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Monday, June 28, 2010

The Truth about the Stewardship of LCMS World Relief and Human Care | The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

06-28-2010: The Truth about the Stewardship of LCMS World Relief and Human Care | The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

For the sake of our work of mercy and those in need around the world, and to provide reassurance to our donors, it is necessary to respond to the Jesus First Delegate Letter No. 9. As chairman of the Board for Human Care, I have requested our board Vice Chair, John Edson (a Certified Public Accountant), to prepare a response.

Rev. Bernie Seter
Chair, Board for Human Care

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Welcome to Michigan, North Dakota

Michigan, North Dakota

When we were driving from Wadena, Minnesota, to Devil's Lake, North Dakota, we passed through "Michigan" on Highway 2. Now having been born and raised a good part of my early life in the Great Lake State of Michigan, I was rather amused to drive through "Michigan" in North Dakota. The town was formed in 1883 when a Post Office was established. One item I learned on this trip to North Dakota was that the oldest towns and cities in North Dakota are about 125 years old. At the beginning of the 20th century, North Dakota was still frontier land. Around the turn of the century, people made money by collecting one ton of buffalo bones to sell for $3. You can read about the history of the town here.

View Michigan City, North Dakota in a larger map

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Major Disaster Waiting to Happen!

Rev. Carlos Hernandez and I went to Devil's Lake, North Dakota, after visiting the tornado damage in Wadena, Minnesota. Carlos has written his reflections below on Devil's Lake.


REFLECTIONS  By Rev. Carlos Hernandez, Director, Districts and Congregations, LCMS World Relief and Human Care

"A Major Disaster Waiting to Happen!" 

Devil's Lake, North Dakota,  Jun 22, 2010 -  North Dakota Governor John Hoeven was in town today. He is concerned, like many residents of this lakeside  community 40 miles from the Canadian border, about the rapid rise of Devil's Lake that every year is expanding its boundaries and over-flowing into farm and grazing land as well as residences.

"It is a major disaster waiting to happen," says Rev. Tim Stout, Pastor of St. Peter's LCMS here in Devil's Lake. 

Pastor Stout goes on to explain that if the lake rises just three feet more over the embankments (like Levees in New Orleans) the town of Devil's Lake would suffer something like the fate of the Ninth Ward in New Orleans.

 A typical scene of homes being flooded by the ever-rising Devil's Lake. This homes belongs to
John Nord, a member at St. Peter, LCMS in devil's Lake, Tim Stout, Pastor. 

We are here today by invitation, not to respond to a disaster, as we did yesterday in Wadena, Minnesota, but to assist Pastor Stout and his congregation "think through" what St. Peter's.   might do to prepare in what he feels is an inevitable disaster that would leave much of Devil's Lake residents homeless.

"St. Peter's is on high ground and would spared," Pastor Stout explains, "maybe we could serve as a shelter."

Both Pastor Stout and Bill Sharpe of the North Dakota District, who is with us today on a tour of the area, agree that as  folks lose their homes to the rising Devil's Lake, affordable housing might be a need that the congregation, District and other Lutheran entities could address.

6 Pastor Stout visits with one of his members, Stuart Gessner, standing by a lake created by the
ever-expanding Devil's Lake. Mr. Gessner  said he once grew corn where a Lake now  stands.  

Supported by Bill Sharpe, District Disaster Coordinator, Pastor does not want to wait for the disaster to happen, but to be prepared.

Yet another challenge that we toured was the Lakota Indian Reservation. The embankments in the reservation are scanty or non-existent leaving the Indian community there in an even more perilous situation.

"Road Closed" signs dot the landscape around the ever-rising, ever-expanding Devil's Lake that is
"a major disaster waiting to happen,"  fearful town folks lament. 

Overwhelmed by the multiple challenges in the face of an inevitable disaster and wondering where to start in preparing for such a disaster,   Pastor Stout asks us, "How can you help us?"

