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ELCA members respond to Flint water crisis

Members of Salem Lutheran Church, Flint, Mich., have reached out to their community amid the water crisis there by participating in rallies, providing spiritual care and serving as a donation center for bottled water.

“People from all over the community come to this church to find hope, healing, peace — and now we see families coming here in search of life in the form of water,” said Monica Villarreal, pastor of Salem. “I can’t help but think about the call we have in our baptism — the waters of Christ that flow over us in our baptism and call us to work for justice and peace throughout the world. There are no zip codes, racial or economic barriers. Every resident of this city has drunk this water and we stand side-by-side as a community raising our voices for justice and for help.”  

In 2014 the city of Flint changed its water sources from Lake Huron to the Flint River, which was corrosive and caused lead from old pipes to leak into the water supply. The state and federal governments have declared a state of emergency in Flint.

Salem has received donations from 25 Michigan ELCA congregations, including Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Livonia, which collected and donated more than 3,000 gallons of water to Salem after hosting a drive Jan. 31. Members of Salem distribute the majority of the donated water to residents in the nearby community. 

ELCA World Hunger disbursed $5,000 to the Southeast Michigan Synod to help support the immediate need for water and a food pantry at Salem. Villarreal said the pantry will use the funds to purchase food that meets the new nutritional needs of children and adults who have been exposed to lead poisoning, as recommended by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

“Certainly across the whole ELCA prayers are much appreciated and supported,” Villarreal said. “The faith community is what is holding this community together still because it’s all that we have left.”To help, visit www.semisynod.com.


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