Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida on Sept. 28 as a powerful Category 4 storm. Rev. Dan Sims, director of WELS Christian Aid and Relief, provides an update on how WELS congregations were affected and on current relief efforts in those areas.
On Oct. 3, 2022, a four-person assessment team from WELS Christian Aid and Relief arrived in Sarasota, Fla. They met with Rev. Marty Mielke, the secretary of the South Atlantic District and “point man” for disaster relief operations following Hurricane Ian. Mielke has been in regular communication with the pastors and congregational leaders in the district. He gave the team an overview of the situation in south Florida. The team plans to spend two days visiting WELS congregations in the area; assessing their needs; and planning the best ways to utilize money, volunteers, and other resources to help those who are affected.
Congregations to the north and in the immediate Tampa area received the least damage. WELS churches in Odessa, Tampa, Clearwater, Valrico, Seminole, and Parrish were largely untouched with only a few downed trees and light flooding. Risen Savior in Lakewood Ranch sustained significant roof damage. Ascension in Sarasota has some roof and soffit damage as well as a 40-foot palm tree on the roof.
Congregations and communities farther south were hit the hardest. At Prince of Peace in Englewood, the church’s cupola was breached, causing water to soak the sanctuary and pews. Christ the King in Port Charlotte received roof and water damage, causing part of the ceiling to collapse. Bethany in North Fort Myers is going to need a new roof and has a large amount of downed timber and brush on the property. At Crown of Life in Fort Meyers the roof on the gymnasium was severely damaged and water entered the sanctuary. The church and school at Abiding Love in Cape Coral sustained roof damage; water also penetrated into the offices, hallways, classrooms, kitchen, and fellowship hall. Portions of the ceilings have collapsed.
We are happy to report that among our members, no injury or loss of life has been reported. Praise God for his mercy!
Many offers of help have come in from individuals and organizations across the synod. Thank you so much! Again, we ask for your patience as we prioritize and plan. The best way for you to help at this time is to give a financial gift. You can do that by going to wels.net/CARgift or mailing a check to WELS, N16W23377 Stone Ridge Drive, Waukesha, WI 53188, and designating your gift to “Disaster Relief.”
Small, local efforts to provide needed supplies and clear debris have begun. Christian Aid and Relief has already provided $10,000 to the South Atlantic District to purchase supplies, generators, and tarps.
It would be easy to look at this disaster as only that—a terrible storm that caused tremendous damage and loss. If we take a closer look, we will see that the Lord is using Ian to remind us of what’s really important and to give us the opportunity to imitate the compassion of Christ as we love and serve one another and those around us. Please continue to pray.