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Disaster Response
LERT team of Cross Lutheran in Yorkville Responds to Storm Damage for Members of Cross and a Sister Lutheran Church in Morris, Illinois Print E-mail

These past two weeks, Cross Yorkville and the LERT chainsaw volunteers from other congregations in the NID, CID and Indiana Districts have been a perfect example of the Districts' congregational LERT teams in action.

On June 30, a rash of thunderstorms and eight tornadoes whipped through the southern part of the Northern Illinois District. Two of those tornadoes touched down between Morris and the rural Yorkville area, damaging homes and downing trees. Monday, the LERT Team of Cross Yorkville received calls from three members of Cross and Peace Lutheran Church in Morris requesting assistance to remove the downed trees.

Homeowners insurance and the church's insurance would cover damage to the physical structures but would not cover cost of removing damaged trees. The cost of the removal ranges from three to four thousand each with a total of sixty trees in need of removal. The LERT team of Cross stepped up to make a difference.

In no time they realized that 60 trees, four of which were 4 feet in diameter, were far too much work for their small chainsaw crew to do. On July 3, LCC received a call from Pastor Erik Gauss requesting the assistance of additional chainsaw crew volunteers. At that late date, and the fact that it was the four day Fourth of July weekend holiday, we were uncertain of the response we would get. On July 4th, amidst the heat and the humidly, three additional volunteers from three different congregations joined the two chainsaw operators from Cross. That day that crew of five teams cleared away ten trees. Within nine days, 36 chainsaw volunteers from the following 12 congregations formed the crew from Cross to clear away the trees:

  • Immanuel - Belvidere, Illinois
  • Trinity - Bloomington, Illinois
  • St. Paul - Bremen, Indiana
  • Our Savior - Carol Stream, Illinois
  • Zion - Hinsdale, Illinois
  • Trinity - Lisle, Illinois
  • Peace - Lombard, Illinois
  • St. Luke - Montgomery, Illinois
  • LERT Team - Morris, Illinois
  • Immanuel - Palatine, Illinois
  • St John - Wheaton, Illinois
  • Cross - Yorkville, Illinois
  • St John's - Decatur, Illinois
  • Trinity - Roanoke, Illinois

Those 36 volunteers logged in 332 hours of service and saved Peace Lutheran Church and three families between $78,000 and $240,000 not covered by insurance.

One of the prized expressions of gratitude came from three little girls who watched the chainsaw team at work in their backyard as they drew and wrote the thank you card (pictured above) which says:

"Dear LERT, Thank you for taking care of some trees. I enjoyed watching it. Marcella
Timber! Timber!"
Click Here to Register to Help the Chainsaw Crews
Click Here to View Pictures from this Past Weekend
Click Here to Donate to the LCC Disaster Relief Fund
Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 July 2014 07:41
Pilger Nebraska Update Print E-mail
Pilger UPDATE: July 14, 2014

Since the dual tornadoes ravished the little rural community of Pilger, Nebraska, thousands of volunteers descended on the town bringing hope and assistance to clean up after the tornadoes. Within a two-week period of time, volunteers helped families salvage what they could, demolished remaining buildings and removed debris. By July 1, when all the disaster response groups that brought in the volunteers left, all that remained of Pilger were the foundation slabs where structures once resided.

Working through St. John Lutheran Church and with the Community of Pilger, Lutheran Church Charities continues to recruit and send teams of volunteers to bring hope and assist now with the reconstruction of any remaining structures. During the first two weeks in July, volunteer teams finished walking the fields picking up debris. As of this weekend the crops have grown too high to continue the walking of the fields.

Volunteer groups are still needed in Pilger. Volunteers will no longer be doing debris clean- up for they have now moved into the reconstruction and rebuilding phase. Volunteers are needed in three different areas. These areas include: helping repair damaged homes so that residents will be able to move back in, helping to prepare the cleared sites for the contractors to come in a begin rebuilding, and helping to landscape and build a memorial using the materials from the buildings that were destroyed.

