Lutherans Reach Out to Tornado-Struck Residents

Lutheran pastors and congregations in areas affected by the barrage of tornadoes in Missouri last month are reaching out to help members and neighbors who suffered storm losses, according to a report by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Statewide, storms that struck on the weekend of Mar. 11-13 were responsible for 11 deaths, destroyed almost 400 homes, and damaged 1,350 other structures, according to media reports. The weather service reported at least 37 tornado touchdowns in Missouri. As weather systems moved across the country over those three days, they spawned more than 100 reported tornadoes – most of them in the Midwest.

The Rev. Carlos Hernandez, director for District and Congregations with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod World Relief/Human Care, conducted assessment visits to two tornado-struck areas in the week following the storms.

During his visit to East Ely, near Hannibal,Hernandez met the Rev. Kenneth Schamber, pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church there, and rode with him to Monroe City, a town west of Hannibal where Schamber also serves.

"Pastor Schamber immediately became involved in the joint relief and long-term recovery efforts of the community," Hernandez said, according to the LCMS. "It was good to see that the pastor and that congregation were coordinating their work with community efforts."

He said that Schamber especially was interested in Our Savior Lutheran Church in Monroe City helping poorer local residents of trailer parks, which were particularly hard-hit. According to the LCMS, roughly a third of the buildings in Monroe City were destroyed or damaged when a tornado tore through the middle of town.

"It looks like Baghdad," Hernandez said, quoting a decorated Iraq-war veteran from Monroe City.

Based on Hernandez's recommendations, LCMS World Relief/Human Care gave two disaster-relief grants – one for $20,000 to Our Savior Lutheran Church and the other for $10,000 to Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Ste. Genevieve, south of St. Louis.

More recently, as he was ending an assessment of the damage in and around Perryville, about 100 miles south of St. Louis, Hernandez said the congregation there would receive an initial grant of $5,000 from LCMS World Relief/Human Care for disaster-relief work.