ELCA Lutheran Disaster Responsehttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCALutheranDisasterResponse/Serbia: Post-flood rehabilitationMegan Brandsrudhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCALutheranDisasterResponse/293http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCALutheranDisasterResponse/293<div class="ExternalClassD4061CF9547049DC9306F415DF5BB966"><p>​<img src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/ELCA%20Lutheran%20Disaster%20Response/Browse/Roma%20population.jpg" alt="Roma population.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;width&#58;350px;height&#58;223px;" /></p><p>On May 13, 2014, a cyclone hit Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, resulting in widespread, record flooding and landslides. Overall, approximately 1.6 million people were impacted by the cyclone and the flooding and landslides that followed. <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCALutheranDisasterResponse/258">Last spring</a>, Lutheran Disaster Response worked with Ecumenical Humanitarian Organization to provide immediate relief resources, which included food, personal health and hygiene supplies, disinfection equipment and tools.</p><p class="MsoNormal">The emergency phase of the disaster has passed, but there is still a lot of work to be done, especially with housing. Serbia was hit hardest by the severe weather, with 200 collapsed homes, more than 18,000 damaged homes and approximately 32,000 people who had to evacuate. </p><p class="MsoNormal">The Roma settlement in Mišar, City of Šabac, in western Serbia was greatly affected by the floods. There are approximately 500,000 people who make up the Roma population in Serbia, and they generally live in worse conditions than the rest of the population due to discrimination, employment exclusion and poverty. The poor living conditions mean that these people are more vulnerable to larger damages caused by disasters. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Lutheran Disaster Response is again working with Ecumenical Humanitarian Organization to assist in rehabilitating homes and improving livelihoods for Roma families in Mišar that were affected by the floods. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Home rehabilitation assistance will be owner-driven, so primary resources provided will be technical support and tools and construction materials. Assistance to revive and increase livelihood opportunities will consist of assessing the current situation, identifying self-employment opportunities, creating documentation for start-up grants and building capacity through business plans for income-generating projects. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Special attention will also be given to mobilizing resources and raising awareness around disaster-risk reduction and resiliency. </p><p class="MsoNormal">We will continue to accompany our brothers and sisters in Serbia who are still dealing with the after-math of last year’s flooding. If you would like to support Lutheran Disaster Response’s work in Serbia, please visit the <a href="https&#58;//community.elca.org/lutherandisasterresponse">giving page</a>.</p></div>03/13/2015Honduras: Support for returning child migrantsMegan Brandsrudhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCALutheranDisasterResponse/292http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCALutheranDisasterResponse/292<div class="ExternalClassB6EFA52B76214B92AB012C808E648503"><p>​The Honduran government declared a national state of emergency upon the recent mass return of Hondurans, specifically children, who are being sent back from Mexico and the United States. The assistance of several civil society and humanitarian organizations has been requested to provide accompaniment during the reception of the returning children.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Lutheran Disaster Response is working with Mennonite Social Action Commission (CASM) to help provide humanitarian assistance to 1,000 returning child migrants. Immediate attention will be given to helping the children reunite with their families and to accompany them through the legal process of filing complaints in cases that involve human trafficking, sex trafficking and physical and psychological violence. Food and hygiene kits will be distributed to children as they are received and while they stay in temporary shelters waiting to be reunited with family. Psychosocial support will also be provided, and special accompaniment will occur for cases that merit extra attention.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Each child’s well-being is the primary concern, and necessary support will be provided to ensure a safe reunion for the children and their families. </p> </div>03/06/2015Madagascar: Tropical Cyclone Chedza and severe floodingMegan Brandsrudhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCALutheranDisasterResponse/291http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCALutheranDisasterResponse/291<div class="ExternalClass3E23587381F546019BF0B3E4E8ED8EC0"><p>On Jan. 16, Tropical Cyclone Chedza hit the southwestern part of Madagascar in the Menabe and Melaky regions. Heavy rainfalls followed, which caused severe flooding in most parts of the country. Approximately 174,000 people were affected by the disaster, and 80 people died.