As power becomes available, more reports will come in. For now, there has been no reported loss of life in our congregations and it would appear that the District Congregations and it members weathered Hurricane Irma fairly well. That is just an overall assessment and certainly not indicative of every situation. With that being said, there is a lot of work to do. We do have congregations with damaged facilities and one Pastor has lost his home. We have reports of several members with trees on their homes. If you haven’t reported to either the District or your Circuit Visitor the status of your congregation and members, please do so at your earliest convenience.
General conditions throughout the District are a lot of trees down, a loss of power, and it is tough to find gas. Travel conditions into Florida are being hampered by a bridge detour on I-75 south of I-10. We expect heavy traffic back into the State through the weekend and a great pressure on gasoline supply for the near future.
Synod Disaster Response is in the Naples/Ft. Myers area today and tomorrow to make assessments and feed information back to the District office. They will be also surveying Highland County which was hit very hard by the storm.
Joel and Kathy Mathews, from Messiah Lutheran in Tampa, will be helping the District office in the Southwest Florida area by being the onsite liaison for the District office. Both Joel and Kathy have a great deal of disaster response experience and will provide great information gathering, coaching, and guidance. They are a tremendous resource and we encourage you to meet them and let them know what your needs are. Joel and Kathy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 813-215-8098. We expect them to be in the Ft. Myers/Naples/Marco Island area by Friday this week.
We are coordinating LERT teams to come help with the cleanup but need congregations with room in their facilities to sleep a crew, make a meal, and provide showers for the volunteers. If you wish to volunteer your congregation, please contact John Elliott in the District office.
Disasters are a marathon, not a sprint. Sprinting is fine, but if you sprint too much you will burn out and be of no use to anyone. Please stop, take a breath or two and exhale. There will be work for years to help people recover in the District. Pacing oneself via a weekly schedule is an important tool for responding to situations such as these. Make time for Bible Study, sermon preparation, counseling, and exercise. And please, do not forget your families. They are instrumental to your wellbeing. Put them on your schedule!
If your congregation weathered the storm well, please consider the following:
- Consider holding a LERT training session at your congregation so we can make more volunteer groups that can respond. The response in the Keys alone will likely take years and the more hands we have, the lighter the lifting will be for all of us.
- Consider helping to raise funds to help the on-going response efforts. Many of those most affected are those least able to care for their losses.
- Be looking for needs that aren’t being covered in your community and think about how your congregation might respond to those needs. Then contact John Elliott in the District office to discuss how we might partner to make it happen.
- If the children in your community are particularly stressed, consider holding a VBS called Camp Courage which is tailored to help children cope with disaster.
As always, please report your status to your Circuit Visitor or to John Elliott in the District office at 407-258-5054. Stay tuned for more updates.