By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
Since the historic 1,000-year flood hit southern Louisiana, Leo Miller’s time has been split between two roles – pastoring First Baptist Church Denham Springs and rebuilding his own home that took in 2 feet of water.
Though he has received financial assistance from churches, the Louisiana Baptist Convention, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and North American Mission Board, Miller has completed most of the work on his house himself during his free time, mostly at night and on weekends. Sheetrock has been installed and soon he hopes to begin putting in floors, doors and cabinets.
Progress is slow, but Miller is hopeful he can move back into his house by March. First Baptist Denham Springs took in 10 feet of water and is worshiping at Denham Springs Junior High School until they move to another area of town in late 2017.
“The entire area was devastated, so it makes the resources very limited so you do what you can when you can,” Miller said. “When the opportunity presents itself, you try to do things in your personal dwelling. You just realize it’s a marathon and not a sprint.”
Indeed, Miller is not stressing about the situation but is embracing what God is teaching him through the destruction.
“Even in the midst of being displaced, God’s plans and purposes are in place,” said Miller, whose family is living with his parents in Livingston, 20 miles from the church. “I’m learning patience and dependence on God and taking day by day, learning more and more about his provision.”
For his part, Darryl Woolery has seen God’s provision since he lost nearly everything in the floods.
Three feet of water came inside his home in Holden, damaging all but a few appliances. Individuals and churches from Louisiana and throughout the U.S. came to his aid, donating labor and materials such as Sheetrock, insulation and money.
The church he pastors, Tammany Hills Baptist Church in Covington, escaped any damage.
While work continued inside his house, Woolery and his wife, Sue, stayed at another home. They are in need of labor to paint and finish installing countertops.
“Being a part of the Louisiana Baptist Convention and the association and being a brother with all these other brothers and sisters at other churches has been an overwhelming thing,” Woolery said. We’ve never experienced anything like this in our lives. I have seen how God truly meets our needs and takes care of us. I’ve preached it but this is the first time I’ve ever experienced it like this.”
Miller and Woolery are among the 50 Louisiana Baptist pastors who were displaced after homes were flooded when historic rainfall impacted southern Louisiana in mid-August. While many have rebuilt and returned to their homes, 17 of the pastors have yet to return to their homes.
Through Operation Homecoming of Louisiana Baptists, these pastors can receive help by having a church come alongside and partner with them. Together, they can help a displaced pastor return to his home.
“I want to thank our churches and associations that have partnered with displaced pastors,” said John Hebert, missions and ministry director for Louisiana Baptists. “Without their help this disaster would have been overwhelming. Through the cooperation of our Baptist partners, I hope all of our churches gain much additional respect for our cooperative efforts to meet peoples’ needs in accomplishing our goal of reaching our state for Christ.”
These pastors were included in the emphasis of Operation Homecoming and some are still not back in their homes:
- Steve Bridges, pastor, Brownsfield Baptist Church, Baton Rouge
- Oren Conner, pastor, First Baptist Church, Baton Rouge
- Johnny Robinson, associate pastor, Church of Life, Baton Rouge
- Jean Putnam, children’s minister, Church at Addis
- Kevin Stone, youth minister, Church at Addis
- Marvin Smith, minister of music, First Baptist Church, Baker
- Leo Miller, pastor, First Baptist Church, Denham Springs
- Russell Hinson, pastor, First Baptist Church, Holden
- George Guillory, pastor, Glen Oaks Baptist Church, Baton Rouge
- George Thretton, senior adult minister, Greenwell Springs Baptist Church
- Jeremy Dailey, music minister, Greenwell Springs Baptist Church
- Chris Hoyt, youth minister, Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, Independence
- Keith Zachary, New Covenant Church, Denham Springs
- Gregory Coates, Of The Way Church, Baton Rouge
- Darryl Woolery, Tammany Hills Baptist Church, Covington
- Ray Werline, Woodhaven Baptist Church, Tickfaw
For more information on how your church can partner with a pastor, contact Gibbie McMillan at 318.446.0724 or Gibbie.McMillan@louisianabaptists.org.