RESPONDING TO HURRICANE HARVEY
From Bishop Larry Wohlrabe, NW MN Synod ELCA
August 30, 2017
As we watch the daily news reports coming from the Gulf Coast areas devastated by Hurricane Harvey, it's natural for us to want to respond. What's crucial, though, is to step back from that initial impulse and learn more about how we can truly help our sisters and brothers without making their situation worse. Here are some things I've learned over the years in helping coordinate disaster response efforts in two ELCA synods:
First, pray for the victims, the first responders, the representatives of government and non-profit relief agencies, and all sorts of caregivers (including spiritual caregivers)....pray for their safety, their well-being, their faith, and their physical/mental/spiritual health. For the public prayers of the church, check out worship resources for times of disaster at http://www.elca.org/Resources/Lutheran-Disaster-Response#Worship
Second, send financial contributions to reputable disaster response agencies. PLEASE DO NOT start collecting cleaning supplies, tools, clothing, blankets-tangible items that must be packed up, shipped to the disaster area, then unpacked and (in many instances) stored somewhere until they are actually needed for the cleanup phase of the disaster. Money is far, far better! It's easier to "transport" to the disaster area. And sending money helps stimulate the local economy in the disaster area-because monetary gifts will be spent locally at a critical time when the local economy is itself another "victim" of the disaster. See below for the best ways to share financial gifts with disaster victims.
Third, resist the urge to gather up a troupe of volunteers, rent a bus or van, and simply head down to Texas or Louisiana. That's the best way to add to the disaster rather than offer the relief that is needed. Ask yourself: "Whose needs am I trying to meet? The needs of the victims? Or my own needs to 'be helpful' or 'do something.'" STOP. LOOK. LISTEN. BREATHE. AND WAIT until the time is right and the disaster area can receive your gifts of time, energy and expertise.
Here's what our friends in the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod of the ELCA are telling us TODAY: "When the time comes for response and clean up work, if your church would like to send out muck-out teams, we will be helping to coordinate efforts when that time arrives."
Fourth, stay informed about what's actually happening "on the ground." I advise you (or someone your congregation designates) to check the following websites frequently in the months to come:
TEXAS-LOUSIANA GULF COAST SYNOD ELCA: https://gulfcoastsynod.org/hurricane-harvey/
SOUTHWESTERN TEXAS SYNOD: http://www.swtsynod.org/
LUTHERAN DISASTER RESPONSE (ELCA Churchwide):https://community.elca.org/ushurricanerelief?_ga=2.178454381.81517886.1504095775-1811891998.1469622024
Thank you for your deep care and concern for all the folks affected by Hurricane Harvey. God bless your faithful, heartfelt, thoughtful, timely efforts to make a difference!