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LCM spends spring break in Big Easy, but work is anything but

In normal times, a trip to New Orleans would spell fun and festivities, but the recent past has been anything but normal there. The whole personality of the city has changed in the wake of the hurricanes that led to destructive flooding.

A group representing the Morris Lutheran Campus Ministry spent spring break pitching in to help recover.

They reported on their trip last weekend to the Morris New Wine performers who have their own trip to New Orleans planned for June.

The LCM group was based at Peace Lutheran Church in Slidell, Louisiana, which will also be the base for New Wine. The 15 members of the LCM group made the 30-hour trip by van to Slidell.

Kristine Braaten-Lee, campus pastor who also served as advisor and chaperone on the trip, described the venture as a smashing success in all sorts of ways, and most of us are willing to talk your ears off about it.

St. Johns Lutheran Church of rural Starbuck hosted a visit by the LCM group, which led the worship there on March 19 and shared a Power Point presentation afterwards. The group has visited other area churches since.

Susan Seim, a co-leader on the trip with Erica Dolven-Kolle, told St. Johns parishioners that, When you think of college spring break, Im sure full body hazmat suits, goggles and respirators dont come to mind.

Most people were a little surprised that 14 college students would give up their chance to go lie on a beach somewhere to muck out houses for a week. But I knew helping out was something I was being called to do.

The LCM group worked on a house that hadnt been touched for six months, Seim said. They threw away just about everything in the house. But the people in Slidell surprised the group.

Everyone there had an amazing attitude and it must have been contagious, because their faith in God and people have been transferred to me, Seim said. I came back tired and dirty, but spiritually I was flying. Doing this service for these people has shown me just what we can do when we put our minds to something.

The trip apparently was a winning proposition all the way around, but there was a big losing aspect too.

A chief fundraiser for the venture involves local Lutheran pastors losing weight. Contributors are asked to pledge money for each pound of weight lost up to May 1 by Braaten-Lee, Todd Mattson, Ali Boomershine, Cheryl Matthews, Ron Boettner and Kristina Rahfeldt. Thrivent for Lutherans is matching up to $800 the money pledged for this fundraiser called The Biggest Loser.

The Slidell project was also the March Charity of the Month for Common Cup in Morris.

Peace Lutheran Church in Slidell has been transformed into a bed and breakfast for the visiting volunteers. Nearby is the Lutheran Disaster Relief Camp, which coordinates the work of 200-plus volunteers.

The camp dispenses protective garments and equipment. The volunteers have their health protected by a number of items including goggles, gloves, respirators, moon suits and elbow-length latex gloves.

Lutheran Disaster Relief gave the Morris LCMers six homes to try to clean.

They cleaned two homes in St. Bernard Parish that had been saturated by 12 feet of floodwater. These homes had gotten no previous attention since the onslaught of the floodwaters. A tremendous amount of muck had to be dealt with, along with sewage and mud.

The LCM travelers and their hometowns are:

Susan Seim (Maple Grove), Erica Dolven-Kolle (St. Joseph), Dan Ekerholm (Minneapolis), Jake Hansmeier (Foley), Tyson Mastin (Blue Earth), Matt Johantgen (Ramsey), Missy Rynerson (Richfield), Ruth Olson (New Ulm), Nicky Kaehler (Brookfield, Wisconsin), Erin Wunderlich (Royalton), Amanda Norgren (Rockford), Sara Russell (Duluth), Steve Sebald (Rochester), Emily Ashworth (Roseville) and Braaten-Lee.