“When he died, I think something died in all of us. Something died in America. And each day, I think we must find a way to dream the dreams that he dreamed and build on what he left for all of us.”
- Congressman John Lewis
After the levees collapsed, the Trinity Lutheran Church in the Lower 9th Ward was reduced to a shell. Its congregation was scattered and made the painful decision not to rebuild. But there were Lutheran churches in Austin and the Chicago area that understood how important it is for a community to have a place to gather, for churches to have a place to worship.
So, working with Camp Restore, they steadily volunteered, year after year, to rebuild the church even better than before. They laid out the electrical system; they put in new bathrooms and two showers; they brought more light into the sanctuary. And they added offices for nonprofits like us. Since 2013, we have rented our offices here for $400 per month, including utilities and wireless. Without it, we would not have been able to help all the homeowners who come in to tell us their stories of being displaced.
After the work was done, one of the volunteers, a lawyer, passed away. As he was dying, he asked that his desk be brought to the Lower 9th Ward. It’s the desk I sit at every day. It helps keep me organized and allows me to work more effectively. And every day I feel his presence, though I never met him. I feel that he, like all the other volunteers, was a person who dreamed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream and continued to build on it.
Last week, volunteers from those same churches—some of whom have been coming since the beginning—returned. They are now keeping the building in shape for us, for the two churches that worship here and for all the community groups that use the space for meetings and the occasional party. Each time they come back to the Lower 9th Ward, they build on King’s dream, doing their part “to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”
We are so grateful to them and to all who seek to honor Dr. King’s dream in their own lives.
Volunteers Aleis Vasa and Natalie Knebach, from St. Peter Lutheran Church in Dundee, Illinois, and Jana Sandus from Redeemer Lutheran Church in Austin, Texas (left to right).