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Lutheran Disaster Response has committed an initial $35,000 and is working with the Malagasy Lutheran Church to assist 1,000 families in Morondava and Mahabo communities who were affected by the cyclone and flooding. Assistance will be for urgent food and non-food items, as well as psychosocial support. Food being distributed consists of rice, oil and beans, and non-food materials include blankets and hygiene items. Attention for distribution will be toward those who are most vulnerable, specifically families who are displaced, people with disabilities, elderly parents and female heads of households. The church will be working with people to provide support and disaster-risk training to help increase the resiliency of the communities.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Please join us in praying for the people in Madagascar who have been affected by the severe weather. We also pray for continued safety and preparedness as the cyclone season continues in the region. If you would like to support Lutheran Disaster Response’s work in Madagascar, please visit the Lutheran Disaster Response giving page.</p> </div>03/02/2015Malawi: Flood recovery and community resilienceMegan Brandsrudhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCALutheranDisasterResponse/290http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCALutheranDisasterResponse/290<div class="ExternalClassC768E649947743ECA3466DB618A87A92"><p><img src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/ELCA%20Lutheran%20Disaster%20Response/Browse/Malawi%20flooding%20-%20courtesy%20of%20ELDS.jpg" alt="Malawi flooding - courtesy of ELDS.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;width&#58;350px;height&#58;233px;" /></p><p>In January, Malawi was hit with unprecedented flooding after days of heavy rains. Approximately 230,000 people were displaced due to the emergency and more than 200 people died – with more than 100 people still missing. Overall, approximately 630,000 people in the southern African country have been impacted by the devastating floods. </p><p>Two of the most impacted districts are Chikwawa and Phalombe. Evangelical Lutheran Development Service (ELDS), a program of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi, is active in these districts. With ELDS, Lutheran Disaster Response is helping provide assistance to 22,000 people in Chikwawa and Phalombe districts. Assistance will be focused on emergency shelter, health, food security, water and sanitation. </p><ul><li>Temporary shelter items will include plastic sheeting, nails and poles. </li><li>Health efforts will include first-aid training and distribution of bed nets to reduce malaria infection, which is currently higher than normal due to the water.</li><li>Water and sanitation support will include distribution of buckets, water treatment products used to make water potable and hygiene kits. One hundred latrines will also be constructed to serve households in the districts. </li></ul><p>Members of the communities where ELDS will be active will also take part in a community-based psychosocial and disaster-risk management program to help build capacity and resilience to the effects of disaster. </p><p>In order to ensure that communities are fully represented, ELDS will work to integrate cross-cutting issues into the project so that women, children, elderly parents and people living with HIV/AIDS are reached.</p><p>While disaster recovery is just beginning, Lutheran Disaster Response will continue to accompany the people of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi throughout their whole journey in working to rebuild communities and bolster resilience.</p><p>If you would like to support Lutheran Disaster Response's work in responding to the flooding in Malawi, please visit the <a href="https&#58;//community.elca.org/lutherandisasterresponse">Lutheran Disaster Response giving page</a>. </p><p><span><span><em>Photo courtesy of Evangelical Lutheran Development Service</em></span></span>.<br></p><p>​</p></div>02/23/2015Loving the Neighbor - Guest Post from Rev. Linda Johnson SeyenkuloMegan Brandsrudhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCALutheranDisasterResponse/289http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCALutheranDisasterResponse/289<div class="ExternalClass56A37DF1385C4AFEB809D4B0AA9B7E81"><p><em>This is a guest post from Rev. Linda Johnson Seyenkulo, an ELCA missionary to Liberia. </em><br><span style="font-size&#58;14.6667px;"></span></p><p><span style="font-size&#58;14.6667px;">I’ve been thinking about the Good Samaritan story lately and the concept of neighbor.