Lutheran Disaster Response

Our response to disasters in the U.S. and around the world; look for sections of this blog related to specific disaster locations. Comments are welcomed and moderated.

Camp Victor in Metamorphosis

Posted on March 6, 2013 by Joseph Chu

Camp Victor, Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Camp Victor, Ocean Springs, Mississippi

For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under the sun. Ecclesiastes 3:1

I had the chance to visit Camp Victor at Ocean Springs, Mississippi, twice in the last three months and was deeply moved by its leaders and the ministry each time.  Camp Victor in its current location was started by Christus Victor Lutheran Church in 2006 as the continuation of its disaster recovery ministry for communities affected by Hurricane Katrina and Rita.  Not only has it been a sizable hospitality center, housing volunteers engaged in disaster recovery work, it has also been a service center providing case management and construction management for those deeply affected by the disasters. Here are some facts about Camp Victor: 

  • It is housed in a county-owned 50,000 square foot box-shape building located in the middle of the tourist district of Ocean Springs, MS. It formerly belonged to the Swinger Garment Factory.
  • It has dormitories and beddings for up to 250 volunteers.
  • Through the years, it has received 50,000 volunteers from 50 states and 20 countries.
  • Together, volunteers have provided 1 million service hours on more than 2,000 homes, translating into $19.5 million worth of labor.

Suzie Harvey in front of the art work inside Camp Victor

Suzie Harvey in front of the art work inside Camp Victor

Walking into Camp Victor, one can’t help but be overwhelmed by the wall to wall murals, signatures, drawings and artwork left behind by the thousands of volunteers, with many of them returning to the camp multiple times. Camp Victor is much more than a dormitory; it is a place of rest for those who labor to give of themselves for strangers. It is a place for gathering and connecting. Most importantly, it is a place where God’s love is shared, received and channeled.

Currently, Camp Victor is undergoing metamorphosis. With large scale post-Katrina recovery work winding down and funding drying up, Camp Victor no longer has the volunteer base to sustain itself. It will receive its last group of volunteers by the end of March and will vacate from the current 50,000 square feet warehouse by the end of May.

Suzie Harvey, Executive Director, and Jon Biggs, Director of Disaster Response

Suzie Harvey, Executive Director, and Jon Biggs, Director of Disaster Response

Afterwards, the Camp Victor ministry will move back to the Christus Victor Lutheran Church, and become a fully volunteer-run ministry.  It still has three tool trailers that are stocked and ready to be hauled to disaster affected areas with a moment’s notice. In addition, all useful equipment and materials will be stored in a container for future use. With the strong support of its Board of Directors, made up of leaders from Lutheran congregations in the area, Camp Victor will re-channel its focus to work with local congregations and community organizations along the Gulf Coast to step up their disaster preparedness. It will continue to be an important part of the ELCA Southeastern Synod’s disaster response ministry.

We want to express our deep appreciation to Suzie Harvey, Executive Director, and Jon Biggs, Director of Disaster Response, of Camp Victor as well as the many staff, volunteers and board members who have devoted their time and talents to make Camp Victor an extraordinary ministry throughout the years. Most of all, we want to thank God for this great ministry. May God continue to guide the camp’s leaders as they discern its future directions.

6 Responses to 'Camp Victor in Metamorphosis'

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  1. Dave Dippel said,

    on March 8th, 2013 at 12:20 am

    I was a volunteer at Camp Victor in March of 2010. It was great! I love those people. Doing God’s work and helping those who could not help themselves is humbling. Hope we can get there next year and see them. TLC LDR of Dallas, Oregon is off to Minot N.D. May 17-27, 2013 and will hopefully get there in 2014. Thanks for everything! God speed in your endeavors!

  2. Joseph Chu said,

    on March 8th, 2013 at 11:19 am

    Dear Dave,
    Thank you for the response. Camp Victor is indeed a very impressive ministry. Thank you for your volunteer work as well.

  3. Carol Eschmann said,

    on March 8th, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    We had the opportunity to work with Suzie and Jon for the past 2 years in the month of February. Their professional management of the work sites and their kindness to workers and clients made the work a joy.

  4. Joseph Chu said,

    on March 11th, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Dear Carol, Thank you very much for your comments and support!

  5. Connie Stover said,

    on April 20th, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    The Nebraska Synod, ELCA, brought volunteers–both youth and adults–to Camp Victor each year from 2006-2012. The ministry and hospitality of Camp Victor enriched those of us who were graced by the spiritual experience of volunteering to assist those affected by the hurricanes. Thank you, Jon and Susie!

  6. Joseph Chu said,

    on April 26th, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    Thank You for your comments. Blessings!

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