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ELCA Youth Gathering Blog

More Reactions from New Orleanians posted an article on the reactions of the people of New Orleans to what the JJJ09 youth brought there.  An excerpt:

We’re humbled. Humbled at their generosity. Humbled at the sight of so many young people traveling so far to do so much hard work during their summer vacation. Humbled that the “Katrina fatigue” felt by so many Americans was replaced, for a few days, with an enthusiasm even some of us find hard to muster some days. Regardless of your faith, or lack thereof, these excited young volunteers were an inspiration, and just one of them accomplished more good than all the preachers and politicians in the world who saw Katrina as either perverse justice or crass opportunity.

Here’s the full article.

(Thanks to Carrie Draeger for bringing this to my attention!)

Reflections on Service

Thousands of young Lutherans are doing good in the New Orleans community.  Here’s what a few of them had to say after their time serving New Orleanians (namely, working up a dripping sweat doing manual labor for hours on a muggy, 97-degree bayou morning):

ServantLife: Making a Difference


Friday was the second day of the ServantLife events–JJJ youth going out into the New Orleans community to help out in countless different ways.  Ms. Pitts, a resident of the Lower 9th Ward, spoke with me yesterday about the impact of just one of the many service-minded groups: “Since we got back here in ’06…we’ve been, you know, trying to get our house together and everything.  And by the grace of God we’re getting everything together, and hopefully we’ll finish soon.”

This house was a part of a broad field of largely empty lots.  Youth Gathering participants spent a muggy morning gathering 4-year-old Katrina refuse that still remains scattered across the Lower 9th Ward, as well as bringing the waist-height grasses under control.

“They’re helping us out tremendously.  They’re picking up a lot of the debris that [was] around, and they’re cutting the grass.  They’re helping us out–that’s all I can say.  It’s been a blessing, and I thank them so very much,” Pitts added.

How do the youth feel about the task they were given?

“We’re cleaning up so the city doesn’t take these peoples’ land away from them.  They say they’re wanting to make this into big warehouses and stuff.  We’re trying to get people back to their homes.”

“It’s hot, but, I mean, it’s good work.  Good to know that you’re doing something to help other people, and it makes you feel good.


This afternoon, I was handed the following letter from the St. Bernard Parish President.  (St. Bernard Parish, just southest of New Orleans, still displays the devastating effects of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.)

Dear Orange-Shirt Brigade (Youth Volunteers),

I wanted to take a quick moment to welcome you to St. Bernard Parish and to let you know how much we as citizens of this great community appreciate you giving of yourself to assist us in rebuilding our community.

As you arrive at your various work sites, it may seem as though there is less need for help than one may have thought but keep in mind that we have a long way to go to recover our community to pre August 29, 2005 status.  Your efforts today will help more than you know and the true value of your time and energy is your gift of allowing our community to take another step toward uniting and reuniting families, friends, and neighbors.

I do offer one specific challenge to you.  our recovery has been divinely inspired over the last almost four years and the blessing is that the presence of Christ has been overwhelming since Hurricane Katrina.  As you go about your good wo0rks this week, I challenge you to find Christ in the activity that you do and the places and people you encounter- Your time as a volunteer may just turn into something that only He can make happen.

Thanks again for your partnership and God Bless you.


Craig P. Taffaro, Jr.

St. Bernard Parish President

Servants’ Departure

Lutheran youth have been pouring by the thousands into ServantLife projects throughout the city.  Listen to their thoughts on service as they go out to do God’s work with their hands: