Our own Gary Sherman introduced pastoral assistant Joe Nilsen from Christ Lutheran Evangelical Church in Fairfield Glade.

Preceding this appointment, Nilsen served in churches in Florida and Virginia, as well as 17 years as chaplain in hospitals, nursing homes and hospice. In 1999, he retired and moved to Lake Tansi Village. He is married to Evy, his wife of 49 years. They have two children and two grandchildren.

Rotary stood non plussed when he talked about the horror he found when he volunteered to go down to Ocean Springs, MS and found desolation at its worst. Three months after Katrina hit with herculean force, he told us the following:

•The city of Ocean Springs sustained 28 deaths and still has 60 missing persons.

•Katrina was 50 percent larger and more damaging than Camille.

•There were no questions that New Orleans missed the eye of the hurricane since the wind turned at the last minute to the southeast quadrant of the storm and hit directly on the Mississippi banks for 14 hours with 150 mph winds!

Sixty-five thousand homes were destroyed and not rehabilitated, with the town of Pass Christian and many adjoining towns disappearing from the face of th earth. By in large, of the 17,225 population, only 1,005 remain and are living in tents as of Aug. 28 of last year.

•FEMA's main purpose was to secure the rehabitable structures from any further rainfall or damage by using blue tarps.

•When the Nilsens left their one-month vigil, there were 146 people still volunteering from the Chicago area and 16 additional communities.

•The minister said this was a life experience and the best example of grace in action. Katrina was an act of nature and what the volunteers were doing was an act of the human spirit.

•Keep in mind the love of mankind still exists in that little Lutheran church in Ocean Springs, started on Aug. 28, 2005. They are still continuing to provide gifts of the heart of three meals a day to everyone who is in need of water, food, supplies or lodging to survive and they continue cleaning and rebuilding their community.

•The pastor alluded to the fact this was a national tragedy, and he had hoped the media would have focused more fully on the monumental loss of human life by a whole generation of people in this area.

Thank you, Pastor Nilsen, for bringing us this story that needed to be told. God bless you and your entire family.


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