With three major hurricanes affecting the United States this summer, there were many opportunities for WELS members to show Christian love and service to the affected congregations and their communities. WELS Christian Aid and Relief has distributed more than $100,000 in relief aid so far to those affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
In addition, several groups already have traveled to the affected areas to show Christian love by helping with immediate cleanup.
Five men from Salem, Stillwater, Minn., brought a Christian Aid and Relief trailer outfitted with tools and supplies for relief work, to West Melbourne, Fla., in late September, to help members of New Hope, West Melbourne, and Redeemer, Merritt Island, with cleanup following Hurricane Irma.
It was a homecoming for Jeff Ross, who was stationed in Florida for his military service. “I got laid off from my job, which was not a bad thing, so, I had a little time on my hands,” he says. “God just gave me this opportunity to come down here and help some Floridians out. I know what it’s like to go through a hurricane. So it’s great to get back and help.”
The group took down trees and cleaned up debris at about 25 homes—both of WELS members and also nonmembers in the community. New Hope Christian Academy school children also helped with cleanup as well as distributed fliers that shared information about the congregations.
“It’s a great opportunity to live our faith but also to share our faith through our actions and through the conversations we are able to have,” says Ted Petersen, a member of New Hope who helped coordinate the local relief efforts.
With many retirees in the congregations who find it difficult to do the physical labor, Petersen says it was wonderful to have volunteers come and work on the church’s behalf. “Hurricanes are brutal things. . . . Just to see people come down who say, “We’re going to help you out. We care about you and what you’ve been through and we’re going to do what we can to get you back on your feet”—that means a lot to us,” he says.
It also is rewarding for the volunteers. Bob Wells, one of the volunteers from Minnesota, says, “It’s been nice to go together and work as a group, to know that the congregation and the synod are here to help. And [to see] the people just crying tears of joy after we showed up and got the work done.”
About 50 WELS members from the greater Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Houston area traveled to Edna and Victoria, Tex., in early September to offer support and relief to those communities that were affected by Hurricane Harvey.
These volunteers partnered with members of Redeemer, a multi-site ministry with worship in both Edna and Victoria, to address the critical needs of the congregation’s members, their friends and family, and also the community. “We hit roughly 60 families, doing work anywhere from tarping roofs to cutting down trees to cleaning up yards,” says Andrew Schroer, pastor at Redeemer, Edna.
Aaron Glaeske, pastor at Redeemer, Victoria, had only arrived in Victoria a couple of months before the hurricane. He just recently started worship services at the Victoria site and is preparing for a grand opening on Dec. 3. “Our dear Lord gave us an opportunity with Harvey to introduce ourselves to the community in a different way,” he says. “Every opportunity you have to reach into the community to show that you’re interested in them—not just to get people into pews but because you’re really interested in them as people—that speaks volumes about the kind of love that Jesus has shown us.”
Christian Aid and Relief is still evaluating long-term recovery needs, especially in Houston, Tex., which had massive flooding after some areas received more than 50 inches of rain, and Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria. Watch for updates at wels.net/hurricanerelief.
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Volume 104, Number 11
Issue: November 2017
Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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