Where are they now?

In Forward in Christ, we report the news but aren’t always able to follow up. Where are they now? is our way of giving you the rest of the story.

Here’s a recap:

WELS members came together to support their brothers and sisters at Crown of Life, New Orleans, La., following August 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, whose aftermath led to 80 percent of New Orleans and its surrounding area being flooded for weeks.

David Sternhagen served as pastor of Crown of Life at that time. He notes, “Most of Crown of Life’s members lived in that area. We lost most of our possessions, and most people lost their jobs. There was no electricity for four months, and no water for three months. Most of our members were living in Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, and across the country. Homes couldn’t be repaired because there was no one in the area to repair them—their homes were in the same shape. Our church, fellowship hall, and the parsonage all were likewise affected. That is why the Builders For Christ, Kingdom Workers, and Christian Aid and Relief volunteers were so important. They came in and gutted houses and rebuilt the church, fellowship hall, and parsonage along with about 25 houses of members and non-members.”

Thousands of WELS members also contributed to the effort by praying for those affected and donating for relief efforts.

So where are they now?

“With the love of God shown through so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ and with the help of Christian Aid and Relief, not only have buildings been restored, but they are more beautiful and capable than before,” says Jonathan Kehl, Crown of Life’s current pastor. “Our congregation, able to return quickly after the storm—albeit in smaller numbers for a time, has been able to show that same love to those who come to worship with us.”

“We had an opportunity to be a witness that we probably wouldn’t have had otherwise,” adds Sternhagen.

New families in the community have joined Crown of Life and are inviting their neighbors and friends. In particular, the development of a community garden by Crown of Life has become a bridge for spreading the gospel to the church’s neighbors.

In July 2016, five members of Crown of Life completed WELS’ Congregational Assistant Program. As Kehl notes, these men and women have received in-depth training, preparing and equipping them to go and make disciples.

“The Lord has really given them excitement for carrying out ministry here in New Orleans,” says Kehl. “I’m excited to see the opportunities the Lord lays before us in the near future.”

On Oct. 30, 2016, Crown of Life celebrated the 10th anniversary of the rededication of its church. More than 40 visitors, many of whom volunteered in the rebuilding efforts, worshiped with Crown of Life’s members that day.

“What a blessing to be able to return to New Orleans for the rededication service,” says Beth Zambo, who spent many days in New Orleans documenting the Katrina volunteer efforts for WELS Christian Aid and Relief. “The choir sang many of the beautiful hymns that I remember joining in, praising God at a time when God’s Word was the food that fed the people perseverance and hope for the future.”

“There were so many people who put a lot of work into Crown of Life to get us to the point where we are now,” says Kehl. “The rededication service let us thank God for how he has preserved and continued his ministry in New Orleans, and how he has done it through our Christian family.”



Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.


Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.


Volume 104, Number 1
Issue: January 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

Print Friendly, PDF & Email