Hundreds of Louisiana Baptist volunteers are expected to be part of the largest Southern Baptist Disaster Relief operation ever as they serve in the hurricane-ravaged areas of the Gulf Coast.
By Brian Blackwell
Hundreds of Louisiana Baptist volunteers are
expected to be part of the largest Southern Baptist Disaster Relief
operation ever as they serve in the hurricane-ravaged areas of the Gulf
“Hurricane Katrina has devastated the Gulf Coast in
Louisiana, and our neighboring states of Mississippi, Alabama and
Florida have been turned upside down with no sign of a return to
normalcy in the near future,” said David Hankins, Louisiana Baptist
Convention executive director.
Hankins urged all Louisiana Baptists to pray for the
victims, relief workers and others affected by the killer storm.
Furthermore, he added that God still is in control.
“May we as his people come together with one voice
and lift up all those involved in this disaster so that people not only
receive the physical help needed but also the spiritual help and
healing that has an eternal impact on their lives,” Hankins emphasized.
State officials estimate that it may take months for
the affected areas in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to begin to
return to normalcy. Therefore, SBC Disaster Relief teams have been
asked to serve more than 500,000 meals per day in the affected states
during the next three months.
At press time, 16 units from Louisiana had been
activated to minister in the state. The units can serve up to 20,000
meals a day, said Loy Seal, LBC director of disaster relief.
Hurricane Katrina made landfall near Buras on Aug.
29 at 6:10 a.m., with maximum sustained winds of 145 mph. The
Category 4 storm wreaked havoc on the Gulf region, including southeast
As the storm hit the coast, Seal said he and other
disaster relief leaders were praying for the best while preparing for
the worst. “This is the worst I’ve ever seen,” Seal said. “When I lived
in New Orleans, we always dreaded the hurricane that would come up the
LBC President Philip Robertson agreed.
“Even with all of the pictures and media coverage of
the aftermath of this storm, I do not think anyone can fully grasp the
score of this disaster if you are not living it,” he noted. “We have
over 300 Southern Baptist churches, pastors, staff and congregations in
Louisiana alone with tremendous needs, including some who have nothing
Robertson issued an urgent appeal for Southern Baptists to give to aid Louisiana Baptist relief effort.
In order to establish communication among Louisiana
Baptists, the Louisiana Baptist Convention headquarters in Alexandria
created a command center on Aug. 29. Since the center opened,
volunteers have been inundated with hundreds of phone calls and e-mails
Louisiana Baptists wanting to contact the Louisiana
Baptist Convention center should call (877) 487-4658 or e-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org. The hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Monday through Friday.
Contributions to relief efforts can be made to the
state convention by visiting www.lbc.org, calling the command center
phone line or sending gifts designated “Katrina Disaster Relief” to:
Louisiana Baptist Convention, P.O. Box 311, Alexandria, LA 71309. One
hundred percent of the funds received will be used for disaster relief
While state officials last week reported that 80
percent of New Orleans was underwater, area Director of Missions Joe
McKeever said he could only guess which churches survived. As of Sept.
1, his staff was unable to reach any of the 60 churches and missions in
the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans due to a lack of phone
“Whatever it is, we’ll pick up the pieces and go
forward,” McKeever said. “The main thing is we’re trying to establish
communication with churches that are scattered around the country. We
figure that for a long time churches will be fighting for survival.”
The Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans had
planned a project to construct 40 houses in New Orleans’ lower Ninth
Ward district next year. But since that area sustained significant
damage, McKeever said he feels volunteers now will help rebuild
thousands of homes there.
He added that his job duties next year primarily
will deal with disaster relief efforts. “Throughout the Bible, we find
that God uses catastrophes,” he said. “We’re praying that the Lord will
use this in a mighty way in people’s lives. We could even see a
tremendous revival in the city of New Orleans.”
Among the churches submerged by Katrina’s waters was
Celebration Church in Metairie. Pastor Dennis Watson says his first
reaction was sorrow for his 2,500 members whose homes may have been
destroyed by the hurricane.
However, Watson said his church eventually will
recover. He added his belief that God will use this crisis to bring the
city of New Orleans together.
“To turn the tide and recover will take something
supernatural,” Watson said. “He uses natural disasters like this to
bring people to his kingdom.”
Watson said he believes America will rally around
New Orleans just as it supported New York City after the Sept. 11,
2001, World Trade Center terrorist attacks. “Oftentimes, tragedy brings
people together,” he said. “Christians in unaffected areas of the state
and nation have already shown their love and support for us by offering
to help in so many ways.”
Celebration Church has set up temporary offices at
East Bayou Baptist Church in Lafayette while it regroups and reassesses
damage to its campus in Metairie. Watson said members soon will be able
to check the church’s Web site www.celebrationchurch.org for updates.
