Dear Partners in Ministry:
I wanted to give you an update on our multiple Disaster and Crisis Response deployments going on right now in California and in Florida. It seems like it is one thing after the other. The California deployment for the shootings is now also serving all the families displaced from their homes because of the fires happening right now – and we are in the middle of it.
People have been emailing me asking are they safe? Folks – our Ministry is not done in safety zones but in the midst of disaster and crisis. They are as safe as all the people we are serving! We PUT and KEEP boots and paws on the ground to be with people who are suffering! It is what Jesus did – IT IS WHAT WE DO as we serve Jesus by serving others in HIS NAME. Please keep everyone in California and Florida in your prayers – as in both places we are serving people who have been traumatized (hurricanes, shootings, and fires).
We do a ministry of PRESENCE being there – knowing that Jesus loves them and is there with them, showing compassion, giving a human hug, and PRESENCE is essential. People need to know they are not alone, others care, and are there to help! IT’S WHAT JESUS DID – IT IS WHAT WE DO!
I appreciate the emails from some of you asking how we doing. We are keeping our heads above water just enough to see the Feet of Jesus walking on it! Knowing that we are never alone, and where we are, Jesus showed up before us and we follow HIS lead! It keeps us going! It keeps us serving!
I want to thank all of you for your support in California and Florida for all who are suffering! Please keep all the families that have been displaced in Florida for weeks in your prayers and continue to support them. They are no longer on the news – but they and those who have lost homes in Florida – have a long road ahead of them! But they will NOT BE ALONE thanks to all of you who participate and support the work that Jesus is doing! THANK YOU!
The LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs, handlers, and helpers are on the ground and working to bring the Mercy and Compassion of Jesus to those suffering in Thousand Oaks and surrounding communities in California and also in Panama City, Florida.
In Thousand Oaks, California, our LCC K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry teams have been working not only with the victims of the shootings and others effected at Borderline Bar & Grill. They are also in the middle of the fires taking place now and are working with individuals and families that had to evacuate their homes. All around where our Comfort Dog teams are working, they can see the fires burning. They will continue to serve in that area as long as they can provided they are not asked to evacuate. They have served hundreds of people at California Lutheran University, Pepperdine University, a reunification center for the victims' families that now serves as a shelter for those evacuated due to the fires, just to name a few. We are in contact with the Pastor from Christ the King who has evacuated his home.
Click here to watch a video on LCC K-9 Ministry teams comforting in California
Report from Rich Martin, LCC Director of K-9 Ministries, serving in California now:
God had our morning planned before we started. Our devotions did not start on time - no, they did not start at all. From the moment teams gathered in the breakfast areas they came. One by one, family by family. The worried, the tired, and the weary. Sad and teary eyed, their faces brightened as they saw them: LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs Ruthie, Emma, Cubby, Jacob, Hannah, Lois, and Aaron.
It was just what the doctor ordered. A spiritual triage from the wounds of life and recent day's events. Evacuees, Red Cross workers, families from near and far. The LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs were there to listen to their harrowing stories and pray with each one. Sometimes once, sometimes twice, and often as a group with everyone.
The teams moved on to California Lutheran University where they have been for the last three days. Meeting with students who stayed and were sheltering in place. Having the teams there every day gave them the hope and encouragement needed to get through their days.
With 10's of thousands of people still under evacuation orders, the teams also continue to make daily visits to the evacuation centers around Thousand Oaks, California, again bringing comfort and hope to those we meet.
The fires have put a pause on a time that would have been spent in different circumstances - on the grieving of those lost at the Borderline shooting. We continue to offer our assistance to those affected and to our first responders.
We continue to pray for hope, healing, and restoration of lives.
We know that physical help and a comforting presence is needed to help the individuals, families, first responders, and volunteers in all of these communities who are shocked, devastated, and feeling hopeless and helpless. Please continue to support us with fervent prayer and if you are moved, continue to help us with expenses.
Working Together, Serving Christ, so we can serve others IN HIS NAME!
Peace in Jesus Christ,
Lutheran Church Charities
Hope Lutheran Church – Bonita Springs
Estero Fire Rescue - Estero
Red Cross Shelter – Estero
Life Care – Estola
The Amigos Center – Immokalee
Arlington of Naples, a Lutheran Retirement Community – Naples
Lambs of Faith Preschool at Faith Lutheran Church – Naples
Marine Corps League meeting at Faith Lutheran Church – Naples
Naples Fire Department – Naples
NCH Healthcare – Naples
Peace Lutheran Church Early Learning Center – Naples
Good Shepherd Early Learning Center at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
LCC continues to work through our Texas District contacts and ministry partners to help impacted communities still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.
