For the fifth year in a row, American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) coordinated Ecumenical Work Week in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans, bringing together individuals of all ages from across the United States and Puerto Rico to help rebuild the community devastated by hurricanes Rita and Katrina. This year’s effort took place from July 31 to Aug. 6. Eighty-six volunteers participated.
“It was a tremendous week,” said Victoria Goff, ABHMS national coordinator of Volunteer and Disaster Response Ministries. “I have been a part of this process since Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005, and it was great to see everyone continuing to give. Their hearts were generous as they served as the hands and feet of Jesus in the Lower 9th Ward.”
Volunteers worked at nine different sites and performed various jobs, from building a porch, painting interiors and exteriors, planting a garden, and moving families into new homes to doing yard work, hanging drywall, sanding, and removing debris. Volunteers enjoyed becoming part of the community, listening to residents’ stories, breaking bread at local restaurants and worshipping at Greater Little Zion Baptist Church, St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church and Adullam Christian Fellowship.
This year marks the first time that American Baptist colleges and universities participated in Ecumenical Work Week. More than 50 students and staff members represented the following higher learning institutions: Bacone College, Muskogee, Okla.; Benedict College, Columbia, S.C.; Franklin (Ind.) College; Judson University, Elgin, Ill.; Linfield College, McMinnville, Ore.; Ottawa (Kan.) University; Virginia Union University, Richmond; University of Sioux Falls, S.D.; and William Jewell College, Liberty, Mo.
“Coming together in New Orleans with other college students and seeing the devastation still in the Lower 9th Ward was an eye-opening experience for our group,” says Adam P. Ledyard, assistant athletic director and athletic chaplain at Judson University. “I did not realize that there was still so much to do in the Lower 9th Ward, six years after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. I saw hope in all the residents, as they continued to rebuild. The stories were amazing—how they survived the hurricanes, the loss they experienced and the process of working through depression. God is working in the lives of many people there.”
Says University of Sioux Falls student Michael Tolkamp: “The experience broadened my view of what happened in New Orleans and how much work still needs to be done. Residents were really happy and could not believe that people from all over the United States came to help them.”
For informational updates and photographs from Ecumenical Work Week, visit ABHMS on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abhms; Judson University athletics at www.judsoneagles.com, www.facebook.com/judsoneagles, or twitter.com/juathletics; or Bacone University at www.baconian.bacone.edu or www.facebook.com/baconianonline.
This press release was written by Adam P. Ledyard of Judson University.
American Baptist Home Mission Societies—the domestic mission arm of American Baptist Churches USA—ministers as the caring heart and serving hands of Jesus Christ across the United States and Puerto Rico through a multitude of initiatives that focus on discipleship, community and justice.
American Baptist Churches is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with 5,500 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.