Unprecedented Floods – The Church Responds

Photography courtesy of Rev. Airton Schroeder, Vice-President for Social Action for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil
Story by Jana Inglehart

Recent floods in Rio Grande do Sul, the heart of Lutheranism in Brazil, have destroyed churches, schools and homes. The unprecedented torrential rains never seen in the history of the area have resulted in catastrophic loss of life and property destruction.

The Lutheran Church of Three Crowns in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

The death count for the wider area stands at 95, with daily increases. At least 130 people are missing, and over 150,000 are currently displaced. Access to basic necessities such as food and medicine is limited, as most roads and bridges are closed at the time of this writing. The local airport is underwater and will be closed until the end of May, further hampering relief efforts. More heavy rain is expected, and sadly, waters continue to rise, as do the numbers above.

On May 8, the Rev. Airton Schroeder, Vice-President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (IELB), the oldest Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) partner church in Latin America, shared the current grim statistics for the Lutheran communities.

  • 14 churches were damaged. Of those churches, four are total losses and must be completely rebuilt. Some may need to relocate and build on a different site. 
  • 5 Lutheran schools were damaged. (One may be a total loss)
  • 9 pastors experienced damage to their homes and personal property.
  • 8 tragic deaths grieved by the Lutheran community (One was an IELB pastor’s daughter. The young lady was engaged in assisting flood victims when she perished) 

“As one part of the body of Christ suffers, so we all feel for our Brazilian brothers and sisters in their suffering”

Rev. Ted Krey, Regional Director for the LCMS Latin america and caribbean region

This latest major disaster arrived when the residents of Rio Grande do Sul were already weary following the catastrophic floods in September of 2023. At that time, the Rev. Dr. Ross Johnson, Director of LCMS Disaster Response, traveled to the country to walk alongside the IELB to survey the damage and assist, demonstrate and teach how to best respond to the affected residents. The Brazilian Lutherans embraced the idea of establishing their own disaster response arm within the IELB to help meet the people’s immediate needs while encouraging those facing disaster with hope in the promises of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  

We give thanks to God that in April of this year, days before the deluge, the Lord, in His great mercy, prepared the Brazilian Church for what was to come. Concordia Seminary in Sao Leopoldo, Brazil, hosted the first disaster response conference for the church body. Some 250 were in attendance, including IELB pastors, seminarians, professors and laypeople, as well as visiting presenters from the LCMS and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina. Presentations focused on the theology of the cross and included topics such as “Disasters as an Opportunity for Mercy and the Gospel” and “Lutheran Early Response Teams (LERT),” among others.  

In the wake of the disaster, the IELB has experienced an outpouring of monetary donations and gifts of food and clothing from her members and congregations. In addition, the faithful have spent countless hours assisting and sharing the Gospel with affected families while processing their own tragic losses.

The Rev. Ted Krey, regional director for the LCMS Latin America and Caribbean region, shared, “As one part of the body of Christ suffers, so we all feel for our Brazilian brothers and sisters in their suffering. We pray for them and rejoice that our mercy arm, Disaster Response, is actively communicating with them. We pray for the pastors, the members of churches and their families for relief from the current flooding and more, which is expected. May the Lord encourage the Brazilian church authorities who are actively organizing a response to support their people.”

The LCMS is currently coordinating response plans in conversation with IELB leadership. Due to the extent of the flooding, it will be several weeks before another in-person visit can be made. In July, Dr. Johnson will travel to see the affected area and discuss reconstruction needs. He will also participate in an aftercare conference planned and presented by Doxology, which offers spiritual and emotional care and counseling for pastors and wives exhausted by recent events. Initially planned for 12 participants, the conference capacity has expanded to 25 to include the new pastors and families affected by the current flood.

Thanks be to God that through the LCMS and her mercy arm, we walk together as stalwart partners with the IELB to show mercy and spread the Gospel during this extremely challenging time.

Jana Inglehart

Jana Inglehart serves the Lord through The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) as the Regional Communication Specialist for the Latin America and Caribbean region, based in the Dominican Republic.