We made it very clear that LCMS WRHC stands ready, in partnership with the North Dakota District, to "bring to the table" capacity-building  resources so that St. Peter's congregation might be prepared to demonstrate the overflowing Mercy of Christ in the face of any impending disaster.

Pastor Hernandez may be reached at 314-956-2005 or

Kit Foxes Near Tolna North Dakota (Devil's Lake)

Last evening while driving on roads being reclaimed by Devil's Lake near Tolna, North Dakota, we encountered a few young coyote  kit foxes (thanks Bernie!).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Spiritual Needs in the Face of Disaster

Rev. Carlos Hernandez sent me his latest reflections on the tornados that hit Wadena, MN. (He wrote them while I drove to Devil's Lake, North Dakota).


REFLECTIONS  By Rev. Carlos Hernandez, Director, Districts and Congregations, LCMS World Relief and Human Care

"Spiritual Needs in the Face of Disaster

Wadena, Minnesota,  June 21, 2010 -  We arrived here on Monday and met with Minnesota North District President, Don Fondow, WRHC Board Chairman Pastor Bernie Seter, Pastor Stephen Metzler of St. John's, the local LCMS congregation and several Circuit Pastors to tour the tornado's damage and to assess its impact on the congregation and community.

Our tour of some of the town's most devastating destruction, homes completely and totally downed, especially around Wadena High School, actually sent one of the Circuit Pastors with us today into shock and gave another, an upset stomach.

I wondered, "If the tornado's destruction so physically and emotionally affected seasoned pastoral caregivers, imagine how it has impacted everybody else."

The part of town around Wadena where the tornado caused the most damage has been closed off and we had to be escorted into the area by personnel from the county sheriff's office.

The destruction here is certainly far worse than we expected and as Pastor Stephen Metzler assessed, 100 percent of his members of St. John's congregation have been affected by the tornado's fury.

Yet the physical, and emotional impact of the tornado has opened up opportunities for sharing the gospel and addressing spiritual needs as well.

This became quite evident when our entourage - District President Fondow, WRHC Chirman Pastor Bernie Seter, several Circuit Pastors, Pastor Collver and I - stood in Pastor Metzler's office to de-brief from what we had seen and to hear his assessment of the tornado's impact on the congregation and community.

After he showed us a News  Clip from a Minneapolis-St. Paul TV Station that featured St. John's Sunday Service and Pastor's Metzler's message to the congregation that the "tornado was not the wrath of God and that He is still our protective and caring God," someone from our group asked him, "How has the tornado impacted you?"

Pastor Metzler shows a News clip featuring his  gospel message on the Sunday afte the disaster, "...the tornado is not God's punishment. God is loving, forgiving and protective" - a comforting message to a distraught and frightened community.

With a bit of "survivor's guilt" in his voice, he sheepishly confessed that house with totally and completely unaffected.

"The real impact of the tornado for me," he said, "has really been tremenous evangelistic opportunities as we minister to people in their physical needs, but also clarify for them theologically that the tornado is not God's punishment and that He is still our loving, forgiving and protective Lord. People ask us; they want to know."

When we saw in the TV News clip that the Mayor of the town had spoken at the heavily attended service the Sunday after the tornado landed in Wadena, one of the Pastors in our group asked,

"Is he a member?"

"No," answer Pastor Metzler.

Another Pastor, grasping the impact of Pastor Metzler's spritual ministry in the community in these days following the tornado that crushed residences, businesses and spirits jumped in with,

"Not yet!"

Another Pastor in the Circuit with us today, Kirk Lee, also shared concerning the opportunities he had to share the gospel at the funeral service of the lone LCMS victim of the tornado, Margie Schulke of Almora, Minnesota.

Our day concluded with a prayer by President Fondow as we concluded our day of assessment and pastoral care in Wadena in the face of one of the most destructive disasters in the town's history. 

