On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana and Mississippi. The storm was a Category 5 in the Gulf of Mexico, but had slowed to a a Cat 3 by the time it made landfall. Nevertheless, it devastated Gulfport, Mississippi.
The worst loss of life and property, however, was yet to come. Over fifty breaches in New Orleans’ levees led to flooding of over 80% of the city. Katina was more than a disaster. It was a catastrophe.
There was much criticism of emergency response at the federal, state and local level. President Bush, Governor Blanco and Mayor Ray Nagin took the brunt of it. Nagin was elected in 2002, and re-elected in 2006, when 2/3 of New Orleans’ population was still displaced. In 2014, Nagin was convicted on 20 charges of wire fraud, bribery, and money laundering for taking bribes from city contractors before and after Katrina. He is serving ten years in federal prison.
In our synod, the impact was felt heavily. I’m recalling from memory, so please correct me, but I believe Grace Lutheran Church in New Orleans and Gethsemane Chalmette had over four feet of water. At Grace, the water line can still be seen in the stained glass. Bethlehem New Orleans had several inches of water.
Christ the King in Kenner provided housing for relief workers. On my many trips over to New Orleans for such work, I stayed at Atonement and Lutheran’s tent camp a couple of times, and slept in Christ the King’s fellowship hall. In 2006 I remember staying at Grace, and also at Bethlehem.
Serving as a pastor after disaster is extremely difficult. The pastor is traumatized, as is the congregation in the community. Chris Markert left and House of Prayer mission in Harvey closed. Dan Duke, the pastor at Grace New Orleans eventually took a call in North Carolina. Jim Shields continued to serve Gethsemane for several years. Ron Unger, who lost his home and its contents, served Christ the King Kenner from 2005 until his retirement this month. Sunny Kern and Sean Ewbank continue to serve in Mandeville, and Barb Simmers, whose home flooded is still serving Peace in Slidell. Pat Keen continued to serve Bethlehem for many years, welcoming relief workers and speaking on disaster response.
While I served there, Grace Lutheran in Conroe, Texas served as a shelter for evacuees from New Orleans.
The Conroe Independent School System incorporates these newcomers, even bussing them.
we also headed over to New Orleans to take part in the massive mucking out.
We stayed at Atonement LCMS’ tent village.
Grace, New Orleans:
At Grace Lutheran in New Orleans, mold set in quickly.
Grace’s Pulpit Bible:Grace’s parochial records:Grace’s organ:Rozella White at Grace:After a time of worshipping at a local funeral home, Pastor Dan Duke and Grace members were able to have worship in their space under reconstruction. Bethlehem Lutheran in New Orleans: