National Lutheran News

Minnesota/Mississippi Lutheran partnership creates “Camp Victor”

Youth Encounter and Christus Victor Lutheran Church have funded a waystation for volunteers.

Since last March, Youth Encounter, the Twin Cities-based ministry that dispatches music and service teams to congregations nationwide, has been working on post-Katrina relief.

The agency has developed a partnership with Christus Victor Lutheran Church, Ocean Springs, Mississippi, in sending volunteers to help rebuild homes in the devastated areas. Almost 500 relief workers have gone south. Even though the hurricane struck nearly a year ago, responses from volunteers is uniformly the same: “I can’t believe the devastation! It looks like it happened yesterday!”

There is still much that needs to be done to help life return to normal along the Gulf Coast. Christus Victor took another step in that process in June when they opened Camp Victor. The new facility will house the volunteers who travel to the Gulf Coast to help with the rebuilding process.

The camp has a new commercial kitchen, carpeted dorms with bunk beds to house 250 people and bathroom facilities. It’s heated and air conditioned.

Staying at Camp Victor is a far cry from the tent city — or sleeping in cots at the church — that many volunteers experienced. This new facility, a long-term commitment for the congregation, allows Christus Victor to resume its ministries, many of which had been on hold since the hurricane.

Volunteers have ac-complished a good deal this spring and summer in Ocean Springs. Nearly every week there have been 200 or more on site. Many have been young people. Now, however, the students are heading back to school and families are finished taking vacations. There is an urgent need for volunteers in September and October.

Youth Encounter and Christus Victor Church are hoping to see Camp Victor filled each week for the next two months. A great opportunity awaits adults who are retired or able to get away at this time of year.

There are many houses that have been cleaned out and stripped down to the studs and are now waiting to be rebuilt. The process of rebuilding homes seems agonizingly slow, since there are no construction workers available. (They are all working on commercial projects, leaving homeowners to do the work themselves.)

Most of the people who are receiving the help are elderly, disabled, impoverished or caregivers for mentally or physically handicapped people. Many of the victims had little or no insurance and are struggling just to put food on the table. Many families are still living in multifamily situations. A lot of families are just moving into FEMA trailers and some have been forced to move out of rental homes and apartments due to large increases in rental fees. Some families are actually living in cars.

* * *

Individuals or groups who would like to help or to volunteer are asked to contact Susie Anderson at 651/ 287-8481 or susie@youthencounter.org. Or, visit Youth Encounter’s Web-site, www.youthencounter.org and click on the Katrina Crews link for more information.