New housing options have opened up for volunteers.

For teams that don't mind roughing it there is tent camping at the park in Pilger, which is right next door to the pool house where there are restrooms and showers.

In Pilger, four blocks from the pool house, a Bunkhouse has been set up (Orphan Grain Train has brought in one of their volunteer housing containers). The Bunkhouse can sleep a total of 12 people. It consists of two units that are equipped with electricity, air conditioning, heating and three sets of bunk beds.Volunteers staying at the bunkhouse have access to the restrooms and showers at the pool house as well. At the bunk house, grills are allowed for cooking meals but no open flame pits.

Another option that is now available is for groups from out of state is to stay at Our Savior Lutheran Church. To get in contact with them please use the following information:

Rev. Kenneth Weander Jr.
2500 W. Norfolk Ave., Norfolk, NE 68701-4427
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

If you're not sure you want to sleep on the floor, and have to "rough it" for the time you are there, you may still want to consider a hotel or motel.The following towns are 45 minutes or less from Pilger: Wisner, West Point, Wakefield, Pender, Oakland and Norfolk.

We do not charge for our services. We are Christians and offer our services in the name of Jesus Christ. We are serving through St John, Lutheran Church in Pilger. Even though the church's building and the parsonage no longer exist, please call St. John at 402-396-3478 the day before departing for further instructions and update of your arrival time.

For further questions contact Dianna Bonfield at 866-455-6466 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it Click here to register as a volunteer
Click here to register a group
Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 July 2014 07:30
LCC LERT Chainsaw Workers Needed at Cross Lutheran Church in Yorkville, Illinois Print E-mail
Chainsaw volunteer crew at work Earlier this week, seven tornadoes touched down in the southern part of our district.

This afternoon, LCC received a call from Pastor Eric Gauss of Cross Lutheran Church in Yorkville asking for additional chainsaw teams to assist the LERT Volunteer Team from their church. They have 60 trees that need to be removed from properties of four of their members and the property of Peace Lutheran Church in Morris, Illinois.

Yorkville, Illinois Cross Lutheran Church Pastor Erik Gauss

We know it is a holiday tomorrow, but if you are free and can help out as a chainsaw member, please click here to register as a volunteer.

We will be meeting at Cross Lutheran Church in Yorkville at 8:00am on Friday, July 4, 2014. You will meet with Cathy Braden to check in and be assigned a job location.

Thank you for your consideration!

Click here to Register as a Volunteer Donate to LCC's Disaster Relief Fund
Last Updated on Thursday, 03 July 2014 17:48
Nebraska Tornado Update - Farmers in Need of Volunteers to Walk Their Fields to Clean up Debris Print E-mail
Desk Around 3:45 p.m. on Monday, June 16th, a double vortex tornado ripped through the small town of Pilger, Nebraska. Thanks to your generous donations, on Thursday morning, June 19th, LCC President Tim Hetzner was able to deliver both cash donations and gift cards to Pastor Makelin of St. John's Lutheran Church in Pilger, Nebraska.

DonationsThe people affected by the tornadoes that devastated the Pilger area are in desperate need of help. Lutheran Church Charities is enlisting and registering volunteers to come to Nebraska over the next 2-4 weeks to help the farmers walk their fields (Mercy Walks) to clean up the debris left by the tornadoes.


Girl with DogBecause of the tornadoes and the scope of the damage through the fields of Nebraska, much debris has been scattered throughout the fields. It is critical that the debris is cleaned up before the corn grows too high for the debris to be seen. If the debris is left on the fields it poses problems for the farmers when harvesting as it will get into their machinery and damage their expensive equipment. Many of the farmers also had personal loss of cattle, homes, barns and equipment.

