Episcopal Relief & Development is supporting local church partners in Texas, Ecuador and Japan as they respond to recent disasters. Throughout, local churches are reaching out in their communities to assess needs and accompany people as they cope with the immediate aftermath of the emergency. In addition to pastoral care, churches are also providing temporary housing assistance and emergency supplies such as food, water, fuel and other site-specific needs.
In Texas, as much as 20 inches of rain fell overnight on April 17-18 in northern and northwestern parts of Harris County, affecting the city of Houston and surrounding areas. Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of emergency in Harris and eight other counties in response to this event, which has killed eight people, flooded more than 1,100 homes and caused upwards of $5 billion in damage.
In this early stage of the response, the Episcopal Diocese of Texas will utilize Spiritual Care Teams to assess needs and identify vulnerable flood survivors who may benefit from help in applying for assistance and navigating their recovery process. Supported in part by Episcopal Relief & Development, the teams will be able to provide pastoral care and gift cards for immediate needs, as well as offer rent assistance for temporary housing in cases where people have evacuated from their homes and are unable to stay in a shelter. The teams are organized and equipped by The Ven. Russ Oechsel, Texas Archdeacon and longtime Diocesan Disaster Coordinator.
“The Diocese of Texas, unfortunately, is very experienced in responding to disasters like these, having been through everything from Hurricane Ike in Galveston to the wildfires in Bastrop,” said Katie Mears, Director of Episcopal Relief & Development’s US Disaster Program. “The diocese brings so many gifts to this response: an experienced and highly capable diocesan disaster coordinator, a trained network of volunteers, a wealth of knowledge and relationships they've developed in past disasters and a robust network of churches and ministries with excellent ties to the community. As always, we stand with our partners as they work through the response and recovery process, and we pray for them and their families and the communities they work in."
In Ecuador, at least 570 people have died and 155 are reported missing following a 7.8-magnitude earthquake centered off the coast on April 16. Ecuador’s Risk Management Office says that more than 7,000 people are injured and 25,000 are taking refuge in emergency shelters. Meanwhile, strong aftershocks continue to rattle the country, hampering ongoing search and rescue efforts and prolonging the trauma of displacement and uncertainty. A state of emergency has been declared for 6 provinces, with access to impacted areas limited due to the destruction of roads and other infrastructure. The worst damage was reported in Pedernales, a coastal town of 55,000, which was declared a "disaster zone".
There is a strong Episcopal Church presence in communities affected by the earthquakes, and two in particular – San Esteban in the Cuba neighborhood and San Jose in nearby 15 de Abril – are mobilizing a response to reach 300 families in the most hard-hit areas, with support from Episcopal Relief & Development through the Diocese of Litoral Ecuador (part of Province IX of The Episcopal Church). The most immediate needs are for food, water, clothing and other items such as mosquito nets and first aid supplies. Churches will also provide pastoral care and coordinate with government and civil society organizations to facilitate response efforts and bring to attention the needs of their communities.
“I am very grateful to our partner churches in Ecuador who have immediately reached out to assess needs in their communities,” said Nagulan Nesiah, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Program Officer for Disaster Response and Risk Reduction. “Vulnerability is an everyday experience for many, so the Church’s long-term connections and care in the community are incredibly valuable assets in times of disaster, when people could easily fall through the cracks.”
Episcopal Relief & Development has also conveyed prayers and offered support to the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (NSKK, the Anglican Episcopal Church in Japan) following the earthquake in Kumamoto on April 16. The confirmed death toll stands at 45, with search and rescue operations still ongoing.
Please pray for people impacted by these recent events, and for those who are providing urgently needed care and assistance.
Bulletin inserts are available in order to raise awareness and support for Episcopal Relief & Development’s disaster response efforts in Ecuador and Texas:
For over 75 years, Episcopal Relief & Development has served as a compassionate response to human suffering in the world. The agency works with more than 3 million people in nearly 40 countries worldwide to overcome poverty, hunger and disease through multi-sector programs, using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework. An independent 501(c)(3) organization, it works closely with Anglican Communion and ecumenical partners to help communities create long-term development strategies and rebuild after disasters.