Stan Wilhelmson’s interest in disaster response began after Hurricane Katrina, when he traveled to Mississippi with a group of volunteers from his congregation at Advent Lutheran Church, Harleysville, and another congregation.
“In the Book of Acts, the Christian Community is described. That trip was a perfect example of the Christian Community,” Stan said. “Everyone came together to help others.”
Stan decided to organize a yearly mission trip to Mississippi for his congregation, and they have returned six times to help those who are still recovering from the disaster. “The need there was just so great,” he said.
Stan has also organized trips to Tennessee to help with flood recovery, and more local trips to Bloomsburg, PA to help with the Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee recovery.
“When you travel to these places and you see the need, you really want to help,” Stan said. “After a week of work on a house you can really see a change in the person who you’re helping.”
Recently Stan and members of his congregation joined more than 50 other Lutheran Disaster Response, Eastern Pa. volunteers to help those who were impacted by Superstorm Sandy in Montgomery and Bucks Counties. “We were busy all day and there was great teamwork between different churches and volunteer groups,” Stan said. “It’s always interesting to meet and work alongside people from other churches.”
“I feel that I have talents, and I can use my talents to help others,” Stan says. “I learn a lot, and it seems that the Lord always provides the talent that is needed. No matter what needs done, there is someone there who knows how to do it.”
A member of Stan’s congregation, who has a house on Long Beach Island, learned about an older man in the beach community who needed assistance. Stan and other volunteers from the congregation have spent several weekends helping him. Lutheran Disaster Response, Eastern Pa. helped to get the word out to other local churches.
“These disasters are acts of nature. We become the acts of God,” Stan said. “We are helping people who have had these misfortunes. Not only have I realized what I have, but I’ve realized how quickly things can be taken away. I think that people who have the ability to help, have the responsibility to do so. It’s been a very positive experience for me.”