I’m directing traffic these days.
By Joe McKeever
BAGNO Director of Missions
Editor’s note: The following is
excerpted from Dr. McKeever’s blog. For more up-close-and-personal news
of New Orleans, see www.joemckeever.com. It’s updated sometimes
I’m directing traffic these days.
“Can you tell me how to arrange for housing for our
group that will be coming to work in New Orleans?” I put them in touch
with Operation NOAH Rebuild, which is about to open space for 500
people nightly at the World Trade Center in downtown New Orleans. No
more sleeping on the hard floors of fellowship halls, or worse, in
tents on an Algiers playground.
“We have some money to help a church have a vacation
Bible school.” I directed the caller to Jennifer Smith, our VBS
director and wife of the pastor of Highland Baptist Church in Metairie.
If anyone knows a church needing that assistance, she will.
A check arrived in the mail yesterday, about 600
dollars. The note said, “To help some damaged church.” We deposited the
check and wrote another just like it to Port Sulphur Baptist Church
where Pastor Rodrigue is working out of a tent, giving groceries to 500
families a day, and trying to rebuild a ministry in the most devastated
area of Louisiana.
A pastor called. “I’m still working on my
application for the Bush-Clinton Katrina money and need some help.” I
invited him to come over to the associational office. That’s why we’re
Attendance was in the 50s for the 10 a.m. meeting
June 28 at Oak Park Baptist Church in New Orleans. Dr. Bill Taylor,
retired from Sunday School leadership for Lifeway, was on hand to talk
about bringing scores of ministers of education to New Orleans in 2007.
“I’m still haunted by something one of you said the
last time I was here,” he said. “People make promises to help us, then
forget us. They agree to partner with us, then don’t answer the phone
when we call.”
As a result, Bill said, he was determined to be a
man of his word and not make empty promises. “I’m glad to see that NAMB
is staying true to New Orleans.”
One of his numerous ideas is to see if churches
across America will employ our seminary students to work in our
churches in rebuilding, instead of having to take secular jobs.
Tobey Pitman, project coordinator for Operation NOAH
Rebuild, at my request gave more information about the Volunteer
Village being established on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th floors of the World
Trade Center downtown.
“I’m so excited about this,” he said. “We will be
able to house 500 volunteers in comfortable surroundings. Just
think–they’ve been working all day and get to come back to town at
night. Everything is complete downtown. they’ll be seeing
both sides of our city, the needy side and the normal side. They can
ride the best free ride in the city, the ferry across the river. The
great restaurants are right there, shopping, a theater.”
What will the volunteers pay to stay at the
Volunteer Village? “It will cost 20 dollars a night.
That covers 3 meals, parking, badges, and accident insurance.” He
added, “We got a great deal on this. Normally, accommodations this
large – it’s 60,000 square feet – would cost $8,000 a month. We are
getting it for a fraction of that.”
Where do you call to make reservations for your
group? “Call the Project NOAH number – 504/362-4604. And because we
have so much space, we think we’ll be able to take care of non-Baptist
groups also. Although, we’ll always give preference to faith-based
I told him someone had mentioned to me some teams
coming from Cooperative Baptist Fellowship churches and needing a place
to stay. When I said the Volunteer Village would be open to them, he
doubted it. Tobey Pitman affirmed that they will be welcomed.
“We need staffers,” he said, “Volunteers and
coordinators for the kitchen. The kitchen at the World Trade Center has
not been used in several years. We’re getting it in shape now.”
Tobey ended with a request. “Pray for these workers
who come and stay. They’re not from here, but God puts it on their
hearts. People like Steve and Diane Gahagan. Joe and Linda Williams.
Imagine leaving your comfortable home for a two year commitment in New
Orleans. It’s tough. But they’re doing it. Pray for them.”
Steve Gahagan, construction coordinator for NOAH,
said, “Get this. Next week we have 4 groups coming in to rebuild homes.
15 gut out crews. 10 painting crews. And 175 people with World Changers
coming to work with Habitat in building the homes in Baptist
Steve said, “Our biggest need right now is for
licensed electricians. St. Bernard Parish has given us the right – and
no one else – to use out of state licensed electricians. This is a
major step forward. Most homeowners do not have the money to afford the
local ones or the time to wait until they get to them. So we’re able to
step in and wire the house for them.”
NOAH has a lot of electrical work to do, Steve said.
Lots of sheetrock hanging, lots of painting. “We work with anyone in
town.” He’s still taking gut-out applications, he said, but “we don’t
know how much longer.”
Steve added, “I’m praying for volunteers, people who
are still thinking about coming to help us. They’ve not made the
commitment yet. I’m praying for these.”
Mark Robinson is the new director of student work
for the Louisiana Baptist Convention, having come from the University
of Louisiana at Monroe. We introduced him and he asked the ministers
and laymen to let him know their ideas and suggestions on local
I presented David Crosby, pastor at First Baptist
Church of New Orleans, with a tongue-in-cheek line: “David doesn’t
actually do anything. He just thinks up jobs for other people!”
Some of those who work with him closely and love him dearly laughed the biggest. He is indeed a visionary.
Take a look at the hundreds working all summer
building those 40 houses in the Crossroads. That was his vision.
“There are billions of dollars in ‘stuff’ out
there,” David said, “and thousands willing to come help us. The church
must be the premier broker of volunteer goods and people for God’s
“Never again in your lifetime will you have so much
resource available to you as right now,” he said to the New
He added, “Some of you have said you worry about
another disaster occurring and distracting the country. I’m not
worried. They won’t forget us. They love to come to New Orleans. They
did before the hurricane and they do now. Only by using them poorly
will we lose them in the future. We have a tremendous stewardship of
“Let’s be ready for these teams when they come to
our community and our churches to help us. Get prepared. Put them to
work. They want to make a difference. They want to go back home
exhausted, feeling that God used them here, that they have done a
significant work for Jesus in this city.
“I told HGTV ‘God’s people are building this city.’
Just look around. There are no atheist groups out here gutting out
these houses or hanging sheetrock or putting up new houses in the 9th
Ward. These are Christian groups. Look at their t-shirts. See them in
the restaurants. You can’t miss them – they’re the ones bowing their
heads praying over their catfish po-boys. These Christian visitors have
kept some of these restaurants in business. Christians are fueling the
economy as well as the rebuild.”
David ended, “We need to pray deliberately for our
city. I drive through the various neighborhoods and pray for what it
will become, for whoever is going to move back in.”