Sunday, September 04, 2005

Hurricane Katrina - some ways to help

The situation in New Orleans is growing more horrendous as the hours and days go by. I assume I'm like most people who are still in the denial phase, just barely starting to realize how bad the situation truly is. In my narrow little world, corpses do not EVER rot on the street...not in America. Gangs with guns don't roam the streets...not in America. Of course, my narrow little world has only existed for 44 years during a relatively calm and properous time in America. I have much to learn.

I honestly don't know what to think or do next, especially up here in the north. I will contribute money next paycheck, I will pray, I will read and feature stories, like those found in the collection of Lutheran posts on Lutheran Carnival Special Edition: Hurricane Katrina.

From the ELS website and President Molstad:

Information for ELS members about hurricane relief donations

Our prayers ascend to the heavenly Father on behalf of all who are suffering in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The Gospel of Christ ultimately is the real help and hope for all who encounter suffering, and we ask that God would use this epic tragedy to work soul-saving results in his kingdom.

There are several WELS congregations in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, including a congregation in the city of New Orleans. The WELS Committee of Relief has already begun its efforts to help people in the affected areas. Below you will find the WELS press release regarding this work.

If members in our synod wish to contribute financially to the relief efforts, they may direct their gifts to: ELS Hurricane Relief, 6 Browns Court, Mankato, MN 56001. We will then transmit the funds collectively to the WELS Committee on Relief.


On Aug. 30, the Committee on Relief, WELS Kingdom Workers, the South Atlantic District Hurricane Relief Committee, South Atlantic District President John Guse, and pastors whose congregations were affected by Hurricane Katrina participated in a conference call to discuss an action plan in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The main items that were discussed follow:

A small First Response Team from the South Atlantic District is planning to arrive in the Mobile, Ala., area with a supply trailer around Sept. 1. The main objectives of this first team are to assess immediate needs of affected congregations and set up local contact people and access to relief funds. This emergency response team will offer assistant to the pastor and members of Saving Grace in Mobile. Accompanying the team is a supply trailer stocked with generators, chainsaws, cell phones, tarps, cash, etc. to aid in any way possible. The team will also assess the needs of the pastor, congregation, and community in Mobile. If possible, they will attempt to reach Abita Springs and assess the damage there as well. Continued relief efforts will be organized in cooperation with WELS Kingdom Workers. Eventually a similar team will be sent to New Orleans once travel becomes safe.

Damage from the storm is extensive and severe. While assessments need to be made, it is likely that there will be substantial work for able and willing volunteers. In order to maintain a productive and organized effort, individuals and groups wishing to volunteer should contact either WELS Kingdom Workers or South Atlantic District Hurricane Relief Committee members Nathan Nolte or Joshua Kesting. It is essential that volunteer efforts be well coordinated and planned so that they can provide the most benefit instead of adding to logistical problems.

After the First Response Team has reported the initial assessment, Pastor Richard Warnecke from WELS Kingdom Workers and possibly Pastor Phil Schupmann from the Committee on Relief will arrive to offer further assistance and organization. Once they have organized a local team, they will form a ministry plan for the next weeks and months. This local team will have access to WELS Committee on Relief funds and will disperse funds as they see fit to aid those in the congregation and community.

WELS Committee on Relief has authorized the release of $100,000 for immediate aid. Part of these funds will be sent to an account already in place in South Florida to be dispersed as needed and a new account will be set up closer to the area affected by the storm.

We praise God for the way he moves our brothers and sisters to give generously in times of need. At this time, it is impossible to identify what specific material items would be most beneficial to the relief effort. Until more assessment can take place, monetary donations will provide the most useful assistance. Individuals and congregations are encouraged to send donations to the WELS Committee on Relief.

Thankfully, Pastor Dave Sternhagen of Crown of Life in New Orleans was able to join us on the phone call. He is safely waiting in Memphis to return to New Orleans. He anticipates a wait of a week or more. He has heard from some of his members but not all. Pastor Joe Dietrich of Trinity in Abita Springs has not been contacted. Telephone, power and cell service are all out in the area. Pastor Bill Greenlee of Cross of Glory in Baton Rouge was spared major damage and still has power and phones. He will be attempting to drive into Abita Springs to locate Joe. Harmon Lewis reports loss of power, phones, fence, shingles and siding but he and his family are safe. All the members he has contacted are likewise safe.

We ask for the prayers of all, first for the victims of this disaster but also for those who will be working to serve the victims of this disaster. The Lord bless our humble efforts and turn even this terrible event to work for good in the lives of those who love him.

Humbly submitted,
Pastor Joshua Kesting
Principal Nathan Nolte

Thrivent matching gifts
Through the Individual Member Response, gifts that Thrivent Financial for Lutheran members make to the WELS Committee on Relief will be supplemented $1 for every $2 given, up to $300 per member (e.g., if a member gives $600 to a relief organization, Thrivent Financial will provide that organization with an additional $300.) A Thrivent Financial Hurricane Katrina Response Form must accompany the member’s gift. Go to the Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Web site for more information or to download the form.

Wels Relief
The Committee on Relief works as a humanitarian aid fund, considering requests for disaster assistance. A non-budgetary committee, relief efforts are accomplished solely through monetary gifts. Current disasters are detailed on the expanded site. To donate, please click below ---- The Committee lends help to many areas through our world missionaries. More about disasters can be read on the easy-to-navigate expanded web page. The expanded site contains photos and news stories relating to recent disasters.

Established as a response following the 2nd World War, Committee on Relief members - appointed by the synod president - customarily serve six-year terms. In addition to these four men, a system has been established with pastors of the conferences. While actively promoting the Committee, they also inform the Committee of relief needs following local disasters.
Again, anyone wishing to donate to the WELS Committee on Relief, may do so online through the Committee on Relief’s web site. Those who prefer to give information by phone are asked to call between 8:00 and 4:30 (Central time). The number for such gifts is 1-800-827-5482


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