&#160; </span></p><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size&#58;14.6667px;"></span><p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size&#58;14.6667px;">“Who is my neighbor?” the Pharisee asked Jesus. Even if we are not well-versed in Christian faith or the Bible, we know the story of the Good Samaritan and the definition of neighbor. Or do we? </span></p><p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size&#58;14.6667px;">Recently, I was called as a missionary to Liberia, West Africa. Due to the terrible Ebola epidemic that has swept West Africa – most especially Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – I found myself back home in Minnesota, where I grew up.&#160; For a time, I was living in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area of Minnesota. It sounds weird, but I was a missionary to Liberia deployed to Minnesota. I soon found myself connected with the Liberian community in Minnesota, which is home to the largest Liberian immigrant community in the U.S. Approximately 30-40,000 Liberians live and work in Minnesota, many of whom have been in the Minneapolis area for more than 20 years. <span class="msoIns" style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size&#58;14.6667px;"><ins datetime="2015-02-16T17&#58;34" cite="mailto&#58;Megan%20Brandsrud"></ins></span></span></p><p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size&#58;14.6667px;">Seeing the reality of life for Liberian Minnesotans, given the Ebola crisis in West Africa, brought to mind the concept of neighbor and how it has been playing out in their lives. I had several opportunities to worship, preach and speak at services and events held in Lutheran churches. During some of those opportunities, there were Liberian Minnesotans present and I heard stories about how Ebola in West Africa has affected the Liberian community in Minnesota. </span></p><p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size&#58;14.6667px;">At a memorial service for victims of Ebola attended by about 500 people, there were stories of loss and of Ebola victims who were loved. We heard from the fiancée of the man who died in Dallas, Texas. One man shared about losing 7 family members to Ebola. He and others prayed and testified. </span></p><p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size&#58;14.6667px;">The stories were hard to hear, but what was even harder to hear were the stories of children being bullied at school because they are Liberian and might have Ebola. Or stories from adults who were sent home from work for sneezing or coughing because they are Liberian and might have Ebola. And stories of people’s long-time co-workers and friends (some as long as 20 years) becoming distant and fearful around them because of Ebola. These are people whose only connection to Ebola is that they are Liberian and have relatives living where the epidemic is.</span></p><p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size&#58;14.6667px;">At Lutheran church services in Minneapolis and St. Paul, people shared the same stories of bullying and being ostracized because of being Liberian.</span></p><p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size&#58;14.6667px;">To top it off,&#160; a local politician ran an ad the night before the elections in Minnesota, telling people his opponent would not be able to protect them from Ebola (and by extension seemed to say, “Be afraid of your Liberian friends and neighbors.”)</span></p><p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size&#58;14.6667px;">I need to say that during this same time, the Bishop of the Minneapolis Area Synod spoke at the memorial service for Ebola victims. The Bishop of the St. Paul Area Synod wrote a pastoral letter detailing the realities facing our Liberian brothers and sisters in Minneapolis/St. Paul and the surrounding communities to the congregations under her care. These actions were very important because Lutherans abound in Minnesota and their witness is key to living as neighbors together. It was a start, from a certain level of the Lutheran church. Some of the congregations I met with, many of them fairly recent immigrant churches (within the last 100 years), are starting to be home to more recent immigrants. <span class="msoDel" style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size&#58;14.6667px;"><del datetime="2015-02-16T17&#58;08" cite="mailto&#58;Megan%20Brandsrud"></del></span>In addition, a few Liberian Minnesotans shared stories about friends who had not turned away.</span></p><p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size&#58;14.6667px;">In the story of the Good Samaritan, the man from Samaria overlooked everything that his culture and social structure told him. Instead, he saw someone who was human, like him, and needed relationship.