Cleaning up after the storms

By now, everyone knows about the impactful hurricane season last fall. Countless people in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean were affected. Some of these people were WELS members and their communities. That’s where WELS Christian Aid and Relief stepped in to offer assistance via immediate financial support and long-term clean-up and repairs. Christian Aid and Relief has been coordinating volunteer efforts, enabling WELS members to help their Christian brothers and sisters affected by the storms.

In Florida, volunteers used Christian Aid and Relief trailers filled with supplies as they assisted with clean-up efforts in several affected communities. Local congregation members and school children helped with the efforts as well as canvassed the neighborhoods. Financial grants were also distributed to help families refurbish and repair their homes.

Financial assistance was provided to families from Barbuda who were displaced from their homes. Some are staying at members’ homes from St. John’s, St. John, Antigua.

Hard-hit Puerto Rico, home of WELS’ sister church body the Evangelical Lutheran Confessional Church, was visited by WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder; WELS liaison for the field, Rev. Tim Satorius; and World Mission representatives in January. One church there was completely destroyed, and several members’ homes were damaged. Groceries were provided to families in need, and Christian Aid and Relief has been getting bids for repair projects. An immediate gift of $5,000 through Direct Relief was made to assist those in need as well as $5,000 to provide meals for people in the church and community.

Perhaps it was Texas’ Hurricane Harvey that had the biggest impact on WELS members. Several members’ homes were flooded, resulting in mold and rot issues. Christ Our Savior church and parsonage in Angleton, as well as Sienna Lutheran Academy in Missouri City, suffered considerable damage.

In the days following the hurricane, 40 WELS members from the greater Austin and Dallas/Fort Worth area traveled to the affected areas of Edna and Victoria to offer support and relief. Christian Aid and Relief provided two trailers filled with generators, chain saws, and other supplies and equipment to use for the clean-up of at least 50 homes.

In the weeks and months following the hurricane, after full assessments had been made, Christian Aid and Relief coordinated a steady stream of volunteers to help remove, repair, and replace damaged drywall, floors, trim and molding, and roofs of members’ homes.

Rev. Marc VonDeylen and his wife Monique, Lord of Life, Friendswood, live in a neighborhood that experienced heavy flooding during Hurricane Harvey. The night the storm hit Marc had to sleep at the church because the waters were rising so fast that he couldn’t make the short drive home. Meanwhile, at their house, Monique hosted unexpected visitors . . . neighbors she didn’t even know from down the street who couldn’t make it the few blocks to their driveway. While the VonDeylen’s home was spared from flooding, the area around them wasn’t.

The day after the storm, the VonDeylens called their members and found out that eight or nine homes were flooded. They started getting everyone together to help each other. “We started seeing a great outpouring of love from our members at that point,” said Marc. Congregation members went from house to house to remove damaged items. They even opened their homes to their fellow Christian brothers and sisters whose homes were being repaired.

While the support from one another brought their congregation closer together, Monique says, “People wanted to get back in their homes, so we were so glad when we found out that Christian Aid and Relief was going to come down here and help us out.”

Marc says, “God uses these things to give us opportunities to show our faith, practice our faith, and let others see the love of Christ.”

WELS members have given more than $1.5 million for hurricane relief. “We thank our WELS brothers and sisters for their prayers, their support, and their generous gifts,” says Rev. Robert Hein, chairman of WELS Christian Aid and Relief. “What a privilege to serve as God’s instruments to bring his blessings to those in need!”

Visit wels.net/relief to learn more about WELS Christian Aid and Relief.