Pastor Hernandez can be reached at 314-956-20050
and at

Mighty Mississippi in Minnesota

Mississippi in Minnesota by HWY 2

Imagine my surprise, driving along Highway 2 (from Wadena to Devil's Lake North Dakota) in Northern Minnesota when I crossed the Mississippi River! While intellectually I knew that the Mississippi started someplace up in Minnesota, I wasn't quite prepared to see it. The mighty Mississippi looks more like a creek than a large river up here in Minnesota. A vastly different appearance than I am used to in Saint Louis, MO.

The Length of the Mississippi (from Wikipedia)

Wadena Tornado Further Reflections

When you get to Wadena, you have to stop and look. The power of the tornado is amazing, even more amazing is that no one lost their life. At the time of our visit 238 homes were declared uninhabitable (destroyed). Many other homes were badly damaged but could be repaired. Only days after the event, most of the people we spoke with told us that they were fine and if you could help someone else help them. Shock still reigned and yet people were resilient and in good spirits. On the lot of one destroyed home, a group of teenagers set up a volley ball net and began to play.

The house pictured above has painted on it, "God is good all the time," and "God saved my family. We were in here!" This seems to reflect the sentiment of the community -- while the damage is great, things could have been much worse. For instance, a sheriff deputy told us that on the day the tornado hit Wadena, the town had scheduled a parade at 7 PM; the tornado hit at 5 PM. Had the tornado hit two hours later the loss of life would have been greater. If the tornado had shifted four blocks over, it would have gone through downtown. 

Saint John Lutheran Wadena

Damaged Parish Hall

Sanctuary Roof Damaged, Saint John Wadena

Pastor Stephen Meltzer, explains how the tornado affected his church members

Saint John Lutheran Church, Wadena, MN, sat just north of the major tornado damage. The church itself did not escape damage, having a portion of its roof blown off. Pastor Steven Meltzer said that nearly 100% of his members are affected by the tornado (that is suffering moderate to major damaged) and that probably 50% of them have lost their homes. Saint John's Lutheran Wadena held service Sunday morning after the tornado, where Pastor Meltzer said, "This storm is not the result of God's wrath."

In a cemetery across from the church stands a crucifix amidst fallen grave stones, destroyed trees, and buildings. This sight reminded me of the crucifix standing in the ruined cathedral in Port-au-Prince after the earthquake. At first it seemed rather surprising to see a crucifix standing amidst the destruction, yet it really is not. For in the midst of life's greatest tragedy -- death -- the cross of Jesus remains, for he passed through death to life first for us. Among fallen gravestones, the cross of Jesus stands, for he shall call us and raise us from the dead in our bodies on the Last Day. This is the great hope we have. In this life, we live under the shadow of the cross (theology of the cross).

Monday, June 21, 2010

Lady Slipper MN State Flower

A picture of the Minnesota State Flower. Very Rare but grows in Don Fondow's backyard.

Rev. Albert B Collver, Ph.D.
Executive Pastoral Assistant
LCMS World Relief and Human Care

Wadena Tornado Damage Report 1

Rev. Carlos Hernandez and I just arrived in Wadena, MN, to assess the tornado damage. We are meeting with District President Don Fondow and Rev. Bernie Seter, Chair of the Board for Human Care Ministry. Below are some photos of the damage we saw as we drove into Wadena. More later.


God's Word for Today: Hosea/Joel/Amos

CPH has released my latest Bible Study on 8 June 2010: God's Word for Today: Hosea/Joel/Amos. Click on the link and take a look.

Each study in the God’s Word for Today series provides an in-depth exploration of a book of the Bible. Each session includes:
  • background information on the book of the Bible, its author, audience, occasion, and purpose
  • learning experiences that promote exciting and challenging discussions;
  • notes for leaders that answer questions, suggest a learning process, and provide additional information;
  • discussion starters that help participants apply God’s Word to their daily lives.
The first three books in the collection referred to as the “Minor Prophets,” Hosea, Joel, and Amos nevertheless convey the major division of Holy Scripture: Law and Gospel. Taken together, and interpreted through the Gospel, we see God’s relationship with and redemption of Israel and the Church as the result of His boundless mercy and grace in His Son, Jesus Christ.
In this study we will examine
•  the incarnational nature of God’s prophetic Word pointing to Christ;
•  the continuing dangers of false teachings and false worship;
•  the hope of Christ’s first coming and His second coming on the Last Day.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Katy Trail -- Weldon Springs to Augusta