Communion Each volunteer team is responsible in providing their own lodging, transportation and meals. If you would like to put together a team or yourself to come out and volunteer, please fill out a volunteer form (see links below). Thank you for your consideration in helping our neighbors in Nebraska.

Click here for the news article "'This is just bricks and mortar. The church still stands': Congregation holds service on tornado-damaged site" on Click here to register as an individual to help clean up farmers' fields Click here to register a group Click here to view more pictures from Sunday's worship service
Last Updated on Thursday, 03 July 2014 17:14
Emergency Help Needed "Smack Dab in the Middle of a Mercy Field" in Nebraska from Tornadoes this Week Print E-mail
a church without walls in Pilger, Nebraska

A Church Without Walls - "Smack dab in the middle of a Mercy field"

St. John's Pilger, Nebraska There are many books written about "the" church without walls - well I am standing in one in Pilger, Nebraska - LITERALLY.

This past Monday, dual tornadoes went through Nebraska and did severe damage on its path through the state. In that path was the town of Pilger, and St John's Lutheran Church. Estimates say 65% of the town is literally GONE - completely - leveled. One tornado took 3-1/2 hours to go 30 miles; a rare, slow-moving storm that destroyed everything in its path, a path that in some places was close to a mile wide.

St John's was in the middle of that - the church and parsonage flattened - completely, EXCEPT the bell tower, which remains standing and proudly showing that there is still a church here. The church found their displays of all the confirmation classes as well as their pall, the cloth which covers the coffin at funerals. The Pastor and his wife lost their home (parsonage) - and all its contents. The Pastor was out of town with their youth group when the storm hit. His wife was also out of town. Many from the youth group lost their homes.

Pilger, NebraskaI stood on this flat ground - the floor of the church and fellowship hall still intact - as I talked with Pastor Makelin. As we looked out over the flattened town, he looked at me with tears in his eyes and a smile and said, "We are smack dab in the middle of a Mercy Field." The Pastor at St. John's conducts daily Morning Prayer service at the church property - using an old desk as the altar.

You would think, that after years of responding to disasters, that after a while I would get used to the sights, the damage, the stories, the lives uprooted, the tears of the people suffering in and through disaster - but there I was, moved in a way that only comes from the Presence of Christ. I was standing in the middle of a Church Without Walls - with the pastor of that church who knew his church would never be the same - and he looked out over this community and farm land around the town and said "We are Smack Dab in the Middle of a Mercy Field". He gets it - He SEES IT!

Eddie Comfort Dog in Pilger, NebraskaLCC K-9 Comfort Dogs Moses from Christ Lutheran Church in Cairo, Nebraska, and Eddie, who was just placed this past Sunday at Peace Lutheran Church in Grand Island, Nebraska, have been in Pilger and the surrounding area all week to serve those families and individuals who have lost homes. Pictured is a young girl hugging Eddie Comfort Dog as her family watches their home leveled and the site cleared of debris. Click here for more photos of the LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs in Nebraska.

I often say, "You cannot see what you are not looking for!" Sometimes it takes the removing of walls to see the great Mercy Field that God has placed in front of us - and I dare say, opened up to us so we can show His Mercy, His Compassion, His Presence, and His Proclamation and know there is Hope - There is Healing - there is a Future in Him!

Please consider being the Church Without Walls - showing Christ's Mercy and Compassion to those who suffer.

You can contribute by:

Tim Hetzner
Lutheran Church Charities Click here for information on volunteering in Nebraska Donate to St. John's Lutheran Church Relief
Donate to the LCC Disaster Relief Fund for Nebraska
Donate to the LCC K-9 Travel Fund
Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 June 2014 07:37
Volunteer Information for Pilger, Nebraska Print E-mail

But you, O LORD, have mercy on me; raise me up, that I may repay them. Psalms 41:10

LCC President Tim Hetzner was with LCMS Disaster Response staff, Rev Russ Sommerfield (President of the Nebraska District), and some 30 pastors from Pilger and the surrounding area, on Thursday, June 19, 2014 to hear about their needs with members who have completely lost homes.

grain elevators destroyed in Pilger, NEThere are great needs for farmers who lost their homes, barns, crops, equipment, and cattle. An incredible amount of debris was scattered throughout the fields. There is now an urgent need to walk the fields - especially the corn fields, to clean out the debris before the corn grows too high. Volunteers are desperately needed immediately to walk the fields and clean up the debris before the crops grow much more. It will be dangerous to harvest the crops later if the debris is still in the fields as it will destroy the harvesting equipment.

