Eastern Mennonite University

Response to Hurricane Katrina

No EMU students were in harm's way, but many residents and Mennonite congregations in the deep South were touched by the dreadful effects of Hurricane Katrina, which ripped into the coast of the Gulf of Mexico on Monday, Aug. 29, 2005.

The storm's aftermath will have major impact on survivors for some time to come.

At the opening convocation of fall semester Wednesday, Aug. 30, EMU President Loren Swartzendruber called on the campus community to pray for "all those who have lost loved ones due to Hurricane Katrina, and for the thousands of people who have lost their homes and businesses." He also urged the campus community to form a a united front in response to the disaster, noting that "We will communicate ways for the EMU community to contribute to the relief efforts and possible involvement in service opportunities in the days ahead."

More than 80 EMU alumni currently live in the area that Katrina directly affected; about 14 congregations belong to the Gulf States Mennonite Conference (GSMC) in that region.

Nathan Maust, a December 2004 graduate, hails from Meridian, Miss., located about three hours from the Gulf coast. After two days of anxious waiting, Maust finally learned his loved ones were okay.

"My family is looking at a few weeks without power and minor damage to their house, but they count themselves lucky," he says. "I'm planning a trip down with friends in a few weeks, when travel isn't restricted, so we can help out and begin repairs."

GSMC representative Emma Myers, wife of Pastor Glen Myers of Pearl River Mennonite Church, reported that all of the churches in the conference have been impacted in some way, though most are dealing with electrical problems and roof repairs rather than loss of life.

Two days after the storm, authorities reported electricity was still out for more than two million people in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and northern Florida.

"Thankfully, no members that we know of have been injured," says Myers. "But with telephone service still down we have yet to reach four to five of our southernmost churches. We've never been affected like this before."

Although Myers lives 200 miles north of the coastline, the eye of the hurricane passed her town just as Katrina was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm.

While the nation-wide response to those in need grows daily, on- and off-campus groups continue to organize further relief efforts.

--Marcy Gineris, Sept. 1