Tne End of the Mission on the Mississippi Coast
Greetings, travelers, pilgrims and all of have served and supported the mission and ministries of Mission on the Bay and Camp Coast Care!
The time has come and our season in post-Katrina recovery and rebuilding is drawing to a close. Thus, I am writing to let you know that as of last Thursday, the leadership of Lutheran Episcopal Services in Mississippi has announced that the remaining Coast recovery camps - Mission on the Bay in Bay St. Louis and Camp Victor Ministries in Ocean Springs - will be closing at the end of August, marked by the Fifth Anniversary of Katrina.
Indeed Mission on the Bay's journey has been quite the extraordinary adventure, our beginnings being immediately after Katrina on the floors of Coast Episcopal School and their hurricane-torn gymnasium in what would become Camp Coast Care. First, the recovery efforts focused on pastoral care, distribution of much needed goods and provision of medical care. Then, "Klub Katrina" expanded into the realm of debris removal, demolition and the beginnings of rehabilitation on the remnants of the Coast communities.
By the summer of 2006, Camp Coast Care operated as a full service adult volunteer camp engaged in the long-term recovery and rebuilding process and the time had come to open the flood-gates to the masses of eager, energetic, and mission-oriented youth. Thus, with the arrival of 130 youth from Naperville, IL and 25 youth from Wellesley, MS, the original Mission on the Bay was born as a sister camp to Camp Coast Care located on the grounds of Christ Episcopal Church in Bay St. Louis. That first summer was, to put it lightly, an experience of roughing it by the grace of God and engaging in the fullness of the muck and mire of hurricane land with a tent city for lodging, a shower trailer and the hospitality offered through the use of Christ Church's Quonset Hut (aka multi-purpose post-Katrina building which served for worship, fellowship and dining hall).
Over the course of the lives of Camp Coast Care and Mission on the Bay, facilities became much more "civilized" with a new building erected on the back of Coast Episcopal School's property and portable Quonset Huts and trailers set up on the back of Christ Church's property. However, in June of 2009, Camp Coast Care transitioned one last time to a larger facility in Bay St. Louis, which previously housed Lagniappe Presbyterian's Recovery Center. And by the end of September in 2009, LESM's west Coast recovery and rebuilding efforts had merged as one at the new property, the "new" Mission on the Bay, which has served adults and youth in great numbers ever since.
But, that is all about locations and facilities, the real story of the camps is told by the extraordinary stream of volunteers who have passed through the doors of the camps, including our sister camps on the east end of the Coast. To date, our camps combined have housed, fed and deployed over 60,000 volunteers. It was YOU, the volunteers, who under the guidance of our capable staff and volunteer leadership have mucked/gutted 3500 homes, rehabbed/built anew 550 homes, case managed 2200 individuals/families, consumed 1,250,00 meals, input $15 Million cash into the Coast economies and worked in the realm of 2.5 Million hours amounting to a value of $45 Million in services. Now, that is creative and holy response to an otherwise horrific and dark moment in our history and indeed a job well done in the name of collaborative, servant-ministry; participation in the ways of God, the transformation of lives, one family and one home at a time, day in and day out for five years. As Butch has put it on more than one occasion: If it were not for the kindness of complete strangers (now friends), the Coast would not be where it is today --- well on the road to recovery and wholeness.
And, although the work on the Coast is not complete, quite a feat has been accomplished, even surviving as a volunteer organization long past any date that was imagined when we first set out on this mission nearly five years ago. And, my-oh-my the good that has been done and the difference that has been made by each and all of you who have extended your love, support, energy, prayers, resources and presence on behalf of the people of the MS Gulf Coast. Thank you, thank you, thank you! And, remember: While our season in post-Katrina recovery and rebuilding may be drawing to a close, the time to build, to serve, to console and to love is always before us in the faces of those in need and the challenge of MISSION remains strong. Take it and run with it, my friends --- the torch is being passed to YOU!
To give thanks for the phenomenal mission and ministries of these past five years, we invite you to send your stories or a few words of reflection to be included in an Archival Scrapbook. Please, e-mail those stories and reflections to us by August 1st via Lindsay Asker, our volunteer coordinator, at email@example.com or (228) 466-2900. Furthermore, we extend an invitation each and to all who might be able to join in a Celebration of Thanksgiving for Recovery and Rebuilding ministries on the Coast on Saturday, August 14th at 5:00pm at Mission on the Bay, 647 DeMontluzin Street, Bay St. Louis. Again, please, notify us if you plan to join us by contacting Lindsay Asker, our volunteer coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (228) 466-2900. For those unable to join us, know that these ministries could not have happened without many hands, many hearts and many lives working together to rise to the Challenge of Mission in this "time to build." Thank you to each and to all, and thanks be to God!
Take care, traveling mercies and blessings all around!!!
Mission Director and Chaplain
Mission on the Bay
Lutheran-Episcopal Services of Mississippi