Lutheran Church Charities LERT volunteers Pastor Greg Hintz, Steve Goetsch and Ken Kiviranta (St. Peter – Schaumburg, Illinois) and Bob Pautsch (Trinity – Roselle, Illinois) returned on October 15 from a week of serving in Houston, Texas. Getting job assignments through Trinity – Klein, this group had many opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ, bringing both physical assistance and spiritual support to those still recovering from Hurricane Harvey. Pastor Hintz shared with LCC how being present during recovery and rebuilding gives hope to those impacted.
As we stood at the entrance of the garage on the cul de sac, we were trying to imagine how the water had been so high in the house as the foundation was already 6 ft. above the street. The homeowners told their story that the 52+ inches of rain that had fallen over the 3 day period had not been the main problem for them. It was when the waters were released at the reservoir when it became trouble. The waters had to be released so that the reservoir itself would not break and damage many more homes and businesses. That is when the waters rose and entered the home with 4 ft. inside! The wife said miracles abounded that they did not get shocked from the electricity that had still been working as they waded through the waist high water. They both told of the rescue raft that took them to the boat, with their 3 children, in the middle of what used to be their street ... all while avoiding the snakes swimming in the water looking for shelter too! Even though we had worked hard spraying down the bleach/water application and were sweating profusely in 85+ degree weather, she asked us for a hug and thanked us tremendously for making a sacrifice and a great difference to help restore their lives back to "normal." It truly has been a blessing to reach out with the love of Christ and bring relief in the opportunities He gives us!
Bringing comfort, volunteers and your donations to hurting communities
Lutheran Church Charities is monitoring the wildfires in Napa, Santa Rosa and Monticeto, California. We are in contact with Pastor Zabell, the CNH District Disaster Response Coordinator. He reports that there has been approximately 3,500 homes lost in these communities. St. John Lutheran Church in Napa reports that staff members and several congregation members have lost their homes.
Following their deployment to serve in Las Vegas, Nevada, LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs Aaron (St John’s – Napa, California) and Reuben (First Lutheran – Yuba City, California) returned home to out-of-control wildfires in their towns, even though they are about 2 hours apart in driving distance. LCC K-9 Ministry team members from both Aaron Comfort Dog and Reuben Comfort Dog initially evacuated from their homes but have since returned. We are thankful that they are all safe. As soon as it was safe to do so, both teams have been serving throughout their surrounding communities, visiting first responders, incident command centers, schools, families in shelters, and others who have been and still are impacted. Please continue to pray for all first responders who are heroically battling these horrible fires, all volunteers, and the individuals in the impacted communities who are struggling to cope with their losses.
Las Vegas Update
LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs are still serving the Las Vegas community following the recent tragic event supporting LCC K-9 Comfort Dog Lois (First Good Shepherd - Las Vegas, Nevada). Last week, LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs Anna (Trinity - Toledo, Ohio) and Bekah (Immanuel - Belvidere, Illinois) and their teams served with Lois Comfort Dog and her team. This week, Tobias (Lord of Glory - Grayslake, Illinois) and Rich Martin, LCC Director of K-9 Deployments
Puerto Rico Update
Through our generous donors, Lutheran Church Charities has and will continue to provide financial support and Walmart gift cards to Vicar David Blas from Sheboygan, Wisconsin who will get them directly to impacted individuals in need in Puerto Rico. Vicar Blas has been in Puerto Rico since last Thursday helping his family and their neighbors with basic needs and to assess current conditions. He is returning home this week and LCC will be talking to him about on-going support to help individuals during the long recovery process they face.
These are some of the living conditions of people in Immokalee, Florida that the Amigos Center is working with. Jan Boerman (Trinity – Lisle, Illinois) and Denise Cupples (Cross – Yorkville, Illinois) have been helping Pastor Glander complete assessments. Housing was poor prior to Hurricane Irma. It is deplorable in many places now.
