Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida on Sept. 28 as a powerful Category 4 storm. Thirteen WELS congregations were in the vicinity of the storm and had varied degrees of damage to their church and in their community.
Congregations to the north and in the immediate Tampa area received the least damage. WELS churches in Odessa, Tampa, Clearwater, Valrico, Seminole, and Parrish were largely untouched with only a few downed trees and light flooding. Risen Savior in Lakewood Ranch sustained significant roof damage. Ascension in Sarasota has some roof and soffit damage as well as a 40-foot palm tree on the roof.
Congregations and communities farther south were hit the hardest. At Prince of Peace in Englewood, the church’s cupola was breached, causing water to soak the sanctuary and pews. Christ the King in Port Charlotte received roof and water damage, causing part of the ceiling to collapse. Bethany in North Fort Myers is going to need a new roof and has a large amount of downed timber and brush on the property. At Crown of Life in Fort Myers the roof on the gymnasium was severely damaged and water entered the sanctuary. The church and school at Abiding Love in Cape Coral sustained roof damage; water also flowed into the offices, hallways, classrooms, kitchen, and fellowship hall. Portions of the ceilings have collapsed.
No injury or loss of life has been reported among WELS members.
Area congregations immediately rallied to gather supplies for and help clear debris from the hardest hit areas. WELS Christian Aid and Relief has provided $10,000 to the South Atlantic District to purchase immediate supplies, including generators and tarps.
Days after the hurricane hit, a four-person team from WELS Christian Aid and Relief traveled to the affected area to visit WELS congregations; assess their needs; and plan the best ways to utilize money, volunteers, and other resources to help those who are affected.
“It would be easy to look at this disaster as only that—a terrible storm that caused tremendous damage and loss. If we take a closer look, we will see that the Lord is using Ian to remind us of what’s really important and to give us the opportunity to imitate the compassion of Christ as we love and serve one another and those around us,” says Dan Sims, director of WELS Christian Aid and Relief.
Author: Forward in Christ
Volume: 109, Number 11
Issue: November 2022
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