Disaster Response Network

Motivate, inform and serve as a resource for congregations to prepare plans for outreach to those in crisis, both locally and beyond. 



Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic



June 2021
The Ecumenical Consultation on Protocols for Worship, Fellowship and Sacraments offers a comprehensive update to the guidance originally published in the summer of 2020. The updated document, Care-filled Worship and Sacramental Life in a Lingering Pandemic, incorporates the latest CDC guidance and other interim guidance previously issued by the consultation to help with decision making and basic practices of Christian worship and congregational life.

The Disaster Response Network hosted a Zoom forum on May 8, 2020, to discuss how congregations can plan ahead to safely reopen in response to COVID-19. Dr. Natalie Del Vecchio of the University of Iowa College of Public Health and Steve O’Neil, coordinator of Cerro Gordo County Emergency Management, were guests. The video of that forum can be viewed and downloaded below.

Reopening Procedures Forum Video
(May 8, 2020, 1:13:11 length)

The ELCA churchwide organization offers the Considerations for Returning to In-person Worship resource document to help congregations decide when and how they will be able to gather again for worship. This document offers general guidance for congregations to consider, such as hygiene and safety, physical distancing, worship practices, timelines for gathering sizes, and more. 

Considerations for Returning to In-Person Worship-ELCA

Pastor Kyle Barton, facilitator of the Disaster Response Network, and the leadership of St. James in Allison have developed a reopening plan and have shared it below. Pastor Barton stresses that this plan is not perfect, but it is how St. James has discerned to move toward reopening in the safest manner. The leadership in each congregation must contextualize a plan that is appropriate to their setting.

St. James COVID-19 Reopening Directive 2020

The links below were useful for developing the St. James reopening directive:
Cdc.gov — includes a specific section on Considerations for Communities of Faith.

The Disaster Response Network is available as a resource as congregations move forward through the various phases of reopening.
Contact Pastor Kyle Barton

Also available for consultation:
Dr. Natalie Del Vecchio, University of Iowa College of Public Health,

Steve O’Neil, Coordinator of Cerro Gordo County Emergency Management,




COVID-19 Resources

Webinar: COVID, Public Health, and the Church

Lutheran faith leaders from across Iowa joined an online discussion with Dr. Ulysses Burley, III, founder of UBtheCURE, about COVID-19 and public gatherings, church activities, and the near future. The Jan. 14, 2021, event was presented by the Northeastern Iowa, Western Iowa, and Southeastern Iowa Synods.


ELCA Public Health
The ELCA Public Health web page offers resources to help leaders and members stay connected and resilient during COVID-19, including resources for online worship, assistance programs and guidance for returning to in-person worship.


Portico Benefit Services Resource Center
Offers information about the Cares Act, a video about the Paycheck Protection Program for ELCA ministries, market volatility resources, and links to updated health benefits for ELCA-primary Health Plan members.


Mission Investment Fund Assistance
Offers information about special assistance that is available to help customers, congregations and other ministries experiencing financial hardship during this time.


LSI COVID-19 Hotline
Lutheran Services in Iowa offers the Iowa COVID-19 Multilingual Hotline, 877-558-2609, to help answer questions and connect people to doctors and support services. 

Faith Leaders Respond to Reopening churches

On April 27, 2020, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a proclamation allowing spiritual and religious gatherings in Iowa beginning May 1.

The Northeastern Iowa Synod Conference Deans and Chaplains and faith leaders from across Iowa encourage congregations to refrain from in-person gatherings at this time. Their statements of response are below:

Letter from the Northeastern Iowa Synod Deans and Chaplains

Ecumenical Statement About Religious Gatherings

Flood Buckets are helping families

In 2017, the Northeastern Iowa Synod’s Disaster Response Network invited congregations to bring flood buckets to the 2017 Synod Assembly in Decorah. Congregations responded by bringing 150 flood buckets to synod assembly!

In addition, St. John Lutheran, Cedar Falls, donated 150 flood buckets to celebrate the congregation’s 150th anniversary. Other congregations have also reached out to help neighboring communities affected by flooding.

April 2019

Flood buckets delivered to Western Iowa

Three years ago Pastor Jeff Ungs, Director of Evangelical Mission of the Western Iowa Synod, brought a gift of 100 flood recovery buckets during flooding in Greene, Clarksville, and Shell Rock. This year, the Northeastern Iowa Synod returned the favor by giving flood buckets to help with clean-up from floods in Western Iowa.

Read More

Earlier this spring, the Northeastern Iowa Synod Disaster Response Network asked congregations to donate flood buckets to help replenish the supply available in this synod. Congregations from around the synod began filling buckets or donating money for supplies, including St. Peter, Toeterville; St. Peter, Greene; Big Canoe, Decorah; St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Waverly; and Zion, Oelwein.

Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Asbury already had a goal of donating 40 buckets to celebrate their 40th anniversary. However, instead of 40 the congregation donated 74.

Western Iowa requested a gift of 100 flood recovery buckets on April 3. Pastor Kyle Barton, Disaster Response Network facilitator, drove to Lord of Life and picked up those buckets and then to Grace Lutheran Church in Tripoli where the congregation maintains a cache of buckets. The Grace confirmation class took a break from their studies to form a “bucket brigade” to move the buckets from the basement to where they could be loaded.

On April 4, one day after Western Iowa’s request, Pastor Barton delivered more than 100 flood recovery buckets to the Western Iowa Synod Office.

Thank you to all the congregations that have mobilized to supply flood buckets. The danger of flooding isn’t over in this synod or in Western Iowa, so there is still need for buckets to be ready to go. 

September 2018

Flood buckets delivered to Mason City

In little more than a year, two-thirds of the 300 flood buckets donated to the Northeastern Iowa Synod have been used up. Flood buckets were delivered twice to Mason City during the summer of 2018 to respond to flooding. In July of 2017, 150 buckets were delivered to Sumner. Part of that area received up to 10 inches of flooding in a 24-hours period.

Congregations brought more than 150 flood buckets to the 2017 Northeastern Iowa Synod Assembly to be stored in key locations in the synod in case of flooding. St. John Lutheran, Cedar Falls, donated another 150 buckets as part of the congregation’s 150th anniversary celebration. Other congregations have reached out to help neighboring communities affected by flooding. 

July 2017

Flood buckets delivered to Sumner

Half of the more than 150 flood buckets collected in June at the 2017 Synod Assembly were put to use in response to flooding that hit the town of Sumner and the surrounding area on July 22. Parts of Northeastern Iowa received up to 10 inches of rain in a 24-hour period, causing flooding throughout many areas. St. John (Buck Creek) and St. John Evangelical were among the places receiving damage from the floods. 

Read More

Pastor Mark Anderson and Pastor Steve Brackett, assistants to the Bishop, along with Beverly Anderson, collected nine buckets from Redeemer Lutheran in Waverly, on Saturday morning and brought the buckets, a generator and other supplies to Sumner.

Pastor Scott Duffus enlisted the help of middle school students to load 58 buckets from Grace Lutheran in Tripoli onto a trailer to deliver to the community emergency response team at the Hillcrest Home in Sumner. Later in the weekend Anderson delivered another nine buckets from Glenwood Lutheran in Decorah. 

“We were the first group there with flood buckets,” Anderson said. “Having those flood buckets on hand and ready to go made a big difference.”



Bremer County Flood Recovery


Pastor Mark Anderson (right), assistant to the Bishop, presents a $10,000 check from Lutheran Disaster Response of Iowa to Jeff Kolb, treasurer of the Butler County Disaster Response Coalition.


Heavy rain and floods did extensive damage to homes in Shell Rock, Clarksville and Greene; however, the level of damage did not reach the threshold needed to qualify for FEMA assistance. The Disaster Recovery Coalition was reactivated in December to assist families still in need of assistance. Pastor Mark Anderson, assistant to the Bishop, explains the process:

Q: What is a long-term recovery coalition”?
PMA: It is a tool for the churches, government, and non-governmental agencies to combine their resources and work as a team to help local families recover from a disaster and to increase their resiliency.

Q: What is currently happening?
PMA: The Iowa Department of Human Services has a contract with Community Action to provide case management. The local cities and media have reached out to the communities affected by the floods, inviting people who need assistance to contact the coalition. A case manager authenticates the needs and refers families to the right source for assistance. Often that assistance, especially in an emergency, is the coalition itself.

Read More

Q: Are Lutherans involved in this Coalition?
PMA: Yes! Lutheran Disaster Response of Iowa has contributed $10,000 for the Coalition, which includes pastors in the county. In fact, Pastor Kim Smith of Faith Lutheran in Shell Rock is the Coalition chair.

Q: Where did LDR-Iowa get those funds?
PMA: Lutheran Disaster Response of Iowa is a cooperative ministry of the three Iowa Synods and Lutheran Services in Iowa. Individuals and congregations have donated to LDR-Iowa, and these funds are pooled and shared by the Southeastern, Western, and Northeastern Iowa Synods. Folks in the others synods have been very generous during this flood in offering prayers, funds, and flood buckets.

Q: How is the Coalition helping families?
PMA: There are still about 50 families who are displaced because of the flood. We are working with the case managers to give grants for families who have immediate needs but no other resources for help. We are helping families purchase things like furnaces, appliances, and building supplies so that they can get back into their homes.

Q: Is the work almost done?
PMA: By no means. We will be involved in this ministry for months — and we will not be finished until we have done all we possibly can or until every family has a safe place to live.