Yesterday, my son and I and a friend went for a bike ride on the Katy Trail. We started at the Weldon Spring Site and Interpretive Center. In the 1940s, the US Army purchased the property for the production of ordnance. In the late 1950s the US Atomic Energy Commission began processing yellow cake uranium here. In 1985, the Department of Energy took over to process the nuclear waste. By 2001, 1.5 million cubic yards of waste was encased, covering 45 acres to the height of 75 feet. Now this spot is marked with an interpretative center open to the public. From here it is about six miles to the Katy Trail proper.

The Mound In the Background is the Waste Site

The trail from the Weldon Springs site consists of old dirt roads. There is a steep hill with an elevation change of about 1200 feet (a 6% grade). Going down is easy, while going back up it after a 25 mile ride is not. The path is rutted from water gullies but not especially difficult to ride.

The Trail from Weldon Springs to the Katy Trail

From Weldon Springs we road to Defiance and stopped at the bike shop.

Bike Shop in Defiance, MO

Bridge Across the Femme Osage Creek Near Daniel Boon's Homestead

Approaching a Tunnel

Exhausted after the Ride

This ride was the first use of my Hero GoPro camera. It is a great camera with video capabilities. I haven't totally figured out how to use it. Somehow I took 3,000 photos on the bike ride. I think it was snapping pictures periodically during the ride. It should make an interesting companion on future trips.

It was also very hot about 95 to 100 degrees. The heat index was even higher. I took the High Sierra Sports Hydration pack with me, which holds 2 liters of water. A good review of it can be found here. In this heat, I found that 2 liters was not quite enough. In fact, I think I suffered some symptoms of heat exhaustion. Always need to be careful riding in such hot conditions.

Overall we rode about 30 miles, from the Weldon Spring Site to Augusta and back -- hitting the towns of Defiance, Matson, and Augusta -- prime Missouri wine country. On my next ride along the Katy Trail, I want to hit the town of Dutzow, from where Gottfried Duden wrote  Bericht über eine Reise nach den westlichen Staaten Nordamerika's ("Report of a journey to the western states of North America") which gave romantic and glowing descriptions of the Missouri River valley between St. Louis and Hermann, Missouri. His book resulted in many Germans immigrating to Missouri.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Of Foreboding and Forgiveness -- Uwe Siemon-Netto

The other day I received a phone call from a friend vacationing in France, Uwe Siemon-Netto. He asked me if I had seen his blog. To which I had to reply, "No." Well, he has a blog and you can find it here. His most recent post is given below, "Of Foreboding and Forgiveness."


Of Foreboding and Forgiveness


This column reaches you from France. It is written with a sense of foreboding. Just before leaving California, I called a friend in New York. He is a native Berliner of Jewish descent. In the early Nazi years he fled to Paris while still a teenager, and then fought in the French Resistance. “Make the best of your stay in Europe,” he counseled me. “By the time of your return we might be living in a totally different world.”

This sounded plausible. You would have to be blind and deaf not to realize that a new era is upon us, and that this era is unlikely to be agreeable. We discern the bitter fruit of human hubris all around us – in the Gulf of Mexico, in economics, finance, in the shaky condition of governments on both sides of the Atlantic; in the deplorable failure of most media outlets to inform their audiences responsibly about world affairs; and in the state of the Church many of whose branches have either slid into rank heresy kowtowing to sexual deviance, or are offering feel-good fluff as a tonic to soothe the apprehension millions share with my New York friend.

This morning I telephoned a former German government minister about the future of dollar, the euro and other currencies. He is a statesman with a reputation of financial wisdom. He said, “I frankly cannot predict where we are heading. I have just bought Norwegian bonds because the Norwegian money appears to be relatively healthy, but who knows? Tomorrow I could be proven wrong.”

