Caribbean Disaster Relief
I write to you this month from the ELCA Conference of Bishops, where we have been eagerly awaiting word from our colleague Bishop Felipe Lozada of the ELCA’s Caribbean Synod, which includes the devastated U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) and Puerto Rico. The destruction was so very great from the two Category 5 Hurricanes Irma and Maria that we did not hear from him until this past Friday. Puerto Rico, in particular, was in economic turmoil prior to the hurricanes. Political posturing notwithstanding, the situation now is dire, as food, water, and medical supplies are running out. Homes are gone. Crops are gone. Tourism is gone. People have died and are dying.
Since a poll released this week indicated that only 54% of Americans knew that residents of Puerto Rico and the USVI are American citizens, I’d like to lift that up that fact. Not only are they Americans; the USVI are home to the oldest Lutheran congregations in the United States, founded by the Danish in the mid-1600’s. All that said, need—not citizenship nor denomination—is our motivation in Christ to help.
ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton reminded us today that, particularly in the Caribbean, money is by far the best way we can help tangibly. Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) has received already an unprecedented $5 million in the past three weeks, but much more will be needed. Remember, LDR already has its “overhead” and staff in place, so all of your contribution goes directly to humanitarian relief. Remember also that LDR stays for years in the rebuilding process. You may contribute to LDR online.
I also learned from several of my colleague bishops that LDR does not put its resources into rebuilding church buildings and supporting church infrastructure (which I understand and with which I agree). LDR’s emphasis is providing for the broadest and deepest needs of shelter, food, water, and medical supplies AS the church but not FOR the church. Still, the Caribbean Synod is in grave danger of ceasing to exist after these storms. Church buildings are damaged or gone, parishioners are leaving the islands or unable to travel, and any resources our church can gather are being used for more life and death needs.
That’s why I’m suggesting you consider a contribution in addition to LDR. Bishop Lozada has told us that he could use resources in his synod office to help pay pastors’ salaries during the recovery, help repair or rebuild church facilities, and simply to use at his discretion in these uncertain times. If you want to make contributions for these purposes, please send monetary gifts to the NC Synod and we will forward them to the Caribbean Synod office. Make checks to “NC Synod, ELCA,” note “Caribbean Synod relief,” and then mail to: NC Synod, 1988 Lutheran Synod Drive, Salisbury, NC 28144. Or you may give online from our synod website by choosing “Domestic Dis. Relief” and noting “Caribbean Synod relief” in the optional memo field.
We appreciate all who pray and all who give to help alleviate the suffering of others.
Serving with you,