Meanwhile, members at First Baptist Church of New
Orleans are communicating with each another through an Internet Web
log, reported Inman Houston, the church’s minister of singles and
Available staff and church members were planning to meet in Tallulah late last week to discuss the future.
“Let’s pray like we have never prayed before,”
pastor David Crosby said in a message on the church’s Web site at
www.fbcno.org. “Let’s move beyond anger and confusion to trust and
confidence in God’s appointed future.
“Keep me in your prayers as I am seeking to give
guidance to a church that is scattered and a church staff that is now
in five different states,” he continued.
“We are planning to pull together for a time of prayer and seeking the face of God.”
Minister of preschoolers Stacy Holman acknowledged
it is a reality shock when people knock on the door, offering help.
“Now, we’re the ones on the receiving end instead of the ones
ministering,” he explained. “The Lord can use this (crisis) in a
magnificent way, but it will take some time for everyone to heal.”
Meanwhile, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
has relocated its offices to Decatur, Ga., while it reassesses damage
to its campus in Louisiana.
Kelley said the seminary will hold a December
graduation and is hopeful for a full operational return to its main
campus in New Orleans in August 2006, with some activities held there
as early as January 2006 perhaps.
“New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is here to
stay, and we are getting back to work,” Seminary President Chuck Kelley
said. “We will have a semester.”
High winds leveled trees on campus, and the campus flooded after a New Orleans levee broke.
Seminary building contractor Mike Moskau said repair
work could begin when waters recede. He also said he believes an August
2006 launch date is possible.
Despite the destruction, Kelley said the institution
will allow students to continue taking classes in a number of ways.
Those options include extension centers, Internet courses and 10 weeks
of reformatted classes using Internet discussions. All scheduled Oct.
17 workshop courses now will be held at the Georgia campus.
By mid-week after the storm devastated Louisiana,
churches and organizations throughout the state had begun ministering
to the refugees.
At Marksville Baptist Church in central Louisiana,
the congregation transformed its baptismal pool into a makeshift
shower. Eighty-two refugees – mostly from the greater New Orleans area
– took shelter in the church’s fellowship hall when it opened its doors
on Aug. 29.
Pastor Dennis Hackler said his church members placed
Styrofoam blocks in front of the baptistry windows to ensure more
privacy for the refugees.
“This was kind of an ingenious idea,” Hackler said,
joking. “We may patent it. The idea wasn’t mine but was from my people.
That is what has made me so proud.”
The Marksville church was not the only one to open
its doors. Louisiana Baptist churches elsewhere were doing the same –
in Florien, Hornbeck, Pineville and Mansfield, just to name a few
In Monroe, the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home opened its doors to children displaced by the hurricane.
“Members from First Baptist Church of New Orleans
brought us three boys from the city whose parents requested (church
members) take their children while they remained behind,” children’s
home Executive Director Perry Hancock. “All they had on were the
clothes on their backs.”
The children’s home expected to house 30 more displaced children in the coming days.
The children are housed in the campus’ cottages and
will receive food, medical care and shelter, Hancock said. The Monroe
Public School System is allowing the displaced children to enroll for
the school year.
Hancock said the children’s home can accommodate up
to 30 children and has made arrangements with homes in Texas and
Tennessee to handle others.
“This is truly just the beginning,” he said. “We don’t know how many children are going to be orphans.”
In addition to providing life essentials to
displaced families in Monroe, Hancock said the home also has allowed
displaced families to use campus efficiency apartments that normally
are reserved for guests. Those apartments now are full of families from
Louisiana and Mississippi.
Further south, about 450 persons found refuge at Dry
Creek Baptist Camp in Dry Creek. The camp provided three meals a day,
medical care and even recreation.
“Basically we’re running camp,” said Curt Iles, Dry
Creek camp director. “Jesus told us that if you’ve done it to the least
of these, you’ve done it unto me. These people may have lost
everything, and they need to be ministered to.”
Iles said nearby churches have contributed clothes,
baby supplies and food for the evacuees. He added that the camp will
remain open as a shelter as long as needed.
Since there is a great amount of destruction in
south Louisiana as a result of the storm, Seal said volunteers will
work there for “as long as it takes.”
Groups will be needed to assist with “mud-outs,”
which will clear mud and debris in certain areas. Those wishing to
volunteer should contact the Louisiana Baptist Convention command
center in Alexandria.
Also, equipment is needed for the mud-out teams to use. Those needs include:
• Gas-powered pressure washers
• 50-ft. heavy duty water hoses
• Gas-powered water pumps
• Inexpensive sump pumps
• Heavy duty wet-and-dry shop vacuums
• Tool boxes with basic tools
• Wrecking bars (crow and pry bars) of various lengths
• Reciprocating saws with spare blades
• Large scoop shovels
• Square shovels
• Six-foot step ladders
• Rubber gloves and boots
• Garden sprayers
• Five-gallon buckets