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ELCA Presiding Bishop to Visit Storm-affected Areas in Oklahoma

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Camp Noah, a summer camp designed to raise hope for children impacted by disaster, is underway June 24-28 at University Lutheran Church in Norman, OK. The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), plans to visit the camp June 28, along with ELCA members and others impacted by the May 19-20 severe storm system that swept across Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

"We are very excited that Bishop Hanson will be with us," said the Rev. Michael K. Girlinghouse, bishop of the ELCA Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod. "He brings with him all the prayers and support of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and puts a face on this church's presence with us, and that's important. We deeply appreciate his pastoral concern for all of us in the ELCA Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod." In addition to visiting the camp, Hanson will meet with ELCA members and community residents in Shawnee and Moore, OK, to learn more about the continued relief and recovery efforts there, and he will meet with clergy, synod staff and others at Trinity Lutheran Church in Oklahoma City. "My visit to Oklahoma is first and foremost to listen, pray, learn and to encourage. In the weeks and months following devastating storms, it is important that we continue to accompany those who are on the long and often arduous road of rebuilding their lives and communities. It is who we are as the ELCA -- people of faith freed in Christ to roll up our sleeves and get to work, and we stay until the work is done," said Hanson in anticipation of his visit.

The presiding bishop said that he is traveling on behalf of "ELCA members who are supporting the people of Oklahoma through their prayers and generous gifts to Lutheran Disaster Response. When I join in prayers of lament for the loss of life and property, we will give expression to the suffering of the people. I also want to thank Bishop Girlinghouse and ELCA leaders and members for their witness," said Hanson, adding that whenever he visits communities impacted by natural disasters, "I see the power of a people of the resurrection at work. Yes, resiliency is a sign of the Holy Spirit at work and the people of Oklahoma are a resilient people." To date, ELCA members have contributed more than $650,000 to Lutheran Disaster Response to fund recovery efforts.

Lutheran Disaster Response, working closely with the ELCA Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod and the Lutheran Social Services of the South, continues to meet the needs of people impacted by the storms. Developed by Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota, Camp Noah is a five-day camp designed to help children and their families tell stories about their disaster experience, name their fears and learn they are not alone. Campers also uncover strengths and graces that appear in the wake of the storm, which renews hope for a future beyond their fears and memories. "In collaboration with our partners and government agencies, we (continue to) determine the best ways to help those impacted over the long haul," according to the Rev. Joseph K. Chu, associate program director for Lutheran Disaster Response in the United States.