Thursday, October 11, 2007


Welcome to the web log for the ministry of Rolin Bruno (me). I have been working on the post-Katrina gulf coast since August 2006, and began this blog with the help of Alan Morris in January 2007.

As a missionary deacon, my goal is the Great Commision: to make disciples for Christ--not just converts, but true disciples.

As a captain for Church Army USA, my ministry is to the least, the last, and the lepers of our society--especially those afflicted with chronic homelessness or addictions to drugs and alcohol.

I am currently on leave in California. I will be attending ordination services at Saint James Anglican in southern California, then spending time visiting my mother and sister in northern California.

My most recent newsletter for this ministry is well down the page, beginning here. Older newsletters follow that post.

Before I left, I spent time in New Orleans helping Kevin Kallsen of Anglican TV; that post is here.

Immediately below is the introduction to a 14-part series of posts describing pictorially how this ministry got started.

Again, welcome! And check back every once in a while to see what God is doing!

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Great Leap: a Photo Journey

On September 19, I began a series of posts that illustrate my transcontinental journey in 2006 from student to missionary. There are some great photos. The posts are best enjoyed by starting below at this entry (click here) and working your way back up the blog by following the "newer post" link at the bottom of each page, until you come back to this post.

Enjoy the photos!

Great Leap Epilogue: People and Places

Here are some of the photos from October through December 2006, before this blog was born. ..Here's a view of our destination: our new home-to-be in Gulfport.....
These are our nearest neighbors. The man who said he was the owner of the demolished house on the left was known to sleep there on occasion, even though the interior floors had been removed and sold for the value of their rare old-growth lumber. Big Johnny lived large in the house on the right: he spent the first few weeks after the Hurricane wondering what to do with the new skylight Katrina had left in his roof.
Volunteer teams from out of state came to help us clean up and move, while we served refresh-ments to curious neighbors. .. Here's Dale and Barry, two of our first Church Army residents, with James, Mary and me. .. .. The trucker delivering more of the Mennonite-built cabins
helped us load up and move out of Pass Christian,

while Smiling Al waves good-bye to Pass Christian and its spectacular view of the seaside sunrise. .. .. ..
The Church Army program of spritual discipline was intensive, and a break to go camping was well appreciated. .. .. Back in Gulfport, long after the cabins were unloaded, we were still running generators to keep heaters running at night, while we waited for new power poles to be installed. .. .. And there was still much work to be done to convert the apartments to warehouse space, and to grace the grounds with garlands. .. Jeff (below, on left) filled out the available cabin bunkspace for men struggling to transform their lives. Some did well, some did not. Some partings were tragic, others were hopeful. All of us learned. All of us heard from God. ..

Thanks for coming along for the Great Leap. For more about Church Army Gulf Coast and its history, go to the archive and begin with the first post in January, 2007.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Great Leap: The Landing.

A Calling Made Sure; plus, California and Back.

.. Arriving at God's Katrina Kitchen in Pass Christian, Mississippi,
I was put up in one of the six bunks in the leftmost cabin shown here. I began working with folks who did not fit the profile that the Kitchen was helping most, that is, home-owners with devastated houses. Most of these others were homeless, many were addicted to alcohol or drugs, and some were violent. Allowing these folks to camp nearby had been a disaster.

James looked at me with a look that said, "What took you so long to get here?" Then he looked around the bunkhouse and said, "We can put five of them in here with you." I looked around the tool-shed-sized cabin and said, "I'm going to need an office." (James later repented: we would bring no more than 3 men into those cramped quarters.) The following days were filled by meetings with homeless people in desperate situations, some of them the victim of lawless violence and attempted murder. Within two weeks I knew: this was where God was calling me: no doubt at all.

.. So now it was time to make a run to California to get the rest of my stuff (i.e., my theological library) out of my mother's garage, before she moved north. On the way west, I stopped and visited with Church Army's Captain Bob Dudley, a Lakota Sioux living near Albuquerque with his Navajo wife. Bob is a native dancer, and disciples Native Americans in how to live a Christian life while recovering their native heritage.

While in California, I visited Saint James Anglican and set up a booth at their community fair, with photos of the devastated Gulf Coast.


Here is Fr. Richard Menees at the fair giving away rides in his new-found red toy.


On Sunday I attended all three services and manned a Gulf Coast information table outside the door, then it was time to drive back to Mississippi.

. I was determined to find a way to avoid the dread 800-mile tip-to-tip trip across Texas, so I turned left at El Paso and headed for New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle. I was startled to see these majestic cliffs in the distance, glowing purple by the light of the setting sun, creating their own misty weatherclouds in the lee of the balmy west wind. .. ..

On the eastern slope of Guadalupe Peak there is a National Forest campsite where I threw out my sleeping bag and woke to the sound of redbreasted robins.


Carlsbad Caverns was spectacular, but in its subdued interior lighting, photography was next to impossible. Here is a trailside grotto,1200 feet below the surface.