&#160; </span></p><p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size&#58;14.6667px;">What we sometimes overlook is how hard it is to be neighbor to people who seem different from what we know—especially when that difference is connected to fear and stereotypes that fill our senses. Being a neighbor is a hard and time-consuming process that moves us away from seeing difference and into being connected in real and meaningful ways. It’s living in love, risking in love, being connected in love. Remember, love casts out fear. Things like our fear of Ebola, what we see in media reports about people, and even popular opinion can’t be allowed to take over and keep us from real and true relationship with the neighbor. </span></p><p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size&#58;14.6667px;">I found myself thinking how different some situations would have been if we asked, “Who is my neighbor, and what does it mean to be a neighbor?” Those are not abstract, academic questions.&#160; They are a basic part of being a Lutheran Christian; a basic ethic of how to live the way of Jesus. &#160;Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”&#160; It is as simple and as difficult as that.&#160; </span></p> </div>02/16/2015Ebola Outbreak: Ebola at Christmas and plans for long-term recoveryMegan Brandsrudhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCALutheranDisasterResponse/288http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCALutheranDisasterResponse/288<div class="ExternalClassAC6987600FB04D3D83E92BD4505813B3"><p>​<img src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/ELCA%20Lutheran%20Disaster%20Response/Browse/children%20in%20Morabie%20community%20showing%20food%20from%20distribution.jpg" alt="children in Morabie community showing food from distribution.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;width&#58;350px;height&#58;316px;" /></p><p><em>Pictured&#58; Children of Morabie Community in Sierra Leone show food they received. Photo courtesy of Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone.</em><br></p><p>Christmas is usually a time for parties and a time when families travel from all corners to gather together to celebrate. It is a time to join together in worship to celebrate the birth of the newborn king. However, Christmas was different this year in Liberia and Sierra Leone, two countries that continue to fight against Ebola. </p><p>In Liberia, even though the number of new cases of Ebola had been declining, large gatherings in the capital city of Monrovia were banned to help prevent people from gathering together and potentially spreading the virus. </p><p>Sierra Leone at Christmas had – and continues to have – a higher number of Ebola cases than Liberia. Parts of the country were on total lockdown over the holiday, quarantining people to their homes. Transportation was restricted and shops were closed. The only exception to the lockdown was the permission for Christians to gather at churches for Christmas Day services. </p><p>Lutheran Disaster Response, working with our global companion churches, activated food distributions to assist households with food security for the Christmas holiday. </p><ul><li>Working with the Lutheran Church in Liberia, Lutheran Disaster Response assisted with food distribution in six territories, providing one month's supply of oil, rice and fish to approximately 1,000 households. </li></ul><ul><li>Partnering with the Northern Texas – Northern Louisiana Synod, Lutheran Disaster Response worked with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone to provide food assistance for 275 households in five districts and for approximately 600 children in quarantined homes across six communities. </li></ul><p>&quot;The Christmas food distribution was a lifeline for many desperate and needy brothers and sisters in the communities served,&quot; Bishop Thomas Barnett of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone said. &quot;It brought the Church to the people and enlivened for many the message of love and hope. In short, I am humbly proud to say that our [relationship] with the ELCA continues to be our most empowering and effective tool of evangelism.&quot; <br><br>According to a Jan. 30, 2015, report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that week there were fewer than 100 new confirmed Ebola cases for the first time since June 29, 2014. While the number of new cases of Ebola is declining, Lutheran Disaster Response is still walking with our global companion churches in the affected region as we pray for health and continued prevention. Lutheran Disaster Response is also shifting its focus from immediate response to long-term recovery in Liberia and Sierra Leone by helping strengthen health systems, providing support to orphans and youth affected by Ebola, promoting hygiene and assisting with job creation. <br><br>Join us in praying for people in West Africa who have been and continue to be affected by Ebola. We pray for those who have lost loved ones and those who have lost jobs. We also say prayers of thanks for the declining number of new Ebola cases and the recovery work that is being done. <br><br>If you would like to support Lutheran Disaster Response's work in the fight against Ebola, please visit the <a href="https&#58;//community.elca.org/ebolaoutbreakresponse">giving page.</a></p></div>02/03/2015