It cannot be the purpose of this column to list the plethora of indicators leading a neighbor of mine in France to compare the current time in history with the situation that prevailed in Europe just before World War I. “An insignificant event in an insignificant placed triggered that calamity,” she said, referring to the assassination of Archduke Franz-Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo in 1914.

As the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod approaches its convention in Houston in July, it must consider the present perils in national and world affairs. Confessional Lutherans know of course that theirs is not to offer amateurish advice in worldly matters. Bicker though they might among each other, the various parties within the LCMS have generally resisted the temptation to emulate other denominations in poaching in alien territory, meaning the secular realm.

In fact, the opposite extreme is true and equally deplorable – an ostrich-like inclination not to concern itself at all with the likelihood of impending catastrophe. You don’t hear much from Lutherans about the Church’s role if and when disaster strikes. Four years ago, I taught a doctoral-level seminar at Concordia Seminary St. Louis on precisely this issue and received some brilliant papers from my students but could not find anybody prepared to publish them; they did not appeal to prevalent Lutheran tastes in America.

But then how is the Church to react in the event of terrorist attacks with nuclear or biological devices; how will it function when the supplies of food and energy are disrupted, and when communications have broken down? How will it respond to severe persecution perhaps even in America and Western Europe? How will it minister to its faithful when they are cut off from their sanctuaries, and when pastors have lost contact to their scattered flocks?

Are these unthinkable scenarios? It would be foolish to assume that they were – even in the United States. Take the word of a septuagenarian for this, a man who has spent his childhood in a country that used to be the most civilized in the world and was reduced to an antechamber of hell almost overnight.

The time might soon come when there will be no mega churches with thousands of happy-clappy congregants; whoever among Lutherans believes that in periods of woe bestselling guidelines to a purpose-driven life can be put into action will be egregiously disappointed. What sustained me in air raid shelters and during months of starvation were not expressions of religious enthusiasm but the words and tunes of the Scripture-based liturgy I had memorized since Sunday school, and the unshakeable message that, whatever happened, I was a forgiven sinner and would therefore live eternally by virtue of Christ’s vicarious suffering, death and resurrection. 

This basic Christian truth is most clearly formulated in the Lutheran Confessions. However, they are a treasure sometimes too well kept by the LCMS; it makes no sense to hold these treasures jealously in reserve when millions of troubled Christians realize that they are staring at the abyss. I know of Lutherans outside the Missouri Synod praying that the LCMS will emerge from Houston “as a robust church ready to allow the treasures of its own tradition to bear fruit.” The man who said this was Thomas Schlichting, a canon lawyer and high-ranking official in the state-related “Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saxony.”

Rev. Albrecht-Immanuel Herzog, a pastor in the regional Lutheran Church in Bavaria, told me about sizable groups of Lutherans in Germany who are not in communion with the LCMS but are yearning for confessional clarity. “Missouri could provide this clarity if only it surfaced and opened its treasure chest,” he said adding that particularly younger pastors and theologians felt that way.

It is comforting to know that none of the major factions in the LCMS is inclined to follow the mainline Protestant trend toward apostasy. Yet even among Missourians the liberating Lutheran message is diluted by corporate numbers games, and drowned out by sets of drums that have replaced altars in many of our sanctuaries. And this message is: “You are forgiven. Now go and roll up your sleeves and engage this dangerous world.” This is what the Lutheran Church must proclaim more urgently than ever in times of foreboding, and this is why I have endorsed Rev. Matthew Harrison’s candidacy for the office of LCMS President. In my estimation he is the most likely man to open the Lutheran treasure chest for all to see. The moment to do this for the benefit of the whole Church of Christ is now.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Decade of Mercy: 2000 - 2010

This is the Decade of Mercy Video from LCMS World Relief and Human Care. I am humbled and proud to have been a part of this. LCMS World Relief and Human Care has done great work this past decade (admittedly I'm biased). And there is so much more work to be done... I write this sitting in Atlanta just after returning from Guatemala. I pray the LCMS continues to expand its on capacity (ability) to do works of mercy and that of our partners throughout the world. I will be proud of my time at LCMS WR-HC for the rest of my life. Sola Dei Gloria.


