We Had Faith and Love. Then Hope Appeared.

“Like drinking from a fire hydrant” best summarizes our pastors’ meeting this Wednesday morning at Good Shepherd Baptist Church of Metairie. The program was so jam-packed, some of it took place in the dining hall in the middle of our meal.

We promoted the October 30 Fall meeting of the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans–our first meeting since Katrina–which will be held at Ames Boulevard Baptist Church of Marrero at 7 pm. This one will not be business as usual but will feature several representatives of state Baptist conventions around the country that have been so present and so helpful since the Katrina event. We will have a feature about Operation NOAH Rebuild and the 27 Zone Ministry in which state conventions or associations adopt a portion of this city for ministry and evangelism. The administrative committee asked me to bring a short “Bible treasure” to close out that meeting. (Please help us get the word out. Everyone is invited. This is NOT just for ministers and professional clergy. This meeting is for the laypeople. Everybody!)

We promoted “The Best Library Conference in America” to be held November 3-4 at FBC of Marrero. Hope Ferguson, the instigator/brains/organizer/spirit behind this event, arrived from Natchitoches in time to address everyone in the middle of lunch. She passed around a signup sheet asking pastors how many people they’re planning to bring. (I’m suggesting every church bring 6 people.)

Hope has 25 conference leaders coming from 6 states to lead this event, and we’re going to do everything we can to get our people there. It kicks off on Friday evening, November 3, at 5 pm with registration, then supper at 5:30 pm. Then the meeting gets underway with a full schedule. Next morning, Saturday, they’re serving breakfast at 8 am and going forward with a full day’s events.

“You are getting two meals and two snacks and a lot of door prizes and special gifts,” Hope said, “and it won’t cost you a dime!” What a bargain. I’m doing everything I know how to convince our church leaders that now is the time and this is the place to either get your library jump started or to put new life and vision into your old library. Anyone coming needs only to call our associational office to let us know. 504/282-1428. (You do NOT have to be local; in fact, you do not even have to be Baptist!)

Freddie Arnold announced that the Red Cross is offering $1,000 for treatment to locals with mental health problems as a result of the hurricane and the stresses that followed. We joshed back and forth a little on how we all qualify, that we all have mental problems these days! For information on these grants to pay for heath care, go to the website: www.a2care.org.

Freddie told about Mission for Christ Ministries from Texas, a faith-based organization which is providing a free prescription card for each church. Their website is www.MissionforChrist.com, or you may call 281/645-6132.

“LBC Live” is the monthly newsmagazine from our state denominational office. The latest issue features three of our BAGNO wives–Elaine Arnold (wife of Freddie), Mae Gregoire (wife of Paul, pastor of St. Bernard Church), and April Walley (wife of Jared of Global Maritime Ministries). These wonderful ladies are only three of a large number of terrific spouses of our guys, and we treasure them so much. The article was written by Marilyn Stewart, wife of Professor Bob at NOBTS.

Joe Williams, our FBI/NAMB chaplain and wife Linda, are working with congregations on “Coping with Life’s Losses.” Topics they cover include mental fatigue indicators and pathways to resolution and resiliency.

James “Boogie” Melerine of Delacroix Hope said, “It’s hard to say this, but I wish the Saints would start losing.” He added, “Once the Saints started winning, nobody is coming to church.” His attendance has dropped from 70 to 50. (We suggested that he might want to move his services back to 10 o’clock or even earlier, but he was not particularly impressed with the idea.) The Philadelphia Eagles may answer Boogie’s prayer next Sunday.

Dr. Asa Sphar (“The ‘h’ is silent; it’s pronounced Spar”) is professor and director of Clinical Training and Psychology and Counseling at the seminary and head of Counseling Services of New Orleans. He and colleague Courtnery Putnam spoke to the ministers today and made themselves available to help anyone needing this kind of therapy. A grant has been given to First Baptist Church of New Orleans so that anyone coming through that church office may receive the first several sessions at no cost. They’re located on the west bank.

Charlie and Suzanne Grigsby have a ministry called “Shepherds’ Haven of Rest” which provides retreats for ministers, missionaries, church staffs, and spouses. These last 4 to 5 days at a time and are at no cost. (Aren’t those lovely words?) The retreats are low-key, non-structured, relaxing events and are located in some of America’s most beautiful settings. “We’re not trying to teach you anything; we just want to help you.” You can sleep late and go to bed whenever you wish. “The one thing we ask is that all couples eat the evening meal together around 6 o’clock.” They may be contacted at 901/867-3843 or e-mailed at info@shorministries.org.

I noticed from the SHOR brochure that Dr. Gray and Mrs. Voncille Allison are associated with the retreat ministry. Dr. Allison founded the Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis and is one of God’s great souls. He was a professor at NOBTS in the 60s when I was a student and his evangelism classes were so popular you had to know someone to get in.

Peggy Colbert of NAMB was here today with her daughter Chris and grandchildren Bailey and Austin. Peggy’s primary responsibility is with The Bridge, an arm of NAMB which “connects volunteers with mission opportunities.” Log on to www.thebridge.namb.net or email her at volunteers@namb.net. The Bridge is a web-based information system for short-term volunteers. Any SBC church or association or ministry needing helpers & workers may post their information there and pick up a lot of great help.

Bill Day, pastor of Parkview and professor of evangelism at NOBTS, continues his study on churches of the five parishes most affected by Katrina. Forty percent of the churches in operation before the hurricane are out of business. In the worst-affected areas, it’s 60 percent. To get more information, Bill is mailing a survey to churches this week. He urges pastors to complete the questionnaire and get it back to him.

Kevy Rojas of Guidestone (formerly the SBC Annuity Board, Fort Worth) urged pastors and other ministers to talk to him about getting invested in their retirement through Guidestone. In the SBC we have nearly 7500 churches that are Hispanic and Asian, the area of his assignment.

The climax of our meeting today was Rudy French’s message. (I posted notes on this site which I took from his sermon last Sunday at FBC Norco, and asked him to bring the sermon to our Wednesday group. I’ll not repeat it here.)

“If you had told me a year ago that I would be addressing the pastors of New Orleans, I would not have believed it. But God can do anything He pleases,” he said.

At the conclusion of his message, we ended on our knees for a prayer time.

NOTE: We will meet at Good Shepherd (El Buen Pastor Iglesia Bautista) at 5033 Wabash, Metairie, for the remaining two Wednesdays of October, then at the New Orleans Chinese Baptist Church in Kenner for November 1, 8, and 15, before taking our Thanksgiving break.