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The Rev. Ross Johnson, director of LCMS Disaster Response, helps with other volunteers from the International Center of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, New Beginnings Lutheran Church in Pacific, Mo., and Missouri representatives of the Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief, during a cleaning event at a flooded home in Fenton on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford

When a disaster hits your own town, your life is turned upside down in a tailspin of events. This is exactly what happened to me. We had three days of non-stop rain in St. Louis. All of us were wondering, “Where is all this water going to go?” “What is going to happen when the rain stops?” Of course we knew what would happen, and it did – flooding! It was some of the worst flooding in decades. Thousands of homes were affected in the Christmas-week floods. And tragically, some of the poorest of Missouri’s residents were affected the most. Thankfully, we have congregations like St. Mark’s in Eureka and New Beginnings Lutheran in Pacific, which have become very engaged in outreach and mercy into the community.

As the disaster hit in my own town I was running around like crazy, going to Lowe’s, Wal-Mart and Home Depot everyday buying supplies and bringing aid to congregations around the greater St. Louis County area. I was constantly on my phone and computer checking on area churches, talking to the Rev. Lee Hagan the Missouri District President and talking to Rev. Bart Day the director of Synod’s Office of National Mission. Long days, lots of action and lots of communication and correspondence are part of the life of a disaster responder and organizer. But it is worth it. As the director of Disaster Response for the LCMS it is so rewarding to know that I am able to facilitate tens of thousands of dollars to our disaster responders and congregations who are caring for our communities that are reeling in pain from the tragedy.

As I reflect on the amazing fact that I am able to serve because of countless LCMS members from across the United States who sacrificially give, so that those who lost everything can have something that is given and done in the name of Christ, I become exceedingly grateful. I am continually grateful for my call, grateful for my family, grateful for my safety and grateful for our merciful Lord who richly and daily supplies all of my needs. It is an amazing feeling to be a small vessel in the Lord’s hands to serve His people in need. Some of the people that are served are Lutherans, some are Christians from other backgrounds, some un-churched- including a Muslim family that we helped last week. But, regardless if the disaster victims have direct ties or not to the Lutheran Church, as Lutheran’s we serve all people because all people are created by God and are part of His creation that He died for. We serve all people in need because Jesus first served us, and He made us His so that we can now proclaim His love in actions to the world around us.

Floodwaters overtake areas surrounding St. Louis
Floodwaters overtake areas surrounding St. Louis on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015. LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford

Because of what the Lord has done for us, I try to be intentional about constantly reminding myself and others that as the church at work in mercy we not only care for people’s earthly, temporal needs we also look after their spiritual needs. From my experience in responding to dozens of floods, hurricanes and tornados, when tragedy and destruction come and destroy homes, it also affects people spiritually. In tragedy, God’s people need to be reminded that they can trust in God even when they don’t understand what is happening around them. It is through the work of the church that victims are reminded of God and His love despite all the brokenness of this world. As Lutherans respond as the church in disaster, they care for both body and soul. Whenever I get a chance to speak about the work of LCMS Disaster Response I remind relief workers that the greatest disaster that anyone could ever face is to die outside the one true Christian faith. So at all times and in all circumstances we proclaim God’s love in word and deed.