LCC will continue to partner and work with the Amigos Center in Immokalee, asking churches to Adopt-A-Family, providing for basic household needs as families are able to move into safe, sanitary and secure housing. Pastor Glander, Director of Amigos Center, and staff are doing assessments of hurricane damaged mobile homes and apartments. He knows 80 have been condemned by the city and several others that have serious damage and mold. As these assessments are completed, they will begin determining needs and how LCC can ask all of our churches and teams to support and partner with them. This is a “forgotten community” and called a “Third World Country” within the United States.
This week, LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs Sasha (Island Lutheran – Hilton Head Island, South Carolina) and Luke (Christ the Shepherd – Alpharetta, Georgia) and their handlers have been working with Hope Lutheran Church in Bonita Springs, Florida to bring comfort and hope in the name of Jesus Christ to impacted individuals in Bonita Springs, Immokalee, and surrounding communities that are still greatly impacted from the hurricane. Phil Burden presented Pastor Karl Glander from the Amigos Center with Visa gift cards sent by the people at Island Lutheran Church to help individuals during this time of need.
LCC Responds to Help Requested through Facebook
After Hurricane Irma hit Florida, LCC received a Facebook message from a concerned brother for his sister living in LaBelle who days after Hurricane Irma still had not received any assistance and was housing neighbors that had their homes destroyed.
"I have a sister who lives in LaBelle. She's a single mom who is housing a few others who have lost their homes, including an 88 year old woman. She could really use some people with chainsaws. How can I get her some help? Thank you for doing your important work. Blessings to you."
Kathy O’Day, LCC Director of Disaster Response, reached out to Marilyn immediately and listened to her story and pleas for help. Marilyn said the town was hit by the eastern eye of the wall of the hurricane and had flooding and a lot of trees down. Many of the homes and businesses have been damaged or destroyed. They had no power for a week following the storm. Marilyn sheltered 12 people during the hurricane and now has 3 neighbors still living with her as their homes have been destroyed and they have nowhere else to go. She lives on 5 wooded acres with at least 40 trees now down. She is an accomplished butterfly farmer shipping them all over the country, but her several greenhouses and a lab were destroyed or badly damaged. She was struggling to come to grips with this loss of everything after the hurricane.
Kathy O’Day was able to pass on this information to the Florida District Disaster Response Coordinators and Ed and Jan Boerman (Trinity – Lisle, Illinois) LERT team members who were in the Fort Myers area. They visited Marilyn’s home to assess the damage and began to send teams to assist. LCC was also able to give each family WalMart gift cards to help purchase basic supplies they needed.
Multiple LERT team members from the Northern Illinois District from our area were sent to her home over the last few weeks to help her remove downed trees and salvage her butterfly farm. The LERT team members from Illinois and Indiana who volunteered their time and talents were from Trinity – Lisle, Lord of Life – LaFox, Cross – Yorkville, Prince of Peace – Palatine, Grace – Paris, Immanuel – Freeport, St. John – Wheaton and St. John – Dillsboro, Indiana.
This week, LCC received a thank you note from Marilyn’s brother:
“Many of your teams helped my sister, Marilyn, in LaBelle, Florida these past few weeks. First of all, I want to thank you so much for your help. Marilyn could never have done the work herself. I cannot begin to thank you enough. God bless you.”
LCC continues to work through our Texas District contacts and ministry partners to help impacted communities still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.
Julie Tucker, Texas District Volunteer Relief Coordinator, reports that there are 330,000 homes damaged or destroyed in Texas from Hurricane Harvey. These damaged homes stretch from the Beaumont/Port Arthur area to the Houston area and down to the Rockport/Aransas Pass/Corpus Christi area with many towns in between as well. Many of the people affected in the coastal bend are retired and on fixed incomes or immigrants living below poverty level. Neither of these groups have the means to recover on their own and need assistance.
Julie is looking for volunteers willing to travel outside of the Houston area down to the some of these hard hit communities which still need outside assistance.
Michelle Karim, Volunteer Coordinator for Trinity Lutheran Church in Klein (Houston area only) reports that they are moving forward with plans for the build out phase of recovery which should begin next month. They have a warehouse of building material supplies and skilled volunteer construction supervisors to direct projects and instruct volunteers. LCC LERT volunteers Bob Pautsch (Trinity - Roselle, Illinois) and Ken Kirvanta (St. Peter - Schaumburg, Illinois) have been serving in Texas, receiving their job site assignments through Trinity Klein. Lou Jander, Crown Point Ministries reports that he is in the Beaumont/Port Arthur area providing spiritual and emotional support. He will be teaching how to do this this to the local congregations in the circuit in early November.