Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Lutheran youths volunteer in New Orleans

A thousand or more Lutheran youths from the greater Red River Valley have joined 37,000 others from across the United States in New Orleans this week for a massive convention with a mission.

A thousand or more Lutheran youths from the greater Red River Valley have joined 37,000 others from across the United States in New Orleans this week for a massive convention with a mission.

Besides attending the convention in the Super Dome, the young people from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are putting good works into their faith practice in shifts, said Dean Schieve, a chaperone with a group of 54 from Calvary Lutheran in Grand Forks.

"Every kid has to put in a day's worth of service," he said, "so there are 10,000 a day doing that, an impact that will mean months of work done and make a visible impact on the whole community, not to mention the emotional and spiritual connections of this place in terms of rebuilding."

An airboat ride through a Louisiana swamp gave them a real feel for what the place is about, and what the disaster did, said Emily Raymond, also from Calvary Lutheran. "In some of the big buildings, the windows are still broken. We saw a house collapse."

Her group will do their service project today. A group from Devils Lake did theirs Friday in New Orleans Ninth Ward, one of the worst-hit parts of the city by Katrina.


Convention officials say the ELCA's "Jesus, Justice and Jazz" gathering is the largest convention in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina devastated the region in 2005.

It's filling the hotels and driving pizza delivery people wild, said Schieve.

The 4.6-million-member ELCA holds national Youth Gatherings every three years, one of the biggest church youth meetings in the nation.

About 600 youths from the Eastern North Dakota Synod, with about 70 adult chaperones, made the trip, and several hundred from the Northwestern Minnesota Synod based in Moorhead. The conference opened Wednesday and ends Sunday with a sermon by Bishop Mark Hanson, head of the ELCA.


Schieve said seeing such a big group of people united to help New Orleans is aweinspiring. "We toured the National World War II Museum and the curator there said 'I have to stop and thank you for coming down here. You don't know the impact of having 37,000 people here is having on this community.'"

Comments posted online on an article in the Picayune-Times newspaper in New Orleans this week included praise even from some avid non-Lutherans. Someone called "whodatsay22," wrote: "For the sake of disclosure, I must say that I am an atheist. That being said, this group should get major kudos for having their convention in New Orleans. . . I admire this church for educating themselves and helping our city."

The paper also raved that three from the "geographical center of North America," that is, Rugby, N.D. -- Anjy Selland, Kassie Stoltman and Sam Rozmarynowski -- started out at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday to drive 200 miles to Fargo to catch flights to New Orleans.


Life changing

For the Red River Valley ELCA youths, the trip has been a learning experience.

"It's amazing here," said Raymond. "There is so much culture down in New Orleans, it's just culture shock coming from North Dakota."

Cole Boehmer, who will be senior at Devils Lake High School this year, said he loves seeing "all the different cultures and different foods and enjoying the atmosphere of this great town."

He worked in the Ninth Ward Friday and saw what Katrina did.

"Different parts of New Orleans actually are really, really bad," Boehmer said. "Today we really got to help out and painted some of the fences and stairs and stuff that needed to get done in the Ninth Ward. It really changed how I see things around the country."

And they got to meet the people of New Orleans.

"Today we talked to someone at the service project," Boehmer said. "They talked about their life and how they lost their house, when trees in the front yard fell on it. Even though they couldn't get their house done, they would help other people."


Brooke Swingen, from Calvary Lutheran, said the trip is a life-changing experience.

"It's opening my eyes to many things," Swingen said. "I've been seeing things down there I wouldn't see in Grand Forks, North Dakota. It gives me a perspective about how people really are around the world and in the United States."

For more on the convention, see this blog written by Calvary Lutheran youth.

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or send e-mail to slee@gfherald.com .

What To Read Next
Josh Sipes was watching an in-flight movie when he became aware the flight crew were asking for help assisting a woman who was experiencing a medical problem.
Nonprofit hospitals are required to provide free or discounted care, also known as charity care; yet eligibility and application requirements vary across hospitals. Could you qualify? We found out.
Crisis pregnancy centers received almost $3 million in taxpayer funds in 2022. Soon, sharing only medically accurate information could be a prerequisite for funding.
The Grand Forks Blue Zones Project, which hopes to make Grand Forks not just a healthier city but a closer community, is hosting an event on Saturday, Jan. 21, at the Empire Arts Center from 3-5 p.m.