The latest news from New Orleans and Cumming, Georgia

Today, Friday, the city of New Orleans celebrated two openings. The Morial Convention Center, infamous as a place of suffering of stranded citizens following Katrina’s floodings, has been repaired and is open for business. Then, Harrah’s Casino, the city’s only land-based gambling hall, sitting at the foot of Canal Street a block from the river, welcomed back nearly all its 2500 employees as it threw open its doors. The front page article in today’s Times-Picayune celebrated the “miracle” of Harrah’s contacting almost all its workers and returning them to work for the same wages as before, and this without the aid of a single FEMA trailer.

Reading of those 2500 employees, I have vivid memories of the flurry of promotion and the fury of controversy in the early 1990s over allowing casinos in New Orleans. The gambling industry promised and bumper stickers everywhere proclaimed, “25,000 new jobs!” Speak out against the casino–as many of us did–and you were accused of not wanting to help poor people out of their poverty. To this day, there are not 25,000 gambling-related jobs in the entire state. Unless you add the counselors and bankruptcy lawyers helping people deal with the consequences of their gambling.

The mayor of Kenner is in trouble. In the days following Katrina, Phil Capitano signed several large contracts for millions of dollars, mostly for debris cleanup. When city council members tried to find out the details, they were not allowed to see them. Now the U.S. attorney and a federal grand jury are involved, with both the mayor and the council members receiving subpoenas. This comes just a few weeks before the election, and yes, the mayor is up for re-election. His arch-rival, retiring police chief Nick Congemi, is running for his honor’s seat.

The special called session of the state legislature ended its meetings today. We’ve not heard of today’s doings, but yesterday they voted to consolidate our numerous fragmented and disjointed levee boards into two, one for the west bank of the Mississippi and one for the east. Governor Blanco had pushed for one board composed only of professionals, most of whom she would appoint, but settled for the two boards.

What the governor apparently did not get is the down-sizing of New Orleans city government. For decades, we have had too many judges, too many courts, seven tax assessors, and two sheriffs. With one-third the population as before, it’s high time to take an axe to this cancerous growth. Politics were on display in Baton Rouge in all their selfish ugliness, and when the legislature splintered into factions, the issue died. Some say it will be back in the next regular term. We can hope.


Everyone is relieved that President Bush is asking congress for $19 billion more in Gulf Coast hurricane relief. The governor has changed her tune and now says, “We know the president is on our side.” Some are saying there is enough money now for buy-outs of home-owners of severely-damaged houses.

Thursday, I received a fascinating e-mail, one I thought you would appreciate. Robert Jolly pastors the First Baptist Church of Cumming, Georgia, where my dear friends Winfield and Barbara (Nalley) Rich belong. Their church has had numerous work crews down this way, and they have established a relationship with the FBC of New Orleans. Here are excerpts of Pastor Jolly’s note.

“In October of 2005, I was looking at the balance of the year and trying to come up with a plan to finish strong. We were facing a $50,000 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goal (which was $6,000 more than we gave the previous year). We had agreed to adopt the FBC of New Orleans in the wake of the hurricane, but we had no money in the budget to support our efforts. Finally, 2005, to that point had been a flat year financially for the church. We were paying the bills, but watching every penny and cutting back when possible.

“I felt led to (ask) our finance committee to triple our goal to $150,000. The first $50,000 would go to the Christmas offering…and any money after that would be split 50/50 with half going to our adopt-a-church commitment and half staying here to make sure we met our budget.

“After the best finance committee meeting I have ever attended, we announced the goal to our church on the first Sunday of November. The finance committee from their own pockets gave every member a dollar in the Lottie Moon envelopes and asked (each one) to pray about it and bring the envelope back with their offering.

A third-grader took the dollar and bought materials for bracelets which she made and sold to her classmates. She brought the money in the envelope, alongwith a note for the pastor explaining what she had done and a bracelet for him. A layman sold stock worth $600 for the offering, but when the buyer found out what he was doing, he paid $1,000 for the stock. Then, a member called the pastor and offered to match every dollar given up to a total of $150,000. The final result was $335,000, and this from an original goal of $50,000.

Pastor Jolly says, “We have presented the FBC of New Orleans with a check of over $80,000 and more will follow. The church is hosting Dr. Crosby and his staff and their wives on a retreat here on Lake Lanier.”

And that’s not all.

On January 8, a team from Cumming visited New Orleans and participated in the morning services at the First Baptist Church. Pastor Jolly had sent a greeting on a DVD which was played in the New Orleans service. Meanwhile, same day, the Cumming church had a live phone interview at both morning worship services with David Crosby from FBC-NO. So, both pastors were in both churches that day. And then…

That week, a young lady named Jennifer told the Georgia pastor she had visited the church on January 8 and had been inspired by the service. She had not been going to church regularly and knew that God had spoken to her. She wanted to join the church. Then, she called her mother to tell her what she had done. Her mother…

Her mother had been in the New Orleans church that very morning herself and had seen the Cumming pastor on the screen and had been similarly touched.

It’s what we call “a God thing.”

Pastor Jolly writes, “Our theme for the next ten years is ‘A Decade of Generosity.’ ” Our motto is ‘The Church That Gives Itself Away.'” He adds, “God is helping our theme and our motto come to life.”

I’ll be sharing his letter with our pastors next Wednesday as an illustration of what can happen when a pastor leads from faith and not from fear.

2 thoughts on “The latest news from New Orleans and Cumming, Georgia

  1. .Joseph, thought you might find this bit of info interesting..I’m not looking at the article but I know enough of it to get the point across…Back in the 60’s when all the race riots were all over the South, the Boston Globe trashed Alabama in every way possible and really ran a story a day for a month when the 16th street church was bombed and killed those 4 innocent little girls. …They published an article recently about how dumb Mercedes must be to build a plant in this state where all the labor was fresh from the fields working picking cotton..The president of Mercedes sent back a steaming reply that the work force here was so good that he was thinking about planting some cotton in Germany so they could use it as a training aid to produce the high quality of workers he had found in Ala…

    …Now , next page , as Paul Harvey said…With all the recent church burnings, this is an attempt to start a racial thing and get blacks against whites going at each other like it once was..In one case, a white church was burned and 2 nights later a black church was burned in some small community down in the Southern part of the state and instead of causing a problem, the white members of the church went down to the black church which was a total loss but they pitched in and helped clean up part of the mess and hugged their brothers and prayed with them and as they had a seperate building that didn’t burn, they invited all the black people to come worship with them…Now they have decided to join together and just have one church…now this has happened again. Two more churches, one black and the other white have joined together to form one church…After bashing the state of Alabama for years, guess who published this information?…The Boston Globe…I wonder how it feels to have to eat your own hat..Thought you might find this interesting as I did..Love you Bro..Take care and I’ll see you when ever I can..little brother Chas

  2. Joe, remember Central Baptist in Tarrant? I am now retired but still working as Associate at Pelham. Thank you for your faithfulness in NOLA, I graduated in 1963, worked for Health Dept while in school, so the city has a special place in my heart. We must not let the Baptist work decline. New Orleans need Baptists! We are praying for you. Our church has been to the Gulf Coast 4 times already and will be back in July. Paul Moore