Welcome to Tomorrow!

“Deep waters call out to what is deeper still at the roar of your waterfalls,
all your breakers and your waves swirl over me.”
(Ps 42:7 ISV)

Running up the spine of the western United States are the Rocky Mountains. Formed millions of years ago, their beauty is the result of subduction plates forced together by an upsurge of molten lava. The Cascadia Subduction Zone off the Pacific coast is fueled in the same way, and those plates are slated for slip-page, resulting in “The Big One.” We are called to prepare.

In a similar fashion, rampant racial inequality and injustice take a wounded humanity to the streets. We see an upsurge in anger over what we continually do to ourselves. Injustice flows and the price of a racist culture exacts its toll. Always the poor and marginalized suffer the most. We are called to respond.

This newsletter is a resource of the Western Region of Lutheran Disaster Response. We are the 11 synods of ELCA Regions 1 and 2. We are thirteen states, Lutheran Social Service Agencies, higher education, camps and some 315,000 committed Lutheran Chris-tians. We are a diverse geography and politic, bound together by the growing impacts climate change - drought, fire, ice melt and rising seas. We stand on shifting sand. We are called to adapt.

“Deep waters call out to what is deeper still.” Jesus is nothing if not a Divine Upsurge of God’s love. Jesus is our “deeper still.” He is our proclamation, our hope and our joy. In faith we now look together to, see, acknowledge, confess and serve our neighbor in need.  Our time is now. Welcome to tomorrow.

Dave Brauer-Rieke, editor

Eighteen Months Later

The evening of September 7th, 2020 the National Weather Service issues a “Red Flag” warning for Oregon’s McKenzie Valley, predicting severe fire danger, high east winds and extremely low humidity. About 8 PM that evening, limbs from a tree shaken by these high winds fell onto a high-voltage power line, igniting a wildfire that would spread to 173,000 acres in size, destroying about 700 homes, incinerating the town of Blue River and causing widespread evacuation of people living in the valley. Fortunately, no one died, but that night, life changed in an instant for hundreds of people.”

So writes John Core, a member of the Oregon Synod Disaster Preparedness Team and he himself, with his wife Christine, a survivor of Oregon’s Labor Day fires of 2020.

The Oregon Labor Day fires followed in the footsteps of California’s 2018 “Campfire,” also believed to have been started by down powerlines. The results were devastating as fire engulfed some 153,000 acres of California’s beauty. It took the lives of at least 85 people, dislocated 52,000 more and was the world’s costliest disaster in 2018.

Firefighters from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's Placerville station battle the Sugar Fire, part of the Beckwourth Complex Fire, in Doyle, Calif., on Friday, July 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Noah Berger - Reprinted with permission)

December 30, 2021 the Marshall Fire began its march through suburban Colorado. This was the worst wildfire in Colorado’s history, burning over 6,000 acres, destroying over 1,000 homes and forcing some 36,000 fire refugees to flee. The cause of this particular fire is unknown, but as with all these fires dry, drought damaged forests were simply waiting to ignite. Changes in climate have made the whole of the western United States a tinder box with no end in sight.

Relative to Oregon Labor Day fires John Core goes on to write, “Over the past 18 months, Lane County has formed the McKenzie Valley Long Term Recovery Group. The Oregon Legislature has set aside $256,000 to help rebuild the town … In the midst of all of this, hundreds of survivors were sheltered by FEMA in area motels/hotels while they began rebuilding. Eighteen months later – today - 80 people are still in temporary shelters. While many new homes are being built, some low income, uninsured and elderly people just don’t have the funds to restore their homes and properties.”

Lutheran Disaster Response, though the Oregon Synod Disaster Preparedness and Response Team has been active in every step of Oregon’s recovery. It takes time to heal. We need you on the team in your synod. You really do make a difference!

(Read John's entire report in his own words here.)

Building Community Resilience

     A letter from LDR Program Director John Pyron

I am excited to share that Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) has contracted with Sarah Kruger to serve as our Resiliency Representative for the LDR Western Region.

LDR’s new vision for resilience is centered on intentional relationship-building and relational organizing, seeking to center the unique expertise of impacted communities. In order to deepen our engagement across the United States, LDR is beginning this work by engaging a Resiliency Representative in each of the four LDR regions (West, Midwest, East, South) to lead relationship and capacity-building initiatives. Sarah is the first Resiliency Representative to join the LDR team. Her focus will be on relational-organizing and equity in the growth of community resilience throughout our LDR Western Region, which is ELCA Regions 1 & 2.

