Image credit: the Sipes
“The best help you hope you’ll never need” might well describe the ministry of Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR). While the coast and mountains of the Carolinas are beautiful and popular vacation destinations, they are vulnerable to disaster. Hurricanes, floods, blizzards, ice storms, power outages, and train derailments can wreak havoc on both people and property.
While Lutherans aren’t always first on the scene, this church has a reputation for staying long after the crisis, being there for the long-term recovery. Thanks to your Mission Support dollars and a generous LDR grant, a new program of healing and recovery is now in place.
Together, the North and South Carolina Synods, along with LDR, have called a clergy couple, the Rev. Ray Sipe and the Rev. Ruth Ann Sipe, to a shared position as disaster coordinators and network builders. The Sipes began this new call just a few days ago, on February 15. The purpose of this position is to increase disaster preparedness and develop a network of people, congregations, and resources in the Carolinas who can respond when disasters occur. Pastor Ruth Ann pointed out the misperception that this ministry involves only response after a crisis when, in fact, preparedness ahead of time is most essential.
Pastor Ruth Ann and Pastor Ray have served congregations in the NC Synod since their ordination in 2008. Together during seminary, they spent January 2006 as volunteers with LDR in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, following Hurricane Katrina. They returned to the Gulf Coast to serve their internship year (2006-07) again with LDR in both Bayou La Batre and Mobile, Alabama. As their internship project, they developed a program on personal and congregational preparedness which they offered to ELCA congregations in Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas.
When asked what excited them about this ministry, Pastor Ruth Ann said, “Finding ways to help people help each other.” And, Pastor Ray commented, “Showing people how to be prepared themselves. You need to be prepared yourself before you can help someone else.”
When asked about specific ways individuals and parishes can get on board with this work, the Sipes offered a number of possibilities. Financial gifts and offerings are significant, but there are many other needs:
Putting together a disaster response team in your congregation.
Identifying local people with specific skills to share, such as those who could serve on a construction or roofing team.
Opening your church building as a warming or cooling shelter for people who have been uprooted from their homes.
Housing relief volunteers from other states in your church building as a halfway point to the disaster site.
Partnering to make a strong impact—smaller congregations with larger ones.
Brainstorm how your congregation and parishioners can be prepared and be ready to respond.
Current needs and updates will be posted on the new LDR Carolinas website.
When facing a crisis or an unknown future, we often receive this advice: hope for the best and prepare for the worst. How comforting and encouraging it is to know that LDR Carolinas and the Sipes stand ready to meet that challenge!
Pastor Ray and Pastor Ruth Ann will be glad to hear from you! Let them know about the resources your congregation has. Want more information about ways you can help? Contact the Sipes via their office in North Carolina (at the synod office in Salisbury) by calling 704-633-4861, or by using their LDR Carolinas email addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.