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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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July 2, 2012

ELCA congregations face challenges after a week of natural disasters

After a week of natural disaster across the United States, the congregations and ministries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are now in the process of assessing damages and getting to work in the recovery process.


In Colorado, where four separate wildfires have consumed over 20,000 acres of land, pastor Julie Britsch of Christ the King Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Colorado Springs, had to evacuate along with 95 percent of her congregation.


"There's a road that goes all the way around [the church] in a horseshoe shape," Britsch said. "The fire came around the horseshoe and it's still burning on both sides."

As of now the church is still evacuated. Britsch said they were able to remove small things from the building like the computers, congregational records, and the congregation's charter.


"We've contacted almost all our members either through email or facebook or phone," Britsch said. "Everyone I spoke to was just so happy that everyone was safe and property is just property. It's the people that matter."


One family in the congregation did receive word that they'd lost their home. Britsch also said that pastor Keith Knoff who leads the nearby ELCA congregation Mount Cavalry Lutheran Church also lost his home to the fire.


There is still no word on when the congregation will be allowed to return to their buildings or homes. Britsch has made arrangements with Ascension Lutheran Church, another ELCA congregation in Colorado Springs, to hold services for her congregation this Sunday.


ELCA Disaster Response is in the area assessing the situation, determining needs and the appropriate response. They have begun helping working with other local services to evacuate several foster homes and to find alternative housing arrangements.


Sky Ranch Lutheran Camp, an outdoor ministry of the ELCA, is also under evacuation. The campers and staff were first moved to Trinity Lutheran Church in Fort Collins, Co. ELCA Disaster Response has now disbursed funds to help Sky Ranch continue their ministry at Highlands Presbyterian Camp and Retreat Center near Estes Park, Co.


Wildfires are also threatening parts of the ELCA Montana Synod. Pastor Amanda Liggett of Zion Lutheran Church in Roundup, Mont. said, "We're doing alright. Lots of people have lost a great deal in the last 24 hours, but no human lives as far as I know."


Several power poles have been destroyed near Broadus, Mont., leaving all of Powder River County without power.


ELCA Disaster Response is working with local partners to assist in the evacuation of two assisted living centers, one in Ashland, Mont. and one on the Northern Cheyenne reservation. In conjunction with St. John's Lutheran Ministries and Lutheran Social Services of Montana, it is helping to provide food, toiletries, and medical supplies.


In Duluth, Minn., record-breaking rainfall caused flash flooding when more than 7 inches of rain fell over the course of 48 hours. Flooding also destroyed roads and homes, and for days the city of Moose Lake was unreachable.


While a few ELCA congregations in the area were flooded, no buildings have sustained significant damage. Most of the destruction encountered so far has been to infrastructure, although one staff member of the ELCA Northeastern Minnesota Synod lost her home.


Two ELCA congregations, Hope Lutheran Church in Moose Lake and Grace Lutheran Church in McGregor, are serving as meeting places for people affected by the floods. Hope Lutheran is also planning to host Camp Noah starting Aug. 20. Camp Noah is a day camp program designed to help children deal with the effects of natural disasters.


In Florida, Tropical Storm Debbie also created sporadic flooding as many rivers crested over the flood stage. There were four fatalities in the state, but no report of ELCA congregations or members being affected.


ELCA Disaster Response has been working with Lutheran Services Florida to stay connected to congregations and to provide flood buckets in affected areas.
For more information, visit http://blogs.ELCA.org/disasterresponse. 

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