By Norm Miller, Baptist Message special correspondent
DERIDDER, La. (LBM)—Despite roof and water damage, Longville Baptist Church in rural DeRidder has maintained its in-reach to members and outreach to the surrounding area.
“We’re still here, ministering to people and trying to love on them,” Pastor Corey Townsley told the Baptist Message. “The church is feeding the community, providing water, and even helping to operate a mobile laundry ministry provided by North Carolina Disaster Relief.
Regarding supplies and other needs, Townsley said, “The Lord has really blessed us. But what we really need are the finances for chainsaw crews and clean up — the funding for fuel costs. We need that.”
When Hurricane Laura hit, more than 50 people gathered in the church building. “During the storm it was kind of crazy,” Townsley said. Staff as well as congregants who lived in mobile homes and others who felt unsafe in their houses also sheltered in the building.
The high winds obliterated a section of roof over Longville’s educational building and library, flooding classrooms and the church offices.
“I don’t know if the building will be a total loss,” Townsley said. “We’re waiting on the insurance adjuster’s assessment. It’ll be a big claim and a long process, I think.”
Townsley said members escaped injury, but four of five families lost their homes, adding that many of their immediate needs already have been met.
“We were already discouraged at having to stop services for a while due to COVID,” he said. “We were able to get online for worship, and had begun meeting again with momentum building back up, and then the hurricane hit us.”
Utilizing lawn chairs, more than 150 met for Sunday worship, Sept.6, in a large field on campus, Townsley said. “We’ll be doing that for a few weeks.”
Longville’s family life center survived, and that will be used for worship as soon as electricity is restored, he said. But the power company advised him that could be as much as three weeks away.
“It’s certainly been discouraging for ministry with a pandemic and the hurricane,” Townsley said. “But we believe that God is working it all out for our good.
“We hope that other churches will keep rural churches in mind in the days ahead,” he said.