Lutherans are well known for their commitment to disaster response and relief. It is said that film crews go into disaster areas with the Lutherans, so that they can record the Red Cross's arrival. And long after the news cycle has moved on to something else, long after some other agencies have left, the Lutherans remain. Lutheran Disaster Response, Lutheran World Relief, Lutheran World Federation, Church World Service are the hard-working agencies that our church supports.
We are moved when we read heart-wrenching stories of disasters—children buried in rubble, nursing home patients without electricity, homes destroyed by fire, communities cut off from food and water. Our human impulse is to want to help. Contributions to our church-based agencies are absolutely crucial, and the funds go right to where they are needed most, not to overhead or administration. Disasters can come upon us suddenly, but it takes years, sometimes decades to recover. There are not quick fixes. Relief is the immediate concern, then recovery. And over the long haul, sustainability becomes the issue.
In the fall of 2017, hurricanes were particularly brutal. Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria. Months later there are still people without electricity, still people who struggle with food, water, housing and employment. Puerto Rico is part of the United States. And Lutherans in Puerto Rico are part of the ELCA.
Last week, David Trost, the CEO of St. John’s Lutheran Ministries in Billings, and Pastor Peggy Paugh Leuzinger, Director for Evangelical Mission for the Montana Synod, travelled to Puerto Rico to meet with people affected by the hurricane, to better understand ways that we in Montana can effectively accompany the people of Puerto Rico as they seek to recover from disaster. Look for reports from them in the coming weeks.
People from Montana and Wyoming are generous. We give generously to those who have been affected by disasters. Last summer, when fires raged across Montana, Lutherans from other synods sent assistance, along with prayers. Dick Deschamps, our volunteer Disaster Coordinator, worked with community needs throughout the season. Now there are other needs in other places. We have reached out to our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico, in love and in hope.
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA