Dear Friends in Christ,
Thank you for the many prayers and statements of support and encouragement you have sent to those already or potentially impacted by this storm. The prayers of the Body of Christ are powerful in strengthening solidarity and compassion for one another. Many thoughts and concerns are specifically focused on the impact of Hurricane Dorian on the community of Our Saviors Lutheran Church in Freeport, Bahamas. Synod leaders were in touch with Pr. Cliff Lewis on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoon, at which point Pr. Lewis reported that the community was taking necessary precautions. As of Tuesday morning, we have not heard an update directly from Pr. Lewis–but based on the news reports, we know the impact of the storm is immense. The conference deans will be checking in with me via a conference call on Thursday, at which point we will have more information about the specific impact of this storm on our synod.
As in all disasters, the ELCA works closely with partners to respond to and support the communities affected. With The Bahamas, Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) International and ELCA Global Mission will work through international relief partners–specifically through Church World Service Disaster Response (https://cwsglobal.org/our-work/emergencies/). LDR-International has worked through this network of partnerships for other international disasters. The ecumenical response and relief organizations that work through Church World Service are committed to both immediate and long-term recovery for the whole area impacted by the storm. Financial donations to LDR will be vital to support the ongoing and long-term work being done by these partners.
Beyond the vital work being done by LDR-International and Church World Service for The Bahamas, we will be finding additional ways to support and care for the community of Our Savior Lutheran Church. Donations to the Florida-Bahamas Synod Disaster Response fund allow us to walk with the congregational leaders in ways that meet their specific needs. Due to the unique international dynamics of The Bahamas, gift cards and supplies are not as helpful as financial donations. These funds—to BOTH the synod disaster response fund AND Lutheran Disaster Response—allow us to be most flexible and responsive to those in need.
As soon as it is safe, I am hoping to make a personal visit to The Bahamas–within the next two weeks if possible–to provide pastoral care and encouragement to the congregation, as well as to gather information about the impact and needs of that community.
The extent of impact of Hurricane Dorian on other parts of the synod are not yet known. As the storm moves forward, we are ready to respond and care for all those affected. We continue to hold our neighbors in South Carolina and along the eastern coast in our prayers, and are ready to hear from them if there are specific opportunities to walk with them in the days ahead.
The urge to respond is in the immediate days and weeks following the storm, but the need for response continues over the long-term. Our recommendation at this point is to be generous in both prayers and financial donations. As we are aware of more specific needs, we will share them. Thank you for continuing to hold our siblings in Christ in your prayers. We take comfort in the promise of a God who is an ‘ever-present help in trouble’ (Psalm 46).
I continue to be grateful for your partnership in ministry.
Together in Christ,
Bishop Pedro M. Suarez