By Sue Sprang
SYNOD – “The October 2015 storm will go down as one of the most prolific rainfall events in the modern history of the United States,” said the Weather Channel about the deluge that pelted South Carolina last October.
But as waters rose, roads washed out, bridges and dams crumbled, trees fell, power outages occurred, and buildings flooded, history-in-the-making was not what concerned the people of the Palmetto State. Their focus was survival, perhaps disbelief, and ultimately coping with the aftermath.
Congregations across the South Carolina Synod (which covers the entire state), as well as the synod office, sprang into action, often working alongside FEMA, the Red Cross, Lutheran Disaster Response, Lutheran Services of the Carolinas, and other organizations to help pick up the pieces left in the flood’s wake.
The North/West Lower Michigan Synod (N/WLM) also stepped on board. Knowing that the people of South Carolina would know their short- and long-range needs more than anyone, it was decided that a financial gift would be good stewardship of resources.
This led to N/WLM Bishop Craig Satterlee issuing Bishop Suzanne Dillahunt of the Southern Ohio Synod (SOS) THE CHALLENGE: Which synod could raise the most money for our brothers and sisters in South Carolina?
But there was a catch.
Taking advantage of the upcoming Michigan State University (MSU) and Ohio State University (OSU) football game, Satterlee (a formidable University of Michigan fan), added a stipulation: The bishop gathering the lower amount by the date of the football game (Nov. 21) would have to wear the colors of the opposing school for a full day – and post a photo.
Dillahunt took up the challenge – and probably had confidence that she would not be wearing MSU colors any time soon. The SOS has almost twice as many congregations as N/WLM.
As it became clear over the weeks leading up to the football game that the SOS was, indeed, going to surpass N/WLM, Dillahunt took the opportunity to thank her congregations:
“Thank you, congregations and people of faith in this territory for your generous support for our brothers and sisters in South Carolina,” she said. “Well done!”
“I can say with certainty that I will not be wearing a Michigan State jersey in pictures over the next few weeks,” she added in good humor. “When Bishop Satterlee puts on the OSU jersey we will post pictures.”
Her synod did, indeed, win the challenge.
On Nov 24, N/WLM Assistant to the Bishop, Pastor David Sprang, presented a $4,000 check – a sort-of “foretaste of the feast to come” – to SC Synod Assistant to the Bishop Pastor Bob Beaver at the SC Synod office in Columbia. Another $8,000 would soon make its way to SC.
“The flood was unbelievable,” Beaver said. “We thought things were bad here in Columbia, but many parts of the state are much worse off.
“We’ve (synod) gotten a lot of support and we’ve met a lot of great people. This gift from the people of Southern Ohio and North/West Lower Michigan comes from a loving heart and compassion.”
Beaver indicated that the monetary gifts will be helpful when it comes to long-term assistance and recovery.
“There will be down-the-road or unforeseen effects that will come up,” he said. “It’s good to know we’ll have resources to help meet those needs.”
In the end, it comes down to the people of Christ once again reaching across their geographical boundaries to those in need – expecting nothing in return.
“’The Challenge’ may be an annual event… and that’s an okay thing,” Dillahunt said. “Sometimes we are reminded in fun and challenging ways that we are stronger and better together for the sake of living out the Gospel. I had no doubt we could do this.”
“We lost the bet,” Sprang said, “but the winners were the South Carolina Synod.”
Thank you to the South Carolina Synod, Neil Fischer, and WSAV-TV for the use of photos.