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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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'Disastrous' youth ministry

These young people are ready to be deployed

The resort community of Vero Beach, Fla., where roughly half the population is over age 45, hardly seems an ideal setting for a traditional youth ministry. But then, the youth group of Our Savior Lutheran Church is anything but traditional.

The group is redefining what "Freed in Christ to Serve" can mean for young Lutherans: disaster response. "We want to be able to deploy when and where there's a need," said youth director Jimmy Smith.

The group already had a mid-June mission trip to West Virginia planned when spring tornadoes ripped through the Southeast. They put that site on temporary hold and instead deployed to Cullman, Ala., where Christ Lutheran Church had been destroyed.

Zac Barringer is a member of Our Savior
Zac Barringer is a member of Our Savior Lutheran Church">Our Savior Lutheran Church, Vero Beach, Fla., whose youth ministry specializes in disaster response.

The congregation in Cullman and its pastor, Sandy Niiler, were surrounded by physical and emotional chaos after the tornado. And while they appreciated the concern pouring in from around the country, they simply didn't need untrained volunteers.

Having lived all his life on the hurricane-prone eastern Florida coast, Smith knows disaster victims often feel dazed and overwhelmed. They need "somebody to go in and figure out what's really needed, find it, deliver it and put it to good use," he said.


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