[StBernard] College-Age Lutherans Head to U.S. Gulf Coast for Spring Break 07-026-MRC

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Tue Feb 27 19:52:11 EST 2007

February 26, 2007

College-Age Lutherans Head to U.S. Gulf Coast for Spring Break 07-026-MRC

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- More than 800 college and university students from across
the country are traveling to the U.S. Gulf Coast during spring break to
rebuild homes damaged during the 2005 hurricane season. Through "What a
Relief!" -- an opportunity for students and others in campus communities to
get involved in disaster relief work -- some students said that volunteer
work was a "life-changing" experience.

Ryan J. Martin, a student at Lenoir-Rhyne College, Hickory, N.C., said
engaging in disaster response work in St. Bernard Parish, near New Orleans,
was important work. On Aug. 29, 2005, the eye of Hurricane Katrina passed
over the eastern portion of St. Bernard Parish. The hurricane produced a
25-foot storm surge, destroying the levees there. Almost the entire parish
was flooded, with most areas sustaining 5 to 12 feet of standing water.

"It's hard to realize that something that drastic can really happen," said
Martin, who worked alongside other students and residents of St. Bernard
Parish in 2006, when What a Relief! began.

"The opportunity to help out fellow citizens was awesome," said Martin. "To
see the joy and happiness that people possessed, despite having lost
everything, was life-changing for me. (The experience) changed everything in
life that I view as important. Relationships with people are so much more
valuable and sustaining" than material possessions, which "our society views
as a big part of life," he said.

Martin said two homes he and others worked on "sat under 13 feet of water.
We removed everything -- sinks, carpet, appliances, furniture, cabinets and
drywall. The homes were cleaned to the studs," he said. "Every day we were
covered from head to toe in stagnant mud and drywall dust."

"We worked hard for five straight days" and "walked away changed," said
Martin. "At the end of the trip I found it hard to leave. To walk away from
(people here) was very difficult for me. I felt like I was short-changing
them in going back to my air-conditioned apartment with running water and a
solid roof over my head. All they have is a 20-foot camper in their front
yard. Every morning they get up to look at the awful sight of everything
they owned in shambles. I have made it my pledge to (the people of St.
Bernard Parish) to inform everyone I run across that this area is in
desperate need of help," he said. "We, as fellow citizens, need to take care
of each other."

With four other students from Lenoir-Rhyne College, Martin is returning
March 4-10 to St. Bernard Parish through What a Relief! "I hope that things
(in St. Bernard Parish) have changed for the better," he said. Lenoir-Rhyne
is one of 28 colleges and universities of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America (ELCA).

Abby Norduane, a second-year student at Valparaiso University, Valparaiso,
Ind., will be among a group of eight students and two advisors scheduled to
work in the greater New Orleans area March 3-10 under What a Relief!
Valparaiso is an independent Lutheran university.

"This trip is one of two that students involved in (Valparaiso's) Social
Action Leadership Team (SALT) had a choice" to participate in during spring
break, said Norduane, who serves as secretary and volunteer coordinator for
SALT. "We chose this trip because we feel that it embraces our call to
action as Christians and embraces SALT's passion and focus on social
justice," she said.

"We hope that students come back with an enhanced perspective on social
justice and are encouraged to seek out avenues in which to enhance their
call to action and passion for social justice," said Norduane.

Based here, Lutheran Disaster Response -- a ministry of the ELCA and the
Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod -- coordinates What a Relief! Student
volunteer groups are organized through campus ministry centers, community
service organizations and other entities. Students participating in the 2007
What a Relief! effort represent some 34 U.S. colleges and universities, 13
of which are affiliated with the ELCA. They will work in Alabama, Florida,
Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas between February 25 and March 31.

"Over the (past) year, the work that our volunteers is doing has changed
somewhat," said Michael D. Nevergall, associate for program interpretation,
Lutheran Disaster Response. Many of the students who volunteered last spring
gutted "homes to prepare them for repairs. Now that many houses have been
gutted, the students will be helping to rebuild by hanging new sheets of
drywall, painting new interior walls and replacing roofing shingles. The
groups have been asked to include skilled volunteers from their communities
who will help accompany, teach and supervise (the students) in their work.
For returning participants who were gutting homes last spring, these tasks
will be a neat way to bring their work full circle," he said. - - -

Information about the work of Lutheran Disaster Response is at
http://www.ldr.org on the Web.

For information contact:

John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or news at elca.org
http://www.elca.org/news ELCA News Blog: http://www.elca.org/news/blog

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