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,
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 firstname.lastname@example.org