When I arrived back at the Kitchen in Pass Christian, James found office room for me and my library in a converted bunkhouse. .. ..



In Mississippi, the town of Pass Christian had been maneuvering behind the scenes to convince God's Katrina Kitchen to move on. We had had our eye on a beachside site in lovely Long Beach, or even on the nearby Walmart site. But by the time I returned, our choices were narrowing. God was closing the door on the lovelier sites and opened the door wide on a site in Gulfport, just two blocks from a notorious "red zone" known for its prolific drug traffic.

Here is my first view of our new site in Gulfport. The concrete apartment building is all that remains of a complex of 5 or more apartments of similar size, reduced to mere slabs by shipping containers and barges tossed ashore. Across the street (at right) is an RV resort converted into a FEMA trailer ghetto. .

. Next (and final) post in this series:
Great Leap Epilogue--the People and the Places.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Great Leap: Mississippi Calling

End of July, 2006: time to tighten up the shoestring that adjusts my right-hand headlight and head south. Here is Arkansas' Natural Bridge; its claim to fame is that it was actually used as part of a trade route plied by horse-drawn wagons. .... I asked one of the guys at Branson where I could get some good food in Memphis: ribs, perhaps, with some greens and other fixin's. "BB King's," he said, "you gotta stop there." Stop I did; it was late when I got there. It did give me some pause to pay a cover charge to get in the bar where the live band was playing (and where they served the ribs). That took me back a few years. But the ribs and greens were excellent, and the band wasn't too bad, either.


Stopped over to visit friends at Free Church of the Annunciation in New Orleans, then on to Mississippi.

While the flooded Annunciation church would someday be re-occupied, all that was left of Christ Church in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi was the steeple that formerly sat on top of the church building.

. This scene is Highway 90 approaching Pearlington, Mississippi. At the left is a red tugboat, and at the right is a blue tugboat, both stranded by Hurricane Katrina along the highway. These boats were left behind five miles from the nearest open water. .. Three major bridges along Highway 90 were wiped out. The span leading east from New Orleans across the Mississippi Sound lies in ruins still today. The next span, from Bay St. Louis to Pass Christian, was also swept away, but has recently been reopened. The photo above is the Biloxi Bay bridge as it appeared in July '06; it is currently under construction. .. These photos above and below show the state of rental housing almost one year after Katrina. Some teardown of these ruined complexes has now begun, but to-date no significant rental housing complexes have been rebuilt. Construction completed or underway today is almost exclusively pricey condominiums. .. If you were fortunate enough to own land, you could obtain a FEMA trailer and set it up on your property. Those who lived in rental housing or condo's were consigned to FEMA ghettos such as this one below, on land nobody wanted situated miles from shops and services. This one sits alongside a lonely stretch of Highway 190. ... Volunteers from God's
Katrina Kitchen fanned out into the community helping homeowners to clean up, gut out, and rebuild their ruined homes. But you didn't need to be a homeowner, and you didn't have to prove anything to anybody in order to get a smile and a meal in the red-striped dining tent. Here you could find everyone from yacht club members to long-term homeless and drifters. In the early days after the hurricane there was simply nowhere else to eat. The Kitchen served upwards of 1,000 meals per day from this tent in Pass Christian. ...
Next post: The Calling Made Sure.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Great Leap: Branson Base

On to Branson, Missouri! In July of 2006 I went to every 12-Step class they held, every AA meeting they attended, every Peace in the Storm church service, and interviewed every Church Army Branson leader that I could buttonhole. .... At left is the prayer room at head-quarters, and at right is the Hall of Fame: the pictures of those that graduated from the program... and of those that died before they could graduate.

With all these classes and meetings and interview notes under my belt I was beginning to feel like Mighty Mouse: "Here I come, to save the day!" .... But this Mighty Mouse was feeling pretty puny the day I wrecked the car. Finally I found a friend of the Army with crowbars and hammers to bend my bomb back into shape. Baling wire and shoelaces (to adjust the headlights) did the rest. ..
Branson's bit was plenty of work, work, work while staying sober, sober, sober. But it was not all work and no play: here is Brian, Ben, and Big Jeremy relaxing by the campfire on a Church-Army-sponsored campout.
Although Church Army was originally invited into Branson by the Episcopal Church, in the end it was found that men and women such as these--recovered alcoholics and addicts, rough-languaged youngsters, and tatooed smokers, were not made welcome in the church.
Eventually, they formed their own church: Peace in the Storm. .... Peace in the Storm holds a church picnic every month down by the river, and every month they baptise six to ten new Christians. .
..... On July 30, seven men and women were baptised in the river by Peace in the Storm. On the left is Brian, seen in the campout photo above. On the right is Donnie, the father of Little Jeremy, the young lad in the first two pictures taken inside Church Army headquarters.
Next time: Onward to Mississippi!