NEW ORLEANS – Closed since suffering damage during Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans LifeWay Christian Store, located on the campus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, celebrated the store’s recent reopening with a dedication ceremony May 12 attended by seminary officials and students, local officials and pastors.
By Keith Manuel
NEW ORLEANS – Closed since suffering damage during
Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans LifeWay Christian Store, located on
the campus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, celebrated the
store’s recent reopening with a dedication ceremony May 12 attended by
seminary officials and students, local officials and pastors.
“What is the significance of opening a bookstore in
New Orleans at a time like this?” asked Chuck Kelley, president of the
New Orleans seminary, during the reopening ceremony. “This store is a
reminder that Jesus is Lord and there is hope. …One of the most
important gifts Southern Baptists have given to New Orleans is hope.”
The LifeWay store, prominently located in the
student union area of the seminary, was spared from the flooding during
Katrina’s storms that caused heavy damage to most of the campus. But
because of the humidity in the building when the loss of power shut
down the air conditioning system, the entire stock of merchandise was
LifeWay’s home office in Nashville sent a special
“SWAT” team – a group of managers from other stores and visual
specialists – to restock the shelves and prepare the store for
operation in about four days.
“We came in on a Monday to train three new
employees,” assistant store manager William Jackson Jr. said.
“Typically, we have a staff of 20 to 25. We are down to a staff of five
now. The SWAT team came in on Wednesday and got the store set up with
merchandise, the systems up and running, computers, phones and Internet
and had us open Monday, May 1.”
Staff and students of the New Orleans seminary
worked hard to restore the campus to an environment that would sustain
“The campus police told me there has not been a day gone by in the past
couple of months that someone didn’t stop and ask them if LifeWay is
open,” new store manager Brantley Scott said.
The reopening of the New Orleans bookstore, which
serves most of Southeastern Louisiana, is a part of the healing process
both spiritually and emotionally for customers.
“I was here the day LifeWay opened,” local pastor
and seminary student Jay Adkins said. “The store being reopened gives
the feeling that things are a little more back to normal. You see the
green grass on campus, and then you go in the bookstore and see the
books. You get to see things that you would normally take for granted.
To be able to browse and look through the books brings a renewed sense
New Orleans City Councilperson Cynthia Hedge-Morrell
came to the reopening ceremony to thank Southern Baptists for reopening
the bookstore. “You are a beacon to this community. … I don’t
think you even understand the emotional impact this store reopening is
going to have on this community,” she said. “When your neighbors see
what you have been able to do, those who are struggling to rebuild
their homes, they are going to know their community is coming back.”
In a side conversation, Hedge-Morrell said that
Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters destroyed not only her home but also
her Bible. “I wish I had my purse,” she laughed while motioning toward
all the new merchandise during her public comments.
When Hedge-Morrell finished speaking, the ceremony
took an unexpected turn from a time of dedication to a time of
ministry. Kelley presented her with a new Holman Christian Standard
Bible to replace the one she lost in the storm and afterward he had a
special time of prayer for her.
“There are so many desperate people who walk through
our doors. You don’t know their desperation unless you open up to
them,” Jackson said. “One of our goals is customer intimacy. It’s not
always about selling something. I’ve seen people come to Christ right
“In the week we’ve been open, we’ve been able to
listen to so many stories,” Jackson continued. “People have told us
about staying through the storm, being evacuated to the Superdome, and
how God protected them.”
Bruce Munns, director of store operations for
LifeWay Christian Resources, expressed LifeWay’s commitment to helping
the New Orleans area. “Dr. Kelley, LifeWay will continue to support the
seminary and the broader evangelical community as well as the Baptists.
Although we are hundreds of miles away in Nashville, you are in our
hearts and we are looking forward to how we can serve more.”
He stated that of all the stories that will come
from the New Orleans LifeWay store, the story of the ministry that will
take place in it would be the most repeated.
“I suspect over the next few weeks, over the next
few months, and even years we are going to be hearing stories about
what is going on in this community and what is going on with the people
coming in this store. They are going to be pretty powerful. It is
exciting to be a part of this seminary,” Munns said.