Story Magazine

Winter, 2010

Ministering Through Disaster

by Tracy Behrendt, Correspondent

Years of work in trauma settings and disaster response have left Kevin Massey, '93, with a picture of the church's future that's clearer than ever.

"If anyone ever says, 'Oh, where's the church going?' ... the only thing I can think of is, 'Where the church is going is great places,'" says Massey, director of the ELCA's Domestic Disaster Response. Young volunteers and church members who assist in disaster situations around the country "really show an energy and a commitment to mission and ministry that is really uplifting and meaningful to me," he says.

Massey is also director of, and his staff is part of, the larger Lutheran Disaster Response, a collaborative effort of the ELCA and The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, which works in the long-term recovery phase of disasters in the United States and its territories. Staff from both Lutheran bodies coordinate volunteers, provide rebuilding and repairing services, and offer spiritual and emotional care for disaster victims and rostered leaders working on the front lines.

Massey joined the disaster response ministry as assistant director in December 2005. His interest in pastoral care started as a M.Div. student, when he was able to connect his unit of Clinical Pastoral Education to a class on the history of pastoral care.

"I think Luther Seminary is a great environment for people to explore a number of different kinds of ministry," says Massey. "Even more since I left, as I've followed Luther Seminary, there's really been a great emphasis on training leaders for mission in some very nontraditional settings. I think that's an exciting direction."

Massey held positions as a parish pastor and hospital chaplain before joining Lutheran Disaster Response after Hurricane Katrina. It gave him the opportunity to work directly for his church again.

"I'm very, very proud of the ELCA and the work that it's done in disaster response," Massey says. "We can right now look at a legacy, especially if we look just at Katrina response, of really doing some amazing things."

That legacy includes not only the work by Lutheran agencies that Massey coordinates in times of crisis but also the growing efforts of young ELCA members, some of whom spend their spring breaks every year working in disaster-affected areas through a program called "What a Relief!"

"It happens in communities all around the country, and it happens outside of what we do here (at Lutheran Disaster Response)," says Massey. "Any pastor and church, any congregation that sees any emergency or need in their neighborhood and reaches out to love and serve their neighbor in that way is being Lutheran Disaster Response. And that's a message I would like to uplift to pastors anywhere in the country."