rev. Michael Rinehart, bishop of the ELCA Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod. "It's too early to tell the full extent of the damage in hard-hit parishes (counties) like Plaquemines Parish, St. John the Baptist Parish and Tammany Parish. Power is still out over most of the metropolitan area, but 10,000 workers have been deployed from 24 states to get the lights, power and air conditioning back on."
Only one congregation in the area has reported being affected by the storm to date. The Lutheran Church of the Galilean in Le Place, La., is in an area that has been evacuated. There is an estimated two to five feet of water inside the church.
"Members have not been able to access the church building yet," said Rinehart. "They are hoping to get in today. (Along with others) from the synod, I will be headed there as soon as I-10 is open, now that New Orleans has lifted the curfew."
In the ELCA Southeastern Synod, which includes Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee, there are no reports of congregations that have sustained major damage, although Grace Lutheran Church in Gulf Shores, Ala., is in an area that was evacuated.
"As far as we know, there is no significant damage to any of our congregations on the coast," said the Rev. H. Julian Gordy, bishop of the ELCA Southeastern Synod. "This storm moved through so slowly that it's really just now over, and so the kind of assessment that needs to be done probably won't be complete until a day or two."
Gordy will be traveling to the coast in the next few days to assist in the assessment process. He noted that because of the area's history of storms, the synod has a disaster task force in place that was able to help congregations prepare for Isaac. The task force will also be involved in the assessment and recovery processes.
"All of the congregations in this area have been accustomed to storms. This is the area that was impacted by Katrina, and Lutherans were involved in the recovery effort after Katrina for more than five years," Gordy said. "We have been extremely grateful for the response of Lutherans across the country in the disasters that have happened across this synod during the last few years. Lutherans have come early and stayed late in all of those cases. We're very grateful."
"We are now working with our partners in the area to determine needs and the appropriate response," said the Rev. Michael Stadie, who directs domestic disaster response for the ELCA. "Through the learnings and experiences gained from Hurricane Katrina, there is already knowledge and resources in the area that will be used in responding," he said. "As needs for the relief and recovery continue to become known, we will be looking to recruit volunteers for both short- and long-term efforts. In the early stages, people wishing to provide support can best do so through financial donations."
"Knowing of the destruction that has come to communities because of this hurricane and the continued experience of flooding and tornadoes, our hearts are moved," said the Rev. Daniel Rift, director of the ELCA World Hunger and Disaster Appeal. "We feel privileged to provide a way for congregations and individuals to provide support for families to get back on their feet after this terrible experience."
"We join with Lutherans and others all over this nation in prayer for those communities that have experienced destruction from this storm and those that lie in its path," said Rift. "We pray as well that they know they are not alone."
Information about ELCA Disaster Response is available at http://www.ELCA.org/disaster.
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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with 4.2 million members in 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.
For information contact:
Melissa Ramirez Cooper
773-380-2956 or Melissa.RamirezCooper@ELCA.org
Living Lutheran: http://www.livinglutheran.com