Lutherans Help Victims Recover in Tornado, Hurricane Hit States

With more than 22 people dead, residents of a tornado-pummeled mobile home park in Indiana held funerals this past weekend while spiritual care from Christian agencies helped victims recover from the disaster.

Lutheran Disaster Response has organized response teams to provide physical and spiritual support to the hundreds injured and affected in the disaster. Spiritual care teams and volunteers are dispatched in Evansville and Newburgh, Ind., to patch up and rebuild the damages caused by the Nov. 6 tornado, which was labeled as the deadliest to hit Indiana in 30 years.

Serving as a joint ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, Lutheran Disaster Response is collaborating with other partner organizations, including Grace Lutheran Retreat Ministries, Inc., St. Louis, and Church World Service, in their relief efforts.

Church World Service, which is the relief, development and refugee assistance ministry of 36 Protestant and Orthodox churches throughout the nation, has named house rebuilding and repair the principle issues in recovery works.

As recovery centers, feeding units and churches provide aid, food and housing, disaster-relief experts predict recovery will take a year or longer for some survivors.

In the meantime, Lutheran congregations have kept their feet on the affected grounds of Florida and the Gulf Coast to provide food and health and clean-up kits for the three hurricanes that struck in the past two months. Of the $5 million that is being invested with partner organizations, more than $1 million has been distributed to date for Lutherans and others facing the difficulties brought on by the disasters.

"Everyday we receive dozens of new requests for disaster assistance from people who have lost everything (from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita)," said Kurt Senske, president and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of the South.

"We are responding as quickly as we can in whatever way we can through grants, prayer and sometimes just being there to hear their stories. We pray that the help and support that we, as Lutherans, can offer provides some measure of relief and comfort during this difficult time for so many."