The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Sunshine, flowers & FEMA trailers

At Camp Noah, Katrina's youngest victims count their blessings

From the comfort of their homes more than 1,200 miles away in Minneapolis, all they could do was watch in horror as Hurricane Katrina wrecked the Mississippi Gulf Coast with its ferocious winds and relentless water.

They wanted to do something to show their compassion. But other than writing checks or sending clothes, they were at a loss as to how to proceed. When their pastor, Ken Kotzer, sent out a notice recruiting volunteers for Camp Noah, a faith-based healing project sponsored by Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota and Lutheran Disaster Response, they all but packed their bags.

“Sending money is a very easy thing to do, but this was our chance to really do something that would make a difference,” said Dawn Kalland, a member of Mount Olivet Lutheran Church. The ELCA congregation in south Minneapolis has a long history of community service.

So on June 24, Dawn, her 15-year-old daughter Maren, Kotzer and two dozen other Mount Olivet volunteers boarded a bus and made the 25-hour trek to Pass Christian, Miss., a tiny Gulf Coast community which, like neighboring Waveland, Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, Biloxi and New Orleans, was obliterated by Katrina.

As they rode past piles of debris, Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers and cement slabs where homes once stood, they knew they were in the right place—and for the right reason. They were there to help the children—innocent victims of one of the nation’s most catastrophic disasters.

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February issue


Embracing diversity