One of our pastors is speaking at the Louisiana Baptist Evangelism Conference next week in LaFayette and asked some of us to funnel our favorite Katrina stories to him. Presumably, he’ll pick a couple that fit his sermon best and share with the folks at the meeting.
I told him the story of a Shepherd named David. No, not the one in the Scriptures. David Rodriguez, pastor of the Horeb Baptist Church in Gretna. Great guy. He’s Hispanic, but speaks English better than I do, and is married to Ninfa, one of our associational secretaries.
When word circulated on Saturday, August 27, that Katrina was taking dead-aim at New Orleans, David and Ninfa Rodriguez decided to do something bold and even daring. They contacted almost every member of their church and invited them to evacuate together.
At this point, they needed to find a camp or assembly somewhere that could accommodate their crowd. With the assistance of Freddie Arnold in our office, they tried the various Baptist camps around the state and finally contacted Curt Iles at the Dry Creek Assembly in western Louisiana. “Come on,” he said, “we’ll be glad to take every one of you.”
When they pulled out of New Orleans Sunday morning around three o’clock, there were 150 in their caravan. They arrived at Dry Creek around eleven and settled in.
Rather than sit around and wring their hands, worrying about the damage the storm was doing back at home, this group looked around the encampment and saw work they could do. They rolled up their sleeves and began cutting grass, painting, cleaning up, anything that would help. As Katrina roared through New Orleans and then the breached levees flooded the city, the group was forced to stay put. Church folks gave them clothing and gift cards to local stores. They held worship services every day in the chapel at the camp. Three members of the group were saved during this period.
Then, when Hurricane Rita hit the western part of the state, the Dry Creek Camp was affected. Power out, trees down, roofs damaged. After a conference with the leaders, it was decided that the best thing the New Orleans evacuees could do was to clear out and go home. They did, all 150 of them, 22 days after they had arrived.
I have not asked David how many of his people lost their homes or had great damage. The church is in Gretna, made infamous by the police manning the interstate, refusing to let people flee the devastated New Orleans and enter Gretna. A lawsuit is pending against the mayor and police department at this moment. Gretna had the typical hurricane damage–wind and rain–but no flooding.
Since their return home at the end of September, thirty-two in all have been saved. This is a church that baptizes perhaps 15 in a normal year.
Prior to Katrina, Horeb Baptist Church was running 150 or so on Sunday. Last Sunday, they had 215, and are beginning a second worship service soon.
A shepherd watches over his sheep. They may have their heads down grazing, but he sees the storm approaching. He gathers them together and herds them to safety. He watches over them, helping to birth the little ones, sees that they are taken care of, and eventually brings them all back home.
David is a shepherd worthy of the name.
“The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou anointest my head with oil. My cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” –Psalm 27