If you can volunteer a day, two days, a weekend - that would be helpful to the farmers - many who have also lost their homes and barns. Each person or group will need to provide their own housing in area hotels and meals.


  • Prayers for our pastors and church workers as they recover and serve others who are recovering.
  • Gift Cards
  • Financial help for families' immediate expenses. Many did not have insurance. Those that did have very high deductibles.
  • Volunteer to Walk the Mercy Fields
Donate to St. John's Lutheran Church Relief
Donate to the LCC Disaster Relief Fund for Nebraska
Click here to register as a volunteer
Click here to register a group
Last Updated on Friday, 20 June 2014 11:24
Three Tornadoes Touch Down in Wisconsin Print E-mail

The storm system that hit Nebraska Monday afternoon continued its path of destruction into the state of Wisconsin. Three separate tornadoes caused damage in the Southern Wisconsin towns of Platteville and Verona.


Two tornadoes (an EF1 and an EF2) hit the area around Platteville, leaving 5 injured and several buildings destroyed. The University of Wisconsin at Platteville, which has a Lutheran ministry on campus, sustained damage to five academic buildings and was closed to the public throughout Tuesday.

A third EF3 tornado struck the town of Verona late Monday evening. The town, located in Dane County, has been declared in a state of emergency. No serious injuries have been reported with this tornado. Around 15 homes and an elementary school sustained severe damage from the storm.


LCC is continuing to monitor the situation in Wisconsin through information provided by the district president, President John Willie, and the Disaster Relief Coordinator, Reverend Bill Wagner. Money for those affected by this storm may be donated to the LCC disaster relief fund.

Donate to the LCC Disaster Relief Fund
Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 June 2014 07:37
Small Nebraska Town Devastated by Twin Tornadoes; Destroys Lutheran Church and Parsonage Print E-mail
twin tornadoes Around 3:45 p.m. on Monday, June 16th, a double vortex tornado ripped through the small town of Pilger, Nebraska. The town boasts around 350 residents and a 6-block by 6-block residential area.

Nearly 75 percent of the town was destroyed including their entire business district and St. John’s Lutheran Church. Both the church building and the accompanying parish were leveled during the storm. Fortunately, both Pastor Terry Makelin and his wife were out of town at a youth retreat during the storm, but both have now returned to Pilger.

Sixteen people were critically injured and two were found dead. Among the dead is a 5-year-old girl who was rescued on the main street but later died in the hospital.

Rescuers were allowed in to look for survivors, but the town was officially closed off at 8:30 p.m. Monday evening. Residents were allowed into the area for thirty minutes Tuesday morning to collect valuables. Currently, access to Pilger is restricted due to gas leaks and broken propane tanks. St. John's Damage An emergency shelter for displaced residents has been set up at the Wisner/Pilger High School gymnasium.

LCC has made contact and is offering help to families and churches affected as well as sending in LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs. We are continuing to monitor the situation and work through the churches to bring Mercy, Compassion, Presence and Proclamation of Jesus Christ to those who suffer. Donations can be made to the LCC Disaster relief fund as well as a relief fund for St. John’s of Pilger to help out the people affected by these storms.

