ELCA NEWS SERVICE
July 24, 2009
New Orleans Mayor Welcomes, Praises ELCA Youth Gathering Effort
NEW ORLEANS (ELCA) -- Praising the "miracle" of the Youth Gathering of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the mayor of New Orleans, C. Ray Nagin, issued a proclamation declaring July 24 "A Special Day of Honor" on the ELCA and the gathering's volunteers for contributing to the city's recovery.
Nagin hosted a news conference at Joseph Brown Park in New Orleans East, an area of the city devastated by severe flooding following the collapse of levees in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Some 200 volunteers, including the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, worked in summer heat to clear brush and debris in the park.
They are part of some 37,000 Lutheran teenagers, adult leaders and other volunteers who are here July 22-26 for the 2009 Youth Gathering. "Jesus Justice Jazz" is the theme of activities at the convention center and the Louisiana Superdome. Participants are fanning out across the area to nearly 200 community service sites.
'Thank you. Thank you. Thank you," Nagin began in his remarks to the volunteers.
"You're welcome!" the volunteers responded.
Aug. 29 is the fourth anniversary of the hurricane, Nagin said. "Four years of watching miracle after miracle. God is good!" the mayor said.
"All the time!" the volunteers responded. The mayor and the volunteers repeated the phrases in reverse.
"I can tell you so many stories about how this city has overcome so many different challenges. When the devil was the most busy, God stepped in and did miracle after miracle. Today I'm looking at another miracle," the mayor told the volunteers.
Nagin noted the significant presence of the Youth Gathering participants, adult chaperones and volunteers throughout the city this week. "We have had so many volunteers to come from around the country and around the world, but for some reason your presence here is different, special and takes everything to the next level," he noted.
About 80 percent of the city's residents have returned since Katrina, the mayor said, adding there's some $20 billion worth of construction activity currently in the city.
Hanson thanked the mayor for the recognition, but said, "We have not come to call attention to ourselves. We have come to do God's work with our hands. We have come not to shine light on us, but to learn from the people of New Orleans. I want to say on behalf of the people of ELCA, thank you to you, thank you to the people of New Orleans for being our teachers."
Hanson said the ELCA had made a commitment for the 2009 Youth Gathering to be in New Orleans before Katrina. After the storm and destruction, Hanson said it was clear "God was calling us to keep that commitment, and so we are here."
He also offered special thanks to ELCA members in New Orleans and southeastern Louisiana for their tireless work and for "being the presence of the Lutheran Church" here. Hanson said the ELCA is "committed to standing with (ELCA members in Louisiana) and the people of the city for the continued recovery that lies ahead."
Hanson presented the same backpacks the youth received to the mayor and Cynthia Willard-Lewis, a New Orleans city council member who represents New Orleans East.
"This is a remarkable group of people," said Heidi Hagstrom, director, ELCA Youth Gathering to Nagin. "They are remarkable because your citizens are remarkable." Hagstrom noted that 30,000 people had registered for the gathering in the first 24 hours of registration. "That is an expression to you of how important we think your city is to the history of our country, and how much we take seriously our call to stand with you in the midst of all your struggles," she said.
On July 25 the ELCA, with local partners, will host a free health fair in City Park for residents. Free immunizations will be offered to students, and blood pressure and diabetes screening will be offered to adults. The ELCA will also host reading fairs in five locations in the city to promote literacy. Books will given to school-age children.
Information about the 2009 Youth Gathering is at http://www.ELCA.org/gathering on the ELCA Web Site.
Audio of Mayor Nagin's comments is at http://media.ELCA.org/audionews/090724Nagin1.mp3
and http://media.ELCA.org/audionews/090724Nagin2.mp3 on the ELCA Web site.
Audio of Presiding Bishop Hanson's comments is at http://media.ELCA.org/audionews/090724Hanson.mp3 on the ELCA Web site.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or email@example.com
ELCA News Blog: http://www.elca.org/news/blog