It might not originally have been on his list to do that day, but when Mark Luetzow, a member at Christ, Saginaw, Mich., heard that people needed help cleaning up their homes after floodwaters swept through nearby Midland, Mich., he decided to take his sons and volunteer.
“There is biblical encouragement to help our brothers when they are in need, and it certainly was a time where we could live that out in our lives,” says Luetzow, who serves as president of Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw. “Part of my motivation was to demonstrate that principle to my boys and also have them get a firsthand experience of what disaster looks like.”
Luetzow and his sons were part of the 120 local volunteers who came to help after floodwaters from heavy rains and two failed dams flowed through Midland in May, causing an estimated $175 million in damage. These volunteers cleaned out and sanitized the homes of 15 families as well as Holy Scripture Lutheran Church, an Evangelical Lutheran Synod church that was filled waist deep with water.
Luetzow shares that as they were driving into the city to volunteer for the day, they noticed belongings stacked five feet high at the curb. “You could see that what people invested their lives in was now in the garbage. It was sobering to see how quickly life can change,” he says. “It’s important to be involved in people’s lives when they have disasters like that. The least we can do is demonstrate Christ’s love.”
Working closely with WELS Christian Aid and Relief, Mike Krueger, a member at Good Shepherd, Midland, Mich., served as the local coordinator for the work. He contacted members in the area that was flooded to determine what work needed to be done for them and their neighbors, enlisted help from area churches, and then coordinated the work of those volunteers. The work lasted 11 days, with volunteers spending from a few hours to multiples days helping with the cleanup. “The most we had were 50 volunteers in one day,” says Krueger. “We were there to help people in whatever way they needed help.”
This mostly included hauling stuff from the flooded homes outside, cleaning and disinfecting what was salvageable, drying out living areas, and helping with demolition such as removing flooring and drywall.
“People were really appreciative,” says Krueger. “The people who did the volunteering will never forget it, and the people they helped will never forget it either.”
This wasn’t Krueger’s first time helping after a disaster. He and his wife volunteered through WELS Christian Aid and Relief to help Amazing Grace, Panama City, Fla., rebuild after Hurricane Michael hit in 2018. Although the work was different, it helped prepare Krueger to take on a leadership role when disaster hit his hometown.
“People were overwhelmed, and it is going to be years before the dams are rebuilt,” he says. “It’s important you’re there to follow up with them afterward—to say, ‘How are you doing?’ and invite them to church.”
Having local, trained district response teams ready to oversee disaster relief is one of the future goals of WELS Christian Aid and Relief, according to Dan Sims, director of the organization. While Christian Aid and Relief will continue to offer guidance, training, funding, and volunteers (when necessary), local congregations will then be able to provide aid in their own communities.
Says Sims, “It’s exactly what we want to see. When there’s a disaster, local people—grassroots—step up and help their neighbors who are in need.”
Learn more at wels.net/relief about WELS Christian Aid and Relief.
Volume 107, Number 8
Issue: August 2020