News release from before the catastrophe.

I wrote the other day that New Yorkers and others on the East Coast had woken up to find out that the Federal Emergency Management Agency operations in their area were “closed because of weather”.  I listened to the FEMA representatives speak at a news conference the other day and it was incomprehensible.  So rather than talk about your tax dollars at work at FEMA lets talk about a relief organization that we can be proud of – LCMS Disaster Relief.  Here is a report.

Thursday November 8, 2012

Yesterday, International Center staff (Merritt, Hernandez, Dowbnia, and Fale) met with the Atlantic District Disaster Response team and President Benke at St. Peter’s in Brooklyn.  Interestingly, this meeting of the DDRT was set two months ago, long before anyone knew that the team would already to activity in response to a hurricane.

Led by Pastor Derek LeCakes, District Disaster Response Coordinator, he provided a status report of information on the district’s church workers, lay members, and their properties.  Approximately a dozen church workers have been personally impacted by Sandy to varying degrees.  (Deaconess Jeanine, called by St. Peter’s, had to leave her home with her parents and has been sleeping in the basement of a school until power can be restored and they can get back for clean up.  Yet, she serve cheerfully and graciously!)

Peter Labenberg, district treasurer and LCEF representative helped put some perspective on the scope and impact of the storm’s damage.  The population of the Long Island, NY Metro area up the Hudson River to the Tappanzee Bridge that was affected by Super Storm Sandy is 11.6 million (4.3 million households). This does not include any other state.

This population is greater than that of all but 7 states (CA, TX, NY, FL, IL, PA and Ohio). This area represents only 2800 square miles of land.

The ethnicity is diverse:

  • 43% white
  • 25% Hispanic/Latino
  • 19% Black
  • 11% Asian

42% speak a language other than English.

12% of the families are below the poverty level.

43% of the homes are owner occupied.

57% are renters.  These are a big portion of those seeking

Additionally, the total land area affected along the eastern seaboard from the US to Canada is larger than the land area of Europe.

The district’s task is daunting.  Nevertheless, the District’s pastors, teachers, deaconesses and deacons have been working hard to provide relief in their neighborhoods and the DDRT has been working hard in drafting an action plan, which they sought consultation on from the IC team.

The Atlantic District is committed to working through the district’s congregations to the areas affected, establishing three bases of operations: Staten Island, Brooklyn Queens, and Amityville.  The DDRT has discovered that it will be essential to hire a coordinator for two years and will be submitting a grant so the work can begin.  In addition to coordinating the district’s response, that person will also serve as the liaison to governmental and non-governmental agencies; specifically, FEMA, the Governor’s Office, the Mayor, NYC governmental service centers, and our LCMS Recognized Service Organizations.

The IC team affirmed the work and progress of the DDRT.  We commended them for their intentional planning and interest in having their congregations engage areas of the city that have not yet been served.  We reminded them that the assistance the ONM brings is the result of many, many donors throughout the US who care of them, pray for them, and support them in their efforts to bring relief from suffering as they witness to the saving work of Jesus.

The district team expressed appreciation for our consultation, for Synod’s excellent story coverage, and for aggressive fund raising efforts.

In the afternoon, we joined district staff in the Rockaway area, led by Pres Benke, distributing clothing, cleaning buckets, and gift cards.

Today, the team will attempt to get into New Jersey.  The area was affected yesterday and throughout the night with winds up to 60 mph, driving snow, sleet, and freezing rain.

We continue to give God thanks that He blesses this effort daily and resources continue to be sent and people are being served in their neighborhood with mercy and the witness of Christ.

Thanks be to God, who does all things well.

  • make an online gift at
  • mail checks payable to “The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod” (with a memo line or note designating “LCMS Disaster Relief”) to The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.
  • call toll-free 888-930-4438. Phones will be open Saturday, Nov. 3, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (CST) to take disaster-relief calls. Normal business hours are 8:10 a.m. to 4:10 p.m. (CST) Monday through Friday.

In addition to Reporter Online, continuing updates about the Synod’s response to Hurricane Sandy will be posted on the LCMS website at, Twitter (, the LCMS Facebook page ( and the Mercy Forever blog (