Visit Lutheran Disaster Response of Iowa to learn how to support Iowa flood victims.

Response to Radcliffe



A wind storm hit the community of Radcliffe on Aug. 9, 2015. Our Savior’s Lutheran Church lost portions of its roof and sustained substantial water damage in the sanctuary and in the education wing. The congregation is insured by Church Mutual and an adjuster has surveyed the damage. The congregation is now waiting for a settlement offer.

Roof_smHomes and vehicles throughout the Radcliffe community sustained substantial damage. Most, but not all, of the damage will be covered by
insurance. The congregation has gathered a list of people who may be in need of assistance spiritually, financially, or by volunteers to help clean up. Pastor Michael Rahlf is visiting these folks and using a form to record their needs for further evaluation.

The Synod’s Disaster Response Network offers excellent resources on this web page to help congregations prepare for disaster and prepare to respond to disasters in neighboring communities.


buckets 5

Flood Buckets for Hurricane Victims


The Northeastern Iowa Synod partnered with Lutheran Disaster Response in a “flood bucket” drive to help victims of Hurricane Sandy in Staten Island, New York.

Tom Fox, a member of St. James Lutheran, Rock Island, Ill., spearheaded the project. On Jan. 14, he picked up 10 buckets at Bethlehem Lutheran, Cedar Falls, and 20 buckets at St. Peter Lutheran, Dubuque to deliver to Messiah Lutheran, Staten Island. Along the way he picked up 54 buckets at his home church and another 57 buckets at Zion Lutheran, York, Penn.

“These buckets are being distributed by a local ELCA congregation in New York to victims as a witness to our faith in Jesus Christ,” says Pastor Mark Anderson, assistant to the Bishop.

Participating congregations from the Northeastern Iowa Synod were Bethlehem, St. Peter, Ridgeway Parish and St. John, Clarksville.


Iowa Hay Lift to Texas


More than 20 truckloads of hay were delivered from Iowa to Texas farmers coping with severe drought.

The hay lift was initiated by Pastor Harold McMillin of St. John Lutheran (ELCA), Luana. While visiting with Texas residents at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Orlando, Fla., last week, Pastor McMillin learned how Texas ranchers were having to sell their herds due to a lack of food. McMillin suggested a hay lift, and the three ELCA bishops from Iowa met with three ELCA bishops from Texas to plan a joint project. They decided to designate the Northeastern Iowa Synod as a pilot synod to get the hay lift project off the ground. If this initial effort is successful, plans are for Iowa’s other two ELCA synods to organize hay lifts statewide.

Read More

Five local farmers, including four from St. John Lutheran (ELCA), Luana, made the initial donations of hay for the project. Others have also contributed, including farmers from Waverly, Dunkerton, Garnavillo, Decorah, Ossian, Castalia, Postville, Monona, Jesup, La Porte City, Le Mars, Humboldt, Holstein, Moorhead, Dunlap, Shenandoah, Clear Lake, Wis., and Gentry Mo. Lutheran Disaster Relief contributed $25,000 to purchase additional hay and to help pay for trucking costs. Plans are to help the ranchers have enough hay to last until they are able to have their own crops again.

The biggest challenge was finding the trucks and drivers to deliver the hay.

“Heaven-Sent Hay,” Successful Farming, December 2011
“Glenwood Church sends hay to Texas,” Decorah Newspapers, 10-25-11
“Pastor hopes volunteer spirit extends to Texas hay lift,” Waterloo Courier, 10-6-11
“Iowa hay on its way to parched South,Waterloo Courier, 8-30-11 

Make a Flood Bucket!


Congregations are invited to help replenish the synod’s supply of flood buckets.


The flood buckets are stored at locations in Tripoli, Decorah and Mason City and are distributed to communities to help people clean up their homes and businesses following a flooding disaster. Each bucket contains more than 44 household items to help with clean up efforts.


Gifts of flood buckets or donations for supplies are welcome. Congregations planning to assemble and donate flood buckets should contact Pastor Mark Anderson, assistant to the Bishop, to arrange for delivery or pick up of the buckets. Send Pastor an email or call him at the synod office, 319-352-1414.


Download the flood buckets bulletin insert to learn more about how to assemble and donate a flood bucket.


Newsletter Articles



Rev. Kyle Barton


Synod Council Liaison

Don Meyer


Synod Staff

Pastor Mark A. Anderson 






Disaster Response Network


  • Church working together.
  • Taking compassionate action.
  • Outreach locally and beyond.



  • Raise awareness about disaster needs.
  • Encourage congregations to work together in response to disaster needs.



  • Identify point of contact in each congregation of the Northeastern Iowa Synod to share about the Disaster Response Network.
  • Hold a Disaster Response Network meeting at the enxt Synod Assembly.
  • Lead a training workshop at a Synod Assembly breakout session.