Christian Compassion in Guatemala -Demonstrating that Jesus IS the Light of the World

 Once again, Carlos Hernandez, my travel partner and friend, has written another nice piece.


Reflections by Pastor Carlos Hernandez, Director, Districts and Congregations, LCMS World Relief and Human Care

"Christian Compassion in Guatemala -Demonstrating that Jesus  IS the Light of the World "

Quelzaltenango, Guatemala, June 9, 2010 - On this our third and final day of our Assessment/Pastoral Care work in Guatemala after Agatha's torrential rains and Pacaya's volcanic ash claimed more than 200 lives (and counting!), our excellent driver, Felipe Hernandez, drives us into the mountainous area of Guatemala known as "Occidente" to the Quelzaltenango/Cantel area where we meet with President Ignacio Chan.

Pastors Collver and Hernandez with President Ignacio Chan at a farewell in Quelzaltenango
(Picture by Andres Lopez)

Along with some of our entourage of other Pastors and Lay leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Guatemala that have been accompanying us on various segments of our visits, we gather with President Chan.

We are graciously received with a plate of assorted fruits, fresh breads and coffee.

This time together turns out to be a time of prayer, sharing, and de-briefing from the trauma of going through the disaster.  

As with most disasters, the "Caregiving Pastors"  and other "helping persons" are also in need of Pastoral Care and Conversation.

The next order of business for us in the area is to see, first hand, the extent of the damage.

President Chan leads us to some of the homes where familes along the area's foothills resided. 

Here we again see the destructive and indelible mark left by Agatha's and Pacaya's onslaught of heavy, sooty mud on roof tops and walls.

The torrential rains mixed in with volcanic ash come down as heavy mud that destroy roofs in homes like this in Cantel, Guatemala. (Picture by Carlos Hernandez) 

Our ambitous goal for today was to also travel to Retalhuleu where Ricardo Chan is Pastor. But it started raining pretty hard and the two and a half hour drive would have extended our time on the road beyond our ability to return to Antigua at a reasonable hour, where we are staying at the Lutheran Center.

This was unfortunate because Pastor Ricardo Chan's congregation, "Jesus, La Luz Del Mundo" ("Jesus, the Light of the World") got hit pretty hard.

Many of their members are staying in shelters set up by local congregations and other public buildings.

Their church was flooded and the roof downed so a shelter could not be set up at "Jesus - La Luz del Mundo."

When Pastor Ricardo Chan announced the decision (via cell phone) not to continue to Retalhuleu to the congregation, they were, of course, disappointed. They were anxiously waiting for us!

The president of the congregation, Hector Rene Donis, wanted to speak to me. Pastor Chan handed me his cell phone and we had a cordial and informative conversation.

I assured him that help would be on the way for some of their urgent needs - staples, clothing, towels, diapers, toiletries, aluminum (for roofing), cement blocks to repair walls, etc.

So again today, Assessment (on a cellphone) ended and immediate help began!

Dr. Collver, carrying with him (thank you Charlie Rhodes!) cash from LCMS World Relief and Human Care, granted "Jesus, Light of the World" congregation Q. 10,070 ($1,500) which will be delivered to them in person tomorrow.

Our Assessment/Pastoral Care visit here has made it pretty clear that there are humongous, urgent and emergency disaster needs in Guatemala, already at various levels of disaster before the disaster.

 Rio Zamala, running through the Quelzaltenango/Cantel area wreaked havoc during its rapid and high flow through this mountainous area that left many areas inacessible.  (Picture by Carlos Hernandez)

Another opportunity for LCMS World Relief and Human Care to join hands with our Mercy partners in the body of Christ and, like the name of Pastor's Ricardo Chan's congregation in Retahuleu reminds us, demonstrate with Christian compassion that "Jesus" IS "the Light of the World."

