A new class of Lutheran Early Response Team (LERT) volunteers in Aledo, Texas, is ready to serve. (David Ricks)

In the last year there has been no shortage of disasters. After seeing all the news reports of devastation, it can be easy to focus on what needs to be done, the suffering still going on, and the overwhelming sense of urgency.

But along with that dark cloud of despair is the hope of thousands of volunteers from all over the country getting their hands dirty to share mercy with their brothers and sisters.

But the success of the Lutheran Emergency Response Teams goes back further than this past fall. In fact, it’s a history that goes back more than a decade.

The first decade of the 21st century showed unprecedented disasters. Earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons, hurricanes and tornadoes.

It became clear a coordinated effort was needed to enable the church to respond with helping hands and the gospel of Jesus Christ. And it was after this revelation that the first version of LERT training was born.

Titled “Mercy in Action,” the LERT training began as a way to prepare congregations for disasters in their communities and gave them the basic elements they would need to begin showing mercy to their neighbors.

After several iterations, cooperation with districts, partner churches and LCMS Recognized Service Organizations, the program has expanded to thousands of volunteers across the country and even in several partner church bodies around the world.

While it’s hard to get the full scope of just how much work LERT volunteers have accomplished over the last decade, it’s easy to see the results.

  • Thousands of homes rebuilt in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Texas and Florida.
  • Thousands of houses mucked out and given new drywall in Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
  • New roofs installed in Nebraska, South Dakota and Arkansas.
  • Whole churches rebuilt in Nebraska and South Dakota.
  • And, a full 12 years later, some of the same camps set up in New Orleans after Katrina are still operating and serving the people who need it most.

LERT volunteers serve a wide variety of functions. Heavy lifters can remove debris, tear down molded and unstable walls, and use chainsaws to remove dead and dangerous trees. People with good communication and leadership skills can lead teams and plan work days.

Volunteers gifted in the culinary arts can help provide meals for displaced people and teams of volunteers. And volunteers of all ages from all over the world can offer their prayers from wherever they are.

On top of mercy work, spiritual care is key. Volunteers are given plenty of devotional materials to share with their neighbors to share the love of Christ and the comfort of the Gospel.

The light of Christ shines most brightly in the darkest times. As volunteers, you get to share that light.

Whatever your skills, whatever your abilities, there is a volunteer opportunity for you. There is an opportunity for you to serve Christ in your neighbor and for you to be Christ to them.

To all of you who have already served, thank you. The amount of support you have offered continues to be astonishing.

To those of you who are just now learning about volunteer opportunities, come and join us. You’ll be amazed what is possible!

Posted April 10, 2018