Evaluation of relief opportunities continues

Pastors and leaders from Florida and Texas are continuing to meet and evaluate the needs of their members and communities following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Florida pastors and South Atlantic District President Chuck Westra met with a representative from WELS Christian Aid and Relief Mon., Sept. 18, to assess the needs and discuss opportunities.

Local volunteers have deployed the Christian Aid and Relief trailers, outfitted with tools and supplies for relief work, to the Jacksonville, Fla., area to help with cleanup efforts. A group of Christian Aid and Relief volunteers will be arriving in Florida on Fri., Sept. 22, and staying for a week to tackle cleanup projects in Merritt Island and West Melbourne, two of the harder hit areas.

So far, reports of damage to WELS churches and members’ homes have been minimal from Irma. Minor roof damage and downed trees account for the majority of the reports. Local groups have come together to clean up the most urgent areas, including members from the churches in the Divine Savior school association getting together to help clean up trees and debris around the school.

“It was pretty exciting that as we’re starting this new association with one another we see a firsthand account of brothers and sisters in Christ joining together to do a bigger, better job than we could’ve done ourselves,” says Rev. John Boggs, Hope, West Palm Beach, Fla.

Rev. David Rosenbaum, Redeemer, Merritt Island, Fla., said that while he and his members were spared major damage, there are several homes in the surrounding community that were destroyed by winds and tornadoes.

In Texas, a representative from WELS Christian Aid and Relief met with Houston-area pastors and lay leaders and South Central District President Rev. Don Patterson on Sept. 6 to assess the situation in that area. The district has established a local committee to continue to assess needs and coordinate relief opportunities.

Patterson reports that many congregations have already been working to help members and friends clean up damage to their properties and homes caused by the flooding. Rev. Matthew Brown from Abiding Word, Houston, Tex., says that more than 40 Abiding Word members mobilized as soon as flood waters receded to help the five member families whose homes were badly damaged in the flood. Other members went door to door in their neighborhoods to see if people needed help. “It was Christians serving and trusting that God provides those opportunities to give the reason for the hope that we have,” Brown says.

Several different groups from the area also traveled to Christ our Savior, Angleton, Tex., the last few weekends to help clean out and strip down the parsonage, which was flooded with eight inches of water that didn’t recede for a week.

Along with the relief trailers with tools and supplies, Christian Aid and Relief has provided more than $65,000 to help address immediate needs of the congregations and members affected by the hurricane and the flooding in Texas. Some of this funding is being used to help congregations and schools reach high deductibles for their insurance as well to provide gift cards for supplies to members and prospects as cleanup efforts continue.

Local district leaders and Builders For Christ are also discussing the possibility of working together on rebuilding homes damaged by the hurricane.

Boggs says, “Hurricane Irma has come and gone, and its affects are being felt everywhere. There are still parts of our state that are without power. There’s a lot of devastation and issues that need to be resolved. But, we stand amazed at how the Lord spared our people, how the Lord spared our buildings, how destruction was very minimal to our WELS churches, and how our brothers and sisters in Christ have rallied around each other and their common faith to support one another and help wherever possible.”

Christian Aid and Relief Chairman Rev. Bob Hein thanks WELS members for their outpouring of prayers and support, saying it’s encouraging for people who have been affected by these storms to know they have brothers and sisters in faith thinking of them.

Learn more at wels.net/hurricaneupdates.