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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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What good can we do?

Traveling to Louisiana, Nebraska Lutherans staff a post-Katrina camp for kids

What good does a person actually do when one volunteers for a week or a month—and then leaves?

Nineteen of us from St. Paul Lutheran Church, Omaha, Neb., went to Louisiana to remind “Katrina kids,” their families and ourselves that God loves them ... sometimes through traveling camp counselors. We brought all our supplies and staffed a Camp Noah week. This day camp gives elementary children a chance to talk about their disaster, hear a Bible story about tragedy, play, and increase their faith—ours too.

Christian life is supposed to be about relationship. But how much relationship can happen in a week? Is it really helpful to show up and reach out to people you may never encounter again? The pragmatic part of me says, of course. As Midwesterners our barn-building, quilting bee heritage told us that gathering together to help one family helps us all. When there’s a disaster, people are just supposed to help fix the mess. But part of me says I should just pray and send cash. That helps too.

Occasionally I question, “Just who are you doing this for? Them? Yourself? God?” Then I recall the foolish Samaritan who stopped anyway. He helped a hurt traveler, arranged for care, checked on the victim again, then went on with his life. He didn’t stay long. Just stepped up and did right. Then he went on.

Sometimes the most important part is the doing—doing what you can, as you are able, even if it’s just a moment. Our group from St. Paul did just that. We got to be the do-gooders. It did us good.

Camp Noah seems more than church as usual, more than ordinary vacation Bible school. Yet perhaps it really is church as usual, in a different setting. Faithful people doing ordinary camp things with people for whom little is ordinary after a disaster. Some St. Paul members took Camp Noah training; others paid for training, travel and supplies. Together we combined our gifts.

At Camp Noah, each child creates a personal disaster kit as a way of coping through preparation. They decorate plastic boxes that they fill with flashlights, batteries, snacks, cards, games, crayons, a list of disaster phone numbers and other helpful things. Our group put kits together the first day. Our plan was that at the end of the week, each child could take home the kit, a Bible, all their creations.

Ebony wanted to take hers home right away on Monday.

I hedged, wavering: “But you’re coming back tomorrow, right?”

She looked up at me and said quietly, “Yes, if tomorrow comes.” Not upset or dramatic, just practical.

“Yeah. OK. Sure,” I said. “You can take the kit with you, and come back tomorrow.”

So Ebony and I took home our disaster kits today, not waiting for tomorrow. Hers is a decorated box filled with practical stuff chosen with care and love. Mine is tucked inside my heart, the knowing that love goes on whether or not tomorrow comes.

Editor’s note: “Sunshine, flowers & FEMA trailers,” a related story, will appear in the September issue of The Lutheran.

This week's front page features:

Busyness: A spiritual issue. Being comfortable with ‘what we have done and what we have left undone.’ (Photo at right.)

A balm in Madison: What ‘heals a sin-sick soul’? Praying for a loved one.

Caffeine for Eutychus? How to listen to a sermon—and stay awake.

Norway: No more state church? It's headed for a separation.

Also: The race to slow down.

Also: Preaching.

Also: Artful ideas.

Read these articles at our front page > > >

Discuss congregational Web sites:

Join the lively discussion about congregational Web sites, their development, content and design.

Duane Pederson (right), a pastor of First Lutheran Church, Eau Claire, Wis., will lead a discussion today through Aug. 8. of how a good Web site can serve a congregation's mission.

Pederson's congregation was one of the two overall winners in The Lutheran's Web site contest.

Consider reading "And the envelope goes to ..." before joining in.

Join the discussion > > >

This week on our blog:

Elizabeth Hunter writes about tagging along to Germany — vicariously through a friend's blog.

Amber Leberman (right) blogs about how new technologies are helping congregations create better Web sites.

Kathleen Kastilahn blogs about a visit to a 19th-century utopian settlement.

Elizabeth Hunter asks: "How do you get a 2-year-old to nap?"

Sonia Solomonson writes about the importance of renewal for clergy and lay people. She asks how blog readers find time to rest and recharge.

Check out our blog (and leave a comment) > > >

Are you in the call process?

If you’re a pastor seeking a call or a congregation looking for a pastor, be sure to check out The Lutheran’s expanded classifieds section.

Even if you read the print version of The Lutheran, note that some opportunities are posted only in our Web classifieds.

If your congregation is looking for a pastor, it may post an ad in The Lutheran’s Web classifieds for $150 per month. (Congregations should check with their synod office about how to handle replies.)

Also, The Lutheran now offers congregations and individuals the opportunity to post announcements about anniversaries, church anniversaries, birthdays, deaths and reunions. Web prices start as low as $75 per month. (Visit www.thelutheran.org/classifieds or e-mail advertising@thelutheran.org to learn more.)

Check out our online classifieds > > >

Subscribe to The Lutheran magazine:

Did you know: An individual subscription to The Lutheran magazine is only $15.95 a year and includes a Web Premium membership at no additional cost?

For only $15.95 you'll receive 12 issues of The Lutheran magazine in your mailbox. You'll also receive access to back issues' articles since 1996 and unlimited study guide downloads (regularly $3.50 each) at www.thelutheran.org.

(Congregational subscriptions begin at $7.95 and include Web Standard memberships. Call Augsburg Fortress, Publishers, for details about our congregational plans. 1-800-328-4648.)

Subscribe to The Lutheran > > >





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September issue

SEPTEMBER issue:

Reinventing Sunday school

More...