September 14, 2017
Thanks to Bishop Michael Rinehart of the Gulf Coast Synod for his faithful leadership through Hurricane Harvey. The information below is based on his blog post, adapted for the Florida-Bahamas Synod context. The original post can be found at: https://bishopmike.com/2017/09/04/how-can-we-help-2/.
How can we help?
This is the question we’ve been asked most. Thank you for asking. Here’s a stock response.
Pray. Give. Serve.
Pray for the 15 Million who were and some still are without electricity (largest restoration effort in the history of the state). Pray for the many people without potable water, especially in Brevard County. Pray for the millions of students, teachers and parents affected by a week of school being closed. Pray for the 16 or so congregations in the synod reporting moderate to severe damage. Pray for the family of the one reported hurricane-related death in Miami. Pray for the many congregations still unable to gather in their own space for worship. Give thanks for the many ways congregations have come together to support their communities, work together, and sustain one another through this hurricane. Give thanks for the many lives that were spared and the buildings that sustained only minimal damage. Give thanks for the many first responders, community leaders, emergency personnel and relief workers who worked tirelessly through this disaster, and who continue to serve all those in need.
And while you’re at it, pray for those affected by the earthquake in Mexico, those affected by floods in Georgia and North/South Carolina, those affected by wildfires in the western United States, and those all over the world still in need.
Pastor Johan Bergh offered this prayer to his congregation following the Hurricane:
Gracious Lord, the seas rage and the storms roll and we do our best to love and care for each other and creation as we find our faith, love and hope in You. Give us again today a measure of your Spirit that would lift us to engage all that is before us: powerless, broken, neighbors and family in need. We are confident You provide all that we need. In Christ we live. Amen.
The situation changes daily. The needs change daily. Financial gifts are the most flexible. People ask, “Should we give to Lutheran Disaster Response or to the Florida-Bahamas Synod?” It depends upon what you want your money to do. LDR.org does case management among the most needy, usually through Lutheran Services of Florida. They serve low-income families with no insurance. This is holy work.
Congregations are not LDR’s primary work. But they are ours as a synod. Gifts to the Florida-Bahamas Synod Disaster Relief Fund help congregations and their leaders to recover and serve their neighborhoods. Our best way to reach our neighborhoods is through our congregations. We help congregations so they can give to their community.
You can give it to Florida-Bahamas Synod by using this link or by sending a check (marked for Hurricane Irma or Hurricane relief) to:
3838 West Cypress St
Tampa, FL 33607
We are also well-connected to our global church partners, and can use funds donated for disaster response in Cuba and in Haiti. If donations come in for the Caribbean Synod, we can direct those to where they need to go as well.
There will be volunteer opportunities for some time to come. Much of the light clean-up to congregations is happening through local congregations. The more significant clean-up to the areas affected more strongly will be handled through local agencies. The best way to connect with volunteer needs is by registering with Volunteer Florida. They are the response agency tasked with and capable of managing all the volunteer needs related to this hurricane. A lot of local clean-up has already happened through congregations, but the larger clean-up tasks (removing larger trees, rebuilding fences, etc) will be handled through Volunteer Florida. When you register through Volunteer Florida, you can choose to be connected to Lutheran Disaster Response or some other relief agency, identify the kind of work you want to do and your availability and flexibility. Volunteer Florida will contact you with possible opportunities.