CHICAGO (ELCA) – On Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast of the United States, killing 1,833 people and displacing hundreds of thousands in the Gulf region. In response to the powerful storm, members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) contributed more than $27 million to Lutheran Disaster Response to help support the recovery efforts and provided thousands of volunteer hours to help rebuild and restore communities along the Gulf Coast.
Hurricane Katrina was the costliest and most destructive disaster in U.S. history, causing more than $100 billion of destruction along an estimated 90,000 square miles. Lutheran Disaster Response worked through affiliates and social ministry agencies in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, providing support for relief and recovery efforts.
Shortly before the hurricane struck, the Rev. Ron Unger had accepted the call to serve as pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Kenner, La., moving from Lutheran Church of the Galilean in La Place, La., another ELCA congregation near New Orleans. Unger and his wife lost their home and all their belongings to Hurricane Katrina and were evacuated to Jackson, Miss., for several weeks. When residents were finally allowed back into New Orleans, Christ the King became a center for Sunday worship, serving people from other denominations whose churches had been destroyed.
“We were about as close as you could get to the city from the west and consequently this is where a lot of displaced people gathered then for worship. We couldn’t even begin the service on time for the first several weeks because people were discovering each other in the parking lot and falling into each other’s arms with hugs and kisses because they didn’t know if the others had survived or not. So that was very traumatic and those early weeks were very poignant, very poignant,” said Unger.
Although the hurricane caused considerable damage to the neighborhood surrounding Christ the King, the church building was spared. Unger said the congregation quickly mobilized and dedicated the parish hall to house volunteers coming to help rebuild New Orleans. The facility was in operation for about two years and hosted about 2,000 volunteers from across the country, he said.
“Thousands of ELCA Lutherans traveled from all over the country, often multiple times, to help rebuild New Orleans and other communities along the Gulf Coast,” said the Rev. Michael Stadie, director, ELCA Lutheran Disaster Response. Continue Reading