Floodwater was still dripping off of buildings in Schoharie last year when church disaster groups sprang into action to help residents. Among those groups was the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s disaster response organization.
The church has been helping people get through catastrophes around the country, throughout the world — and in Schoharie.
Members of the clergy and lay persons involved in the local recovery effort got a chance Tuesday to highlight church-based disaster relief efforts while learning about the church’s role in Zimbabwe, Africa.
Schoharie Area Long Term Recovery hosted a visit from Stephen Dube, the bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe.
He and his wife Effina Dube, the Zimbabwe church’s general secretary Munatsi Munyaradzii Dube and members of the ELC’s Upstate New York Synod gathered for a tour of Schoharie’s rebuilding progress and lunch at the Loaves and Fishes Cafe.
The Dubes, who have been on a two-week tour of New York as they await an annual meeting of the church, dined on lasagna and fresh vegetables, beef soup, potato and macaroni salad — all food that’s been donated and then prepared by volunteers since last August.
Bishop Dube got an eye-full on his tour, which focused on the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s work in the U.S. He visited senior housing, food pantries, a health service and a school for troubled youth, all programs operated by the faith community.
As a first impression, Dube said his tour of the church activities in the community shows “how people really care for other people.”
His wife’s impression: She saw a peaceful, green, clean place full of people “working together in cooperation to help after the flooding.”
Missing walls, exposed wiring and insulation covered with plastic set the stage for lunch at the cafe, situated in the historic Lassell Hall on Main Street, one of numerous buildings flooded by Tropical Storm Irene last year.
“This is what many homes look like,” said Sarah Goodrich, director at Schoharie Area Long Term Recovery, an organization that’s been bringing volunteers by the dozen into the Schoharie Valley to rebuild.
The Rev. Sherri Meyer-Veen, pastor at the Schoharie Reformed Church, which was flooded as was her home, said the Zimbabwean group’s visit helped her understand the importance of disaster services and their role in communities.
Meyer-Veen, whose church became the focal point of early relief efforts, said disaster services are something in which her faith community, the Reformed Church, should be playing more of a formal role.
“The church is growing because of their involvement in disaster recovery,” she said.