From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Southern Texas Flood Waters Devastate Lutherans

From Brenda Williams <>
Date 28 Oct 1998 12:22:54


October 28, 1998


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Three major rivers in southern Texas crested
earlier than expected this fall, leaving residents along the Colorado,
Guadalupe and San Antonio River communities unprepared for the raging
waters.  Hundreds of houses and a dozen churches of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) were affected.
     "Our church had about 3 feet of water that flowed through all of the
buildings from late Saturday evening to early Monday morning," said the
Rev. David W. Priem, Immanuel Lutheran Church, La Vernia, Texas.  "The
damage was extensive.  All carpeting in the church, classrooms, offices and
parsonage was damaged.  All pews were damaged beyond repair and two pianos
were lost."   Church records, office furniture, supplies and books were
also lost, said the pastor.
     "A good part of the dry wall in the parish hall, office and parsonage
will have to be replaced," said Priem.  "We think the structure of the
church is still in good shape.  Most of the wood in the church is the
original wood from when the church was built in 1901.  As we continue with
the cleanup, we are still finding things that are damaged."
     In La Vernia "it is estimated that 70 to 100 homes were damaged, many
declared total losses," Priem said.  "About 20 of those homes include
members of our congregation.  Ten members lost most if not all of the
property inside their homes."
     "In spite of the tragedy our community feels blessed that no one was
killed.  Only one lady was seriously injured due to the flood," Priem said.
"The other blessing is that this disaster has brought our church family and
community even closer together.  Many people took off work, some at risk of
losing jobs, so they could lend a hand.  It's a marvelous example of
neighbor reaching out to help neighbor.  That's the real silver lining in
the storm cloud, because that's where God is most visible -- in the face of
a brother or sister helping another."
     "I pray that we are not forgotten because the rebuilding has not yet
begun.  This will be a long, slow process as our church and much of our
community digs out from the mud and begin to rebuild lives," Priem added.
     The flooding killed at least 29 people along rivers from Houston to
San Antonio, left thousands homeless and caused hundreds of millions of
dollars in damage.
     About 300 Lutheran families from San Antonio, Seguin and New
Braunfels, Texas, had "from complete loss of to significant damage to their
homes," said the Rev. Luther W. Oelke, Seguin.  "The flood came so fast
that folks could not get out of the way or move their possessions in time.
The same water that rushed out of the hills here is what inundated Cuero,
Victoria and other towns downstream, along the Guadalupe River," he said.
     Oelke is coordinating relief efforts in Gonzales, San Antonio, San
Marcos, Seguin, New Braunfels and surrounding towns on behalf of Lutheran
Disaster Response, a ministry of the ELCA and The Lutheran Church-Missouri
Synod (LCMS).  The Rev. Sophia G. Boettcher, Zion Lutheran Church,
Arneckeville, Texas, will coordinate relief efforts in Cuero, Golid and
     "Victoria and Goliad are 30 percent underwater.  Cuero is about 60
percent underwater," said Johanna Olson, assistant for Lutheran Disaster
Response.  "Since flooding is common along the Guadalupe River, flood
insurance is not available to residents.  The flooding taking place now in
southern Texas is destructive and record-setting."
     In Seguin, local clergy gathered with members of Lutheran Disaster
Response, the ELCA's Southwestern Texas Synod and the LCMS' Texas District
Oct. 20 at Texas Lutheran University to plan recovery efforts.
     "Start-up relief checks of $35,000 were distributed to the hardest
hit congregations.  An additional $17,000 was given to congregations with
significant needs," said Oelke.  "The funds will provide an immediate way
for churches to assist their hurting members."
     "Texas Lutheran University canceled regular classes Oct. 23, so
students could devote their time to recovery efforts," said Oelke.  "About
600 students were involved in cleanup and other relief work."  Texas
Lutheran University is one of 28 colleges and universities of the ELCA.
     "We are saddened to hear of the loss of life and property that you
have suffered in these past days," wrote the Rev. Richard J. Foss, bishop
of the ELCA's Eastern North Dakota Synod, in a note to "friends in flood-stricken Texas."
     "We know something of the chaos and frustration that you face and are
praying for you," Foss said.  Record snowfall and floods of 1996-1997
caused catastrophic conditions along the Red River Valley in Minnesota,
North and South Dakota.


Editors: When listing organizations receiving funds for aid to survivors of
major disasters inside the United States, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin
Islands, please include:

                   Lutheran Disaster Response
                         P.O. Box 71764
                    Chicago, IL  60694-1764

For information contact:
Frank Imhoff, Assoc. Director 1-773-380-2955 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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