Camp Noah is an organization started in 1997 by Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, and grew dramatically as a national program in response to Hurricane Katrina. The camps are locally hosted events for elementary-age children whose communities have been impacted by disaster. With the help and leadership of volunteers, Camp Noah has served over 13,000 elementary school children!
MO member, Lisa Hansen, has been organizing Camp Noah teams for the past five years now - following her call to work with children who are dealing with emotional trauma. The children at these camps are given the opportunity to process emotions, and begin recovery after experiencing devastating natural disasters.
"As someone who’s always enjoyed engaging with kids through day camps and VBS, I found the idea of using this kind of setting to respond to community disasters intriguing. Because of other commitments, I hadn’t been able to serve on either the Mount Olivet team that responded to Hurricane Katrina in 2006 or the 2009 team that served children affected by
an immigration raid of an Iowa meat packing plant. But the stories that were told of children’s needs and recovery at these camps lodged a desire to someday serve at a Camp Noah.
In 2011, I got my chance. Kirsten Kessel had arranged for Mount Olivet to be part of a Camp Noah program serving the community of North Minneapolis after the devastating tornado there. My daughter, Tori, and I discovered the challenges and joys of working with at-risk kids in a destabilized community. We used every skill and talent we had developed through years of Girl Scouts and Bible Explorers to connect with these kids and communicate the hope that Camp Noah brings to difficult situations. It was exhausting and exhilarating and we were hooked. Camp Noah’s goals and methods were a perfect fit for us.
After losing our son, Alex, to suicide in 2012, I personally experienced the echoing trauma of tragedy—as well as the power of the healing compassion that was directed our way. Camp Noah became a way of somehow bringing meaning to my loss and making my pain purposeful. On the three-month anniversary of Alex’s death, I found myself in Moose Lake, MN, serving a small community of children that had experienced a series of big losses, including a flood that had overwhelmed their homes and stolen away their playground. As my small group of children and I worked through our experiences, we healed together. A recommissioning prayer for the new playground demonstrated for all of us the power of resurrection and second chances.
Camp Noah has become a way for me to deal with the sometimes overwhelming heartbreak that the daily news brings, and for continuing to bring healing out of my own brokenness. The children I have had the privilege of serving continue to live in my heart and remind me of the power of Christ’s sacrificial love in the midst of what blogger Glennon Melton calls “this brutiful world” of beauty and brutality." -Lisa Hansen