Life-giving relationships with the world
To continue the exploration of the congregational vitality definition of “life-giving relationships with the world,” Deacon GeoRene Jones addressed the assembly, bringing news of the many ways the North Carolina Synod brings recovery and relief after disasters. She invited a pastor from the coastal area to share some experiences.
Pastor Bill Milholland from Lutheran Church of Reconciliation, Wilmington, shared where he has seen God in the recovery efforts after Hurricane Florence. He saw God mostly in the faces of people in relationship with one another sacrificing their time, energy, and resources to help people put their lives back together. He recalled all of those encounters as a collective “God moment.” A call from the bishop saying the synod has their back was a meaningful and potent source of peace in the immediate aftermath of this natural disaster. Following this, other congregations reached out to help however they could.
St. Paul’s Lutheran in Illinois sent a check to St. Paul’s, Wilmington, and since they hadn’t sustained as much damage as their neighbors, St. Paul’s divided that generous financial gift with other congregations in the NC coastal area which were severely damaged.
Day after day, people and their congregations gave themselves to the cause. “When we called for resources, people responded with good quality clothing, bottled water, and food, as well as more money than was ever expected.” There was even a young woman who opened her home to be a distribution system where people could bring things they had collected and others could come and take what they needed. There are folks who are still trying to recover and homes that need repair.
The NC Synod has taken steps to aid those in need after this crisis, including giving over $150,000 to the congregations on the coast and holding a retreat for respite. Lutheran Disaster Relief continues to fund what is needed to provide case management through Lutheran Services Carolinas.
To close out her time, Deacon GeoRene Jones invited people who were impacted by the storms to stand and have the rest of the assembly encircle them. She led the community in prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord who suffered and brings life. Her final words were of deep gratitude for the ways the people of the North Carolina Synod love and serve their neighbors.
Story—Sage Rufsvold, graduate student in the Communication Studies program at UNC Greensboro
Photo—Ray Sipe, pastor, chaplain, and techno-geek