Camp Noah helps children deal with hurricane


By Joanne Anderson
Special to the Advocate

PASCAGOULA — Fifty elementary age children were able to use fun and activities to help deal with the impact of Hurricane Katrina by attending Camp Noah. 

The day-camp was held July 24-28 at First United Methodist Church. It was one of about 17 such camps that have been conducted on the Mississippi Gulf Coast since Hurricane Katrina. Camp Noah was also conducted at Mount Zion UMC in DeLisle, Gulfport First UMC and in McComb and Laurel. 

The camps, guided by trained and caring staff, were offered at no expense to 50 campers. “Children from throughout our Katrina-torn communities participated,” said First UMC Children’s Minister Sherry Judy, who coordinated the project. 

Judy pointed out that Camp Noah was initially created to help children with the “God issues” they may have had following disaster.

“Many children believe that they did something bad to cause the disaster and that God may be punishing them for their behaviors,” she said. “It is important for them to learn that nature caused the disaster and that God loves them deeply – no matter what!”  

The curriculum for the camp is based upon the Old Testament story of Noah and the flood. “Hearing the story of Noah and comparing themselves to it gives the children the platform to talk about the various phases and emotions of their own disaster experience,” Judy said. “Children and their families gain support by discovering that their peers share similar feelings and fears and that, through faith in God, there is strength and hope for the future.” 

Children, many of whom lost their homes, toys and pets, enjoyed skits, games, music, crafts, skating, and singing as they learned how to process their feelings in the storm’s aftermath. “They were able to relate to the Bible story in which Noah prepared for disaster, evacuated to the temporary housing of the Ark and afterwards began to rebuild community when the dove gave the sign of new life,” Judy said. 

“We were wonderfully blessed by our efforts to provide a Camp Noah in our community,” pastor Larry Patrick said. 

First UMC Program Minister Gerri Pierce, whose 8-year-old granddaughter Maria attended the camp, was pleased with the results. “Maria had never talked about her losses from the storm,” she said. “After the camp, she opened up about her feelings and we were able to talk things out. I know it was a healing experience for her.” 

Funding assistance was provided by Mississippi United Methodist Katrina Response, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, Christian World Service and Disciples of Christ. Other funds were provided through grants and donations of many others. 

Dantzler Memorial UMC in Moss Point and Pascagoula First UMC worked together in providing support staff, meal and snack preparations and transportation for field trips. 

A creation of Lutheran Disaster Response, Camp Noah has been conducted since 1997 throughout the United States in areas that have experienced some form of disaster in partnership with local congregations and other interfaith and voluntary agencies.