Although the winds and waves of Hurricane Katrina closed 12 schools operated by Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod congregations along the Louisiana and Mississippi coastline, at least two were back in operation at Reporter’s press time, with seven others expected to reopen soon, as Lutherans across the country pitched in to help those affected.
“The prayers and other support of people throughout the LCMS have brought major encouragement to the congregations, schools, and workers,” Eugene W. (Gene) Menzel, executive assistant for Parish Services for the LCMS Southern District, told Reporter.
He said that in Katrina’s wake, Lutheran school educators in the district were scattered to 23 states, based on information from a database developed to help locate them. He added that before the hurricane hit, 140 educators served the 12 closed schools (three preschools, eight elementary schools, and one high school), which had a total enrollment of 1,670 students.
Almost 200 Lutheran schools and congregations in 34 states had offered to provide enrollment for displaced students at no cost, according to Menzel, and many of them offered housing for families.
“What a generous outpouring of love and support,” he said. “The people of the Southern District are touched by others willing to pitch in and help in a time of catastrophe.”
In addition, Lutheran schools throughout the Synod have set a goal of $1 million to be collected in school-chapel offerings and channeled through LCMS World Relief to benefit hurricane-affected Southern District schools.
Menzel asked Reporter to pass along “our thanks, knowing that we ask for continued prayers and support as we work to re-establish Lutheran schools along the [Gulf] Coast. The mission of Lutheran schools, as a national and international network, involves planting the seeds of faith as the Word of God is shared with students and families.”
Besides the two schools back in session within three weeks after Katrina hit Aug. 29, Menzel said, “we anticipate that another seven … will reopen in early October.”
He said that the other three closed schools — all in New Orleans — were waiting for clearance to “assess the conditions of their buildings,” with one of them possibly able to restart in November.
Menzel said that two Lutheran schools in New Orleans “may not be able to restart this school year due to the nature of the damages to the buildings,” and because many families of staff and students are unable to move back to their homes, which had been under water for more than two weeks.
He said that a report from the only Southern District school in the area hit hardest by Hurricane Rita Sept. 24 — St. John Lutheran School, Lake Charles, La. — indicated that its building “did fine.”
“We cannot let a hurricane deter us,” Menzel said. “Instead,” he added, “may it spur us on to touch others through the ministry of Lutheran schools.”
Posted Sept. 29, 2005