Pastor Hernandez can be reached at 314-956-2005 or

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Guatemala -- Nature of the Disaster

The tropical storm that hit Guatemala and the volcanic erruption of Pacaya had relatively little press coverage in the American news. Several people have asked why are you there? Doesn't sound like much has happened. I suppose in comparison to a mega disaster like the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010 or the tsunami that hit Indonesia at the end of 2005 this is true. Fortunately in Guatemala, the loss of life is in the hundreds (maybe thousands -- no one really knows for sure) and not the hundreds of thousands. Many of the hardest hit areas in Guatemala are inaccessible, so no proper assessment has been (and perhaps will not be made).

So while the disaster in Guatemala does not compare in scale to that of Haiti and other places that have captivated us in recent years, there is still need. It is amazing how mega disasters desensitize people in multiple ways. First, it is very difficult if not impossible to conceptualize the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. Those individuals become a personless, faceless number. Our minds simply cannot comprehend such loss; the humanless number is a way our pysches protect us and allow us to continue function. Another way mega disasters desensitize us is that the smaller disasters are compared to large disasters in such a way that a threshold is set and smaller disasters are not worthy of our attention or assistance.

In the case of Guatemala, several factors contributed to the disaster. Heavy rains cut gullies down the mountains and expanded rivers beyond their banks, taking homes, people, and animals along with them. In one place we visited (Chiquimula), a large number of vultures circled over a field. A local person told us the field was full of animal corpses killed by the flood waters. While walking along the river bank through the silt and debrie in Gualan, we were cautioned to watch our step (lest we step on a person buried shallow in the silt). In both cases, the waters caused a rapid flood that swept away everything in its path.

The Lutheran Church in Guatemala started its relief work by beginning at its congregations and with church members who were affected and then reaching out to others in the community who are in need. (This also highlights how we work: working with our partners on the ground to identify both where there is need and where an impact can be made. This allows us to help people who otherwise might have fallen through the cracks.)

In Chiquimula, five Lutheran families were affect, loosing their homes in the flood. With the assistance of LCMS Worl Relief and Human Care, the Lutheran Church provided the immediate aid of temporary shelter for their five families affected by the flood. The next step is to provide aid to the other 20 families not assoicated with the Lutheran church. Ultimately, the goal is to provide some sort of a long term housing support.

After this most recent flood, the Guatemalan government has decided it is not a good idea for homes to be so close to the river. Now these displaced familie are not only homeless but also in need of finding more expensive shelter. This wise decision by the government will prevent loss of future life and property but increases the immediate hardship. This situation creates a situation where the church can step in and provide assistance in a modest way (spending 10s of thousands of dollars instead of 100s of thousands of dollars). Although the needs are more modest, designated gifts are still needed to help.

The attached photos show some of the erosion and damage from the flood. The bridge transversing the river is about to collapse (we only learned this after crossing it ourselves). A man cleans mud and debrie from his home. And a boy cleans the mud coating his toy fire engine.

These "little" disasters (if the deaths of hundreds or even thousands of people can be considered little) allows us to assist our sister church and to increase their capacity to respond in the future, while helping those in need. It also provides the opportunity for outreach into the community as the love of Christ is shown to our neighbor by caring for thr least of these.

Written on way to Quetzaltenango (many of the names are more Mayan than Spanish) while detouring and traversing sometimes washed out sections of road (see photos). Unlike in Chiquimula which had a low elevation and was very hot, today we are high in the mountains where it is cool enough to wear a light jacket.)

Rev. Albert B Collver, Ph.D.
Executive Pastoral Assistant
LCMS World Relief and Human Care

"Tenemos Vida - We have our lives"

Yesterday, on our multi-hour drive from Chiquimula back to the Lutheran Center in Antigua, Rev. Carlos Hernandez wrote some reflections on the day. In order to "reflect" on what you have seen, heard, and smelled, you need to have some time to actually ponder the events. This trip has been so packed with travel to various sights that little opportunity presents to reflect. Nevertheless, Rev. Carlos Hernandez managed to type out the message below on his cell phone keyboard. (We even had the Guatemalans proof read our Spanish!)


