Letter from our Director

September 2017


It's been 82 years since the 1935 Labor Day hurricane made landfall in the Florida Keys. Packing winds of 182 miles per hour, and with a central pressure of 892 millibars, it still ranks as the strongest and most intense hurricane ever known to hit the United States. It is estimated 408 people died as a direct result of the storm.

While that's a tragic number, the death toll pales in comparison to the Savannah hurricane of August 29, 1893, when the storm surge killed between 1,000 and 2,000 people on the coast, or the Galveston hurricane of September 8, 1900, that claimed the lives of somewhere between 6,000 and 12,000 residents.

Today, hurricane deaths are reduced dramatically through better forecasting and communications. In 1893, the Savannah hurricane was the second of five major hurricanes that year. Warnings came from ships as well as communication via underwater cables between the Bahamas and the U.S. mainland. Aside from that, there were no satellites or other modern-day forecasting tools. Often, a hurricane coming in from the ocean was almost a surprise. Such was the case in Galveston.

Weather forecasters were already identifying and predicting the growth and track of what would become Hurricane Harvey a week before it reached Category 4 strength and hit Aransas Pass, Texas, on Friday, August 25. Thanks to early warnings and so many ways to learn of the approaching storm, the death toll was kept somewhat low. However, even mass media reports couldn’t stop the property damage from the wind, unprecedented rain and catastrophic flooding. Harvey will likely be our country’s worst natural disaster for a long time to come and it will take years to recover.

At the same time emergency crews and first-responders were involved in rescue efforts, our Mission:Dignity staff were reaching out to retired pastors and widows living along the Gulf Coast in affected areas from Texas all the way to Florida. We have already issued several emergency grants to assist Mission:Dignity recipients who have experienced various losses directly related to the storm.

Abel and Lydia Sosa live in Corpus Christi, just south of where the eye of the hurricane moved inland. Abel was a pastor and music minister for almost 30 years in Texas. On their application for assistance last summer, Abel wrote,

Most of my ministerial years, I was paid the minimum, but God always supplied our needs. I continue relying totally on my Lord, knowing he shall supply for my wife and me. Thank you for taking the time to receive this application. We appreciate any help.

The monthly assistance grant the Sosas have gotten this past year has been a huge help. When we contacted them early last week, we learned they were safe but their power had been out for days and it would be several more before it was restored. In the meantime, they had lost all the food in their refrigerator and freezer. We immediately set up a special transfer of funds to their bank account so they could replace the food they lost.

We gave funds to another retired pastor and his wife who live about a mile from the Sosas. Another grant went to one of our recipients in Baytown, just east of Houston, whose special medical bed was destroyed when the roof of her subsidized apartment blew open and rain poured in. She’ll not only find new housing but a much-needed bed will be waiting for her.

These are just a few of the many stories that will be developing over the next few months as we are made aware of storm-related emergency needs. Thanks to you and others who give each month, and who also share special gifts in times of crisis, we are able to help these individuals and couples stabilize their situations in the middle of upheaval and rebuild their lives going forward.

Thank you for your Mission:Dignity gift and for providing peace in the midst of the storm to God’s faithful, retired servants in need. We are grateful for you!

Grace and peace,

John Ambra 

John Ambra

Director of Development

P.S. If you would like to make a special gift to help with emergency grants due to Hurricane Harvey, visit our website at MissionDignity.org and use the Donate Today button. Choose “Hurricane Harvey” for your designation. If you prefer to write a check, just write “Hurricane Harvey” on the memo line and mail to Mission:Dignity. Any funds collected but not used for this specific incident will be applied to other emergency grant situations in the year ahead. Thanks!


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