Monday morning, for the first time since the hurricane, I heard from David Arceneaux, pastor of the ill-fated Gentilly Baptist Church. Perhaps no storm-related church photo has been more circulated than the interior of that lovely church, with its shredded pews and upturned furniture, the result of high, polluted, and long-lasting floodwaters. “I’m standing in front of the church waiting on the insurance adjuster,” he said. I said, “I’ll be there in an hour.”
I had a check from the Louisiana Baptist Convention to give to the Gentilly church, a part of the “adopt-a-church program.” When I arrived, the adjuster was just leaving. I heard him call to the pastor, “God bless you.” After we hugged, David said, “That man was really something. We went through the building and you could tell he was really moved. At the end, he said, ‘Pastor, I want to make a contribution to the church.’ Would you believe he wrote a personal check to the church for $2,000.”
A few hours later, David Arceneaux stood before our ministers’ banquet and related his story of riding out the storm with his family in their East New Orleans home, then fleeing to the second floor when the levees broke and the water rushed in. “I talked the family into staying,” he admitted. They were rescued by helicopter. An insurance agent himself, he said, “My job is in jeopardy. After all, I don’t have any customers. They’ve all lost their homes and can’t come back. So, the company has put a lot of us on notice.”
Around noon, I heard from Warren Jones, pastor of the New Salem Baptist Church in New Orleans, for the first time. “I’m in Grapevine, Texas,” he said. “I’ve been worshiping with the First Baptist Church over here.” I told him I had a check from the LBC for his church, as well as some cash which the Arkansas Baptist Convention sent. I could hear the smile in his voice. I stamped the envelopes and dropped them in the mail chute an hour later. Warren is coming back to start working on restoring his church. They’ve been adopted too, and a group has already been here and started on his buildings.
Monday night, the First Baptist Church of Covington, located on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain, hosted the annual Christmas Banquet for the ministers and spouses of our New Orleans association. Normally, we might draw 75 people for this. This time, we had nearly 175. “We want to do this for you,” said Pastor Waylon Bailey. But the real power behind the occasion, the one who conceived it and made it happen, was Waylon’s wife Martha. She has worked tirelessly for weeks making this banquet a reality and a blessing and an encouragement to our people. Tonight she told one story in particular that resonated with everyone present.