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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Baptized after the storm

When Don French responded to Hurricane Katrina, he had little idea that his life would be upended by the experience. After three trips to the battered region, the retired computer systems programmer said “yes” to an invitation to be baptized on June 3 at St. Luke Lutheran Church in Waukesha, Wis.

French, 63, is one of more than 18,000 ELCA Lutherans who headed down to the Gulf Coast. Upon his return, he found that he couldn’t stop talking about the magnitude of the disaster and the powerful encounters he had with the people there.

The kicker, said Gary Liedtke, a pastor of St. Luke, came on a Sunday morning following French’s third trip. “I touched him on the shoulder and said, ‘Don, would you consider being baptized when Pastor Pat (Keen) is here?’” Liedtke recalled.

Days later, after many conversations, French knew he was ready. He told Liedtke, “I know I could not be who I am without God’s Spirit. I know there is a love and grace that pervades this world and that we are blessed by that love.”

On the day of the baptism, French was overwhelmed with emotion—and so were the pastors, family and friends gathered in St. Luke’s sanctuary. “I could not believe this was happening, and I was overcome by the emotion —friendship, love, joy—that must be an extension of the love God feels for all of us.”

The move from observer to baptized member was a gradual process for French. He had attended St. Luke since 2002 after his wife, Anna, was baptized. But, he explained, “my journey of faith is a very complicated one. I wasn’t going to say something that I didn’t believe.”

When French saw Katrina’s destruction on TV and heard that St. Luke was sending volunteers, he was eager to help. Working with Liedtke, French assembled 36 members from St. Luke and other ELCA congregations in Waukesha.

As he worked side by side with volunteers, disaster response staff and local residents, French’s faith grew. He was inspired by people like Patrick Keen, pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in New Orleans.

“You don’t do this for other people and get feedback that’s so positive without understanding that there’s something bigger than you going on,” French said.

Keen was present for the baptism. He said it was one of the greatest joys he’s experienced since the hurricane. “An infant baptism is wonderful, but an adult baptism … and an adult who’s been so engaged in the ministry,” Keen said. “Heaven is rejoicing!”

This week's front page features:

Back to school — and then church: Congregations offer literacy programs to help kids, adults read. (Photo at right.)

Muhlenberg — a recruiter for the Revolutionary War?

Church music for tomorrow: Essays review contributions and possibilities.

Back to school: Jesus went to Gerasene to heal the democrats?

Also: ELCA responds to global disasters.

Also: Almen: ELCA, LCMS must 'work together.'

Also: ELCA membership drops 1.6 percent.

Read these articles on our front page > > >

Discuss congregation literacy programs:

Join Darlene McRoberts-Prox (right) today through Sept. 11 to discuss congregation-based literacy programs.

Does your congregation have one? Are you a volunteer, or a student, at a congregation-based literacy program?

Share your experiences.

Consider reading "Back to school—and then church" before joining in.

Join the conversation > > >

This week on our blog:

It was a holiday weekend, so many of our staff took a vacation from blogging.

However, Sonia Solomonson (right), chimed in about the postponement of the trial of Liberia's former president Charles Taylor.


Share your funeral bloopers!

What’s so funny about a funeral? Usually not much. But sometimes, especially for pastors, something goes terribly wrong and all we can do is laugh.

Send your funeral stories (75 words or fewer) to Julie Sevig for The Lutheran's "Light Side" page by Sept. 21.

Members: Respond online > > >

Take our 2008 topics survey:

Every year The Lutheran gives our readers the opportunity to help select the major issues we'll cover the following year.

Now it's time for you to contribute to our 2008 cover stories. The Lutheran staff has collected your comments and suggestions throughout the year and has used them to create a list of 25 potential cover stories. Choose 10 from our list, or suggest your own.

The deadline to complete the survey is Oct. 31. Results will appear in the January issue of The Lutheran.

Take the survey > > >

Subscribe to The Little Lutheran:

We at The Lutheran think it’s important to nurture the faith of the little ones in our midst. We developed The Little Lutheran for children 6 and younger to help them learn about God’s love for them and the world in which they live. We want them to know Jesus as friend and savior too.

Subscribe now > > >

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