Reflections by Pastor Carlos Hernandez, Director, LCMS World Relief and Human Care

"Tenemos Vida - We have our lives"

Chiquimula, Guatemala, June 8, 2010 -  Today we began our Assessment / Pastoral Care work in the Northwest desert region (Very hot! I think I perspired 5 pound. Dr. Collver even took off his collar!) of this Central American country where Dr. Collver and I  witnessed the damaging power of the Taco River that weaves through the city's poor neighborhoods (accent on the second vowel and not pronunced like "Taco Bell"!) and that left five dead in its path, most homes flooded band dozens homeless.

Dr. Collver (collarless) with Nury at Resurrection Lutheran Gualan

Reverendo Tiburcio Giron is Pastor of Emanuel.   He is also  Vice-President of "La Comision Administrativa del La Iglesia Evangelica Luterana en Guatemala" (Administrative Commission of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Guatemala).

Pastor Giron is traveling with us today and so when we arrived at an area along the Taco River where  many of the members of  Emanuel live and were flooded out, Emanuel's congregational   President,  Juan Vicente Molina Erazo is there to meet us.

Many of those left homeless lived in the El Mango ("Zona 4") section ("Colonia") of Chiqui mula where "Iglesia Evangelica Luterana Emanuel" (Emanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church)
is located. Rev. Tiburcio Giron is happy to have a faithful and reliable congregational leader like Mr. Erazo.

Mr. Erazo leads us to a group of women and children  from the congregation that are risking their lives, still occupying their washed out homes along the Taco River because they have no other place to go!

We are introduced and the women and children welcome us with a joyous gospel song in Spanish that translates, "I have a friend who loves me and Jesus is his name."

Pastor Eduardo Bonilla of "Castillo Fuerte" in Guatemala City is also traveling with us and offers a fervent prayer for the families and we, as LCMS World Relief amd Human Care promise to respond with relief services as we are able.

The women express words of thanks to God that he spared their lives. "Tenemos vida," some say while other express their agreement with hearty "Amens." 

Pastors in the Lutheran Church in Guatemala do not receive a salary and must support themselves. Pastor Giron 'earns a living' as the Director of  the   Instituto Nacional de Educacion Basica on the Campus of "Iglesia Luterana de La Resurreccion" ("Lutheran Church of the Resurreccion").

He is taking several days off to travel with us at no pay. He jokes in Spanish, "I am putting my wife to work so I can take off!" 

But it's no joke! Pastor Giron wife, Carmelina, whom we met at the Deaconess Conference in Argentina in 2009, works in  health services for the State and today she is working at a State Health Center in Gualan.

Next, President of Emanuel, Mr. Erazo, takes us to the congregation where we will meet with Maria del Carmen Setino who is in a crisis.

Her home was washed out. She and her children are  staying with friends who understandably want their stay to be short term. She is 8 months pregnant and she and her four children have no food.

Here where assessment ends 
and immediate help begins!

Dr. Collver brought along some LCMS World Relief and Human Care cash. When we offered immediate cash help, Pastor Giron and Mr. Erazo suggest 200  Quetzales ($25) - about 3-4 days of food. Later Dr. Collver set aside another 3,500 Quetzales ($425.00) for Emanuel to assist others in a crisis like Maria and her 4 children. 

Before going to Gualan where  Rev. Luis Jacinto is Pastor at Iglesia Evangelica Luterana de La Resurreccion, we saw Mr. Erazo's own home and its serious damages.

His joy in caring for others belies his own need. Mr. Erazo is teaming up with his Pastor to care for others while he and his family have equally serious needs - a genuine "Wounded Healer."

Iglesia Luterana de La  Resurreccion in Gualan, right on the Motagua River (!) has massive flood damages, as well as numerous conregational, school and coomunity families in dire need and a $10,000 grant from LCMS World Relief and Human Care has already been rushed (wired) to them.

But that exciting story will be the topic of another edition of "Reflections."

Pastor Carlos Hernandez can be reached at 314-956-2005 or