I am grateful for the diverse skill set that Sarah brings. With experience in the adoption field, she has deep knowledge of social work and case management; years of living overseas brings a unique understanding of navigating change and the importance of community; and the lived experiences of her family shapes her sense of call and purpose to impact change in existing systems of oppression. She carries a passion for the work ahead and is excited for your partnership.

LDR is a collaborative ministry of the whole Church; you are an essential part of our work, and we recognize that our work as national staff is to accompany and support you as God’s hands in your local community. I believe that this new resilience initiative strengthens our traditional focus of locally led efforts and will provide a new avenue to engage new and diverse partners. Please join me in welcoming Sarah to the team.

John Pyron
Program Director, Lutheran Disaster Response

How a Homeless Shelter in a School Paid Off in the Classroom

“Every single day I was looking for a place to live,” Flores said. Still, she didn’t want to go to a shelter…
SAN FRANCISCO — On a Friday evening in the fall of 2019, Maria Flores stood waiting with her “crazy heavy” duffel bag and her teenage son outside the office of a man whose home she cleans. A friend of hers had told him that Flores had been evicted from the apartment she had lived in for 16 years. There, the single mom had paid $700 a month in rent ever since she’d moved in eight-months pregnant. Now, one night at a motel cost as much as $250.

There was one other option. A few months earlier, she’d heard about a family shelter inside an elementary school gym. Every evening, after the students and teachers left, partitions were snugged to the back wall, creating three-sided squares for kids and caregivers to set up sleeping pads on the floor. Cafeteria-style tables in a connected room hosted dinner and, later, homework ...

Lutheran Disaster Response’s focus on Com-Community Resilience is all about local solutions envisioned and implemented directly by the people they affect. This story, from a San Francisco School, is an inspiring example of just that. Concerned with homelessness and the trauma it produces for families, the Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 Community School, city officials, and various businesses and non-profits, created a shelter within a school. The process was difficult, but the outcomes have been wonderful. Not only are families finding stability, but children’s school performance is flourishing. No one believes this is a solution, but it is something.

Lutheran Disaster Response’s focus on Community Resilience celebrates programs of this nature. Having organized and acted once, this community is stronger and ready to do so again. How can you and your faith community become active in such work? It is possible. You can help make a difference. Reach out and find a way!

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on issues of inequality and innovation in education.

On Climate, Color & Care for Creation

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its first report in 1990. Over 30 years later, the word “colonialism” finally made its way into the IPCC’s sixth assessment report. The panel’s ‘working group two’ report, which looks at the impacts of climate change on people, listed colonialism not only as a driver of the climate crisis but also as an ongoing issue that is exacerbating communities’ vulnerability to it.” [Atmos. (2022, April 4). Yes, Colonialism Caused Climate Change, IPCC Reports.]

It is amazing to read these words. It is not that the connections between climate change and racial inequity are hidden, it is just that they so rarely acknowledged.

The Red, Black and Green New Deal (RBGND) is one movement that helps make this connection. RBGND defines itself as a multi-year multi-issue initiative designed to educate and catalyze Black people to take actions that mitigate the impact of the global climate crisis on Black Lives.” Of course, one does not have to be Black to benefit from their learning and perspective. One must simply be willing to listen to, and respect, non-white voices and Indigenous wisdom.

The West is a region of great beauty and bounty. Those who live here care deeply about this connection. Next month, then, Upsurge will begin to explore these intersections between climate and race. Let us learn together.

In June we begin with a look at water. “Water is life. And it is arguably the most controversial issue surrounding the Global impact of Climate on Black Lives.” suggests RBGND. “As the globe warms, sea levels are rising, resulting in disappearing land and a loss of generational wealth.”

Hawaii is a part of the Pacifica Synod. Ask them about sea level rise.  The sea level around Hilo Bay, Hawaii, has risen by 10 inches since 1950.” reports NOAA. “Its speed of rise has accelerated over the last ten years and it’s now rising by about 1 inch every 4 years.” (Hawaiian sea level rise is extreme and somewhat unusual due to its experience of both melting ice and the sinking of the islands. Yet, it is no less real. Learn more at SeaLevelRise.org.)

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