Recovery volunteers return to Mississippi Coast for wedding

Published 9:15 pm Monday, December 31, 2007

Sarah Collins and Nathan Milan built more than homes during their time as Hurricane Katrina recovery volunteers in 2006. They also built a relationship that led to their return to the Mississippi Gulf Coast for a weekend wedding.

The 23-year-olds were married Saturday after returning to Camp Biloxi, where they first met as recovery volunteers following the August 2005, hurricane.

Parts of the Lutheran service were traditional — the chapel, the candles, the flowing white wedding gown — but other elements were very unconventional.

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For one thing, the wedding party spent time last week volunteering to help with Katrina recovery.

“Everyone who came, who was in the wedding party — the best man, the groomsmen, parents and grandparents — are out volunteering,” Milan said. “We wanted everyone to get the experience of Mississippi.”

The two first came to the coast from different areas of Michigan, a state where Lutherans of the Missouri Synod have adopted Biloxi’s Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, which hosts Camp Biloxi.

They came as recovery volunteers on spring break from college in 2006, stayed in touch when they returned home and fell in love.

“We have similar backgrounds,” Collins said in an article at

Similar families, similar values and a similar mission — to travel and do volunteer work.

Church officials said Collins and Milan were among 15,000 volunteers who have come through Camp Biloxi in the past two years to help families in Harrison County rebuild their lives.

The Rev. Eric Hollar, Good Shepherd’s pastor, pointed out that the two had traveled “thousands of miles to help others. They have a unique love founded on an even more unique story.”

Collins, who has made four trips to the Mississippi coast and one to Louisiana, said volunteering makes friendships closer and brings new people into her life. She has served as assistant camp manager and plans to return.

Milan joined the Air Force after they met and is stationed in Columbus.

Christel Elde, the maid of honor, said the wedding at the volunteer camp seemed natural.

“It fits them very well,” Elde said. “I can’t imagine it any other way.”