NEW ORLEANS (BP) – Forget basketball. Check
out “march madness” in New Orleans
where record numbers of Southern Baptist volunteers from across the nation are
rebuilding flooded homes.
Volunteers from California to Georgia
and as far north as Alaska
were part of the most productive month so far. Baptist College Ministries
students from New York, Pennsylvania,
Colorado, and Maryland and other states were part of the
“In terms of
man-hours of labor, our volunteers produced the equivalent of well over a half
million dollars’ worth of work” in March, said Steve Gahagan, NOAH construction
manager. “It was an incredibly productive month.”
College and high
school students on spring break were a large part of the 5,000-plus volunteers
working with Operation N.O.A.H. (New Orleans Area Homes) Rebuild – a North
American Mission Board partnership with Louisiana Baptists, as well as with
Arkansas Baptist Builders and Baptist Crossroads, an initiative of First
Baptist Church of New Orleans. Volunteers ranged in age and background.
hung more than 1,500 sheets of sheetrock in March and worked on a record number
of roofing, electrical and plumbing rough-in jobs, Gahagan said.
manager Dianne Gahagan reported that the ministry managed nearly 2,400 of the
5,000 volunteers in March, more than twice the number for February.
The 301 work
orders the teams completed represent 116 New
Orleans homes, seven churches, two ministry centers
and five homes of local pastors. Many volunteers have served multiple times in New Orleans.
and M.I.T. were here, too,” said Jackie James, project coordinator for the
Arkansas Baptist Builders’ New Orleans
project in tandem with the Kansas/Nebraska Builders. “Many of the non-Christian
students said this was the most amazing trip they had ever been on.”
James said his
organization, which normally focuses on rebuilding, took on atypical work
orders to make full use of approximately 1,000 volunteers managed through the
two-state partnership. The group has mobilized more than 2,500 volunteers this
year, nearly twice their total for all of last year.
“For this month,
anything the homeowner needed done, we did – mowing and yard work, gutting,
roofing, drywall, electrical – anything,” James said. “We gutted more homes in
the last two weeks than we did in all of 2006.”
Kansas/Nebraska Builders provide the electrical expertise for the partnership,
with teams coming monthly since the operation began in 2006. Lead electrician
Elijah (Touch) Touchstone from Trinity Baptist Church in Pittsburg, Kan., said
they brought 15 teams with a total of 154 workers and all the supplies they
needed -– including 40 ladders.
“I borrowed from
everyone I could,” Touchstone said. “I told folks that if they didn’t have a 6-foot
fiberglass ladder to go buy one and let me borrow it for the week.”
known as the “disaster pastor” of First
in New Orleans,
said the 1,600 volunteers in their charge were 10 times the number of
volunteers in February. First Baptist’s volunteers gutted homes, mowed and
cleaned yards, parks and street medians around the city.
that 900 of the volunteers – including students from Rice, Liberty,
Texas A & M, University
of Georgia and a church team from Anchorage, Alaska
— were part of Baptist Crossroads, a five-year partnership of FBCNO with
Habitat for Humanity to build 60 new homes per year. Thirty homes already have
been completed in the project.
The Anchorage team was on their second spring break trip to New Orleans to work with
First Baptist. Michael DuPree, student minister at Rabbit Creek Community
Church (SBC), led the team of five.
“Sure, it would
have been easier to just send money, but by coming here we show we care and,
more importantly, we teach our students the importance of missions,” DuPree
said. “They learn to go and do the same.”
The logistics of
handling the spike in numbers required extra supplies, planning and long days.
Scruggs said that although the month meant long hours of work, “many lives were
James said the
renovations needed to handle 350 volunteers per week at the Arkansas
compound – headquartered at New
Orleans’ Gentilly Baptist Church – were completed just
days before the largest groups arrived. Extra volunteer staff, extra supplies
and a disaster shower unit also were brought in.
conventions – Oklahoma, Kentucky,
Alabama, Baptist General Association of
Virginia, the Southern Baptist Convention of Texas and the Baptist General
Convention of Texas
– have partnered with Louisiana Baptists by adopting a section of the city to
rebuild, also experienced a high volume of volunteers. Numbers from those
groups were not immediately available.
Is March expected
to be the “prequel” to the summer months?
Students made the
numbers exceptionally high in March, but all three organizations said the
summer is shaping up to be equally busy. James and Gahagan said that certain
weeks in the summer are already filling up. Scruggs said that all college break
times – fall break and Christmas – are busy, but second to the high volume of
“We are so
appreciative of the tremendous numbers of young people, both high school and
college, that have spent their spring breaks gutting homes, mowing, rebuilding
homes and building Kingdom relationships,” said Freddie Arnold, church planter
and association missionary for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans.
“We from BAGNO and the Louisiana Baptist Convention express our deep gratitude