Donate to St. John's Lutheran Church Relief
Donate to the LCC Disaster Relief Fund for Nebraska
Last Updated on Friday, 20 June 2014 11:21
Arkansas Memorial Weekend Servant Event Has a Great Christian Impact On Tornado Survivors Print E-mail
The Memorial Weekend Servant Event through Peace Lutheran Church in Conway, Arkansas was a great success. There were a total of 67 volunteers from these nine congregations:
  • Hope Lutheran - Jacksonville, Arkansas
  • St John Lutheran - Russellville, Arkansas
  • Our Savior Lutheran - Cabot, Arkansas
  • Holy Trinity Lutheran - Rogers, Arkansas
  • Peace Lutheran - Conway, Arkansas
  • Concordia Lutheran - Jackson, Tennessee
  • Lamb of God Lutheran - Flower Mound, Texas
  • Immanuel Lutheran - Memphis, Tennessee
  • Our Savior Lutheran - Louisville, Kentucky
volunteers praying in ArkansasOn Saturday, Sunday and Monday, volunteers did debris removal and chainsaw work on various properties. An act of kindness on the part of one the LCC volunteers, Steve Chester of Wheaton, Illinois purchased and planted a young oak tree on the property of an elderly lady where they had removed a number of downed trees. Inspired by this act, Pastor Gierke and members of Peace Lutheran Church in Conway, also motivated by the phrase from the scripture verse of Isaiah 61:3 “Oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified”, developed a new ministry at Peace to bring hope for the future and a reminder of God’s presence & protection in the midst of the tornado as well as His continued presence & care in the midst of the days of recovery following the tornado. This Memorial Weekend volunteers planted eight young oak trees on homeowners’ properties.

Part of the 67 volunteers was a group of 18 volunteers from Lamb of God Lutheran Church in Flower Mound, Texas (find them on Facebook!) known as the Holy Cow Smokers. The Holy Cow Smokers drove 300 miles from Texas to provide Texas barbecue meals for not only the volunteers but also any of the families who were survivors of the tornado. Over the three days they served 2,389 meals! Between Saturday and Sunday they served 1100 pounds of pork and brisket for sandwiches for lunch and full dinners with sides and a biscuit. On Monday for lunch they grilled 500 quarter-pound hamburgers along with chips and all the fixings. The meals that were delivered by the volunteers were put together at two different sites. One staging site was the parking lot of a grocery store in Vilonia and the other in the parking lot of a hardware store in Mayflower. As volunteers delivered meals they also gave the recipients a copy of the devotional booklet “Where is God Now” and a business card from Peace Lutheran Church.

Be sure to watch upcoming newsletters for more of the individual stories that came out of this event.

Click here to view a photo album of pictures from this event.

At this time, the greatest needs in Arkansas as they clean up from the tornado, are more volunteers to help with the clean-up. Later skilled volunteers will be needed to help with the recovery. The second need is for gift cards that the church can hand out to families in need.

Click here to make a difference with a Care Card
Donate to LCC's Disaster Relief Fund
Volunteer Registration
   Chainsaw Volunteer Registration
   Individual Volunteer Registration
   Group Registration
**Please use the comment box to give us the ages of the teens if they are part of the team. Also use the comment box to request housing for your team unless you choose to stay at a hotel. In that case, you need to make your own reservations.**
Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 June 2014 08:20
Remembering Joplin on the Third Anniversary of Tornado Print E-mail
Joplin - Jordan Aubey On Friday, May 23rd, we remembered our friends in Joplin, Missouri on the third anniversary of the EF5 tornado. Your generous donations of volunteering and funds helped so many people in Joplin over the past three year. One person in particular was Jordan Aubey, the son of Rev Dennis and Bea Aubey. Click here to hear Jordan's story of surviving the tornado, as well as his parents' account of that time.

This past week, Jordan, a Joplin reporter for KOAM, ran a two-part special report, "Coincidence or Divine Intervention" - Joplin tornado survivors share stories

Click here to donate to LCC's Disaster Relief Fund to continue helping those impacted by disasters
Last Updated on Monday, 26 May 2014 09:30
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