Now we know how our Alabama friends felt when Katrina hit them a glancing blow and our Texas friends felt a few days later when Rita touched the corner of their state: it was more than a near miss, but nothing like “in the bulls-eye.”
With back-to-back hurricanes–Gustav and Ike–over the last two weeks, and with them hitting near here but not exactly here, we had some damage but nothing what like our friends went through.
Since so many friends of New Orleans living elsewhere read this blog, here is the report on local church damage as fully as I have it.
Down in Plaquemines Parish, the Port Sulphur Baptist Church came through fine. This surprised us since–check your atlas–this whole area is a tiny strip of land between the Mississippi River on the east and the wetlands on the west. Port Sulphur became something of an island, with high water covering the roads above and below. Pastor Lynn Rodriguez had one request: as soon as you can get in here, send us supplies (toilet tissue, cleaning supplies, etc) which we can distribute to our neighbors.
This church served as a lifeline for thousands of people following Katrina, and God gave them an incredible ministry.
In Jefferson Parish, down in the little town of Jean Lafitte, our Barataria Baptist Church became an island, but because it’s built up, did not take water inside the buildings. Pastor Eddie Painter said, “Four more inches would have done it.” Next door, the parsonage did not come through so well. “We took 8 inches inside the house,” Eddie said. Everything inside is a loss.
A mile downriver, the youth minister’s home took 2 to 3 feet of water inside.
Eddie and his family–they have two teenage daughters–evacuated to Meridian, Mississippi, but hope to get back in time to hold services this Sunday.
In Metairie, we have reported how Memorial Baptist Church lost the roof above their sanctuary which resulted in massive damage of everything inside as well as their church offices, located in the same building. Pastor Jackie Gestes reported this week that the insurance company is in deep deliberation with the contractors on how that roof was constructed, for it to have failed two months after being finished.
I asked Jackie how the congregation is responding, since they are once again meeting in the fellowship hall, sitting in folding chairs, etc., the way they did for some three years following Katrina. “They’re doing great,” he said. “They mainly are worrying about me.”
I guess so. Jackie and Joani came to this church with their two teenage sons after Katrina and had to bear the brunt of all the negotiations and headaches with insurance companies and building contractors. No fun. Now this.
In Kenner, Williams Boulevard Baptist Church lost the roof over much of their educational building. “It was a tin roof,” Pastor John Faull said, “and the wind just peeled it back.” Water poured in and ruined everything it hit.
John reported that David Maxwell and the good folks from NAMB’s Operation NOAH were on the spot a day or two later and have gutted out much of the building. “They’d have gutted out the entire thing except we’re using some of the rooms to store equipment we’re trying to salvage.”
That church too is facing insurance headaches. Is the educational building a part of the sanctuary building or are they separate? The answer to that simple question makes a difference in over $100,000 of deductibility.
I want to say a word about pastors.
Pastors love to do people-ministry and despise having to fool with building repairs. Meeting with committees and contractors and advisors and working out details on deductions and liabilities–they’d rather have an appendectomy! Yet, this is the very position these pastors–Eddie and Lynn, Jackie and John–are now in. We’ll appreciate your prayers for them and for their families.
It’s tough on a family when preacher Dad and husband is stressed out dealing with these matters. Then, the family goes to church and they walk through hallways that have been gutted, stepping on sheets of plywood, and crowding into a classroom half-filled with building supplies or salvaged equipment.
A big healthy church in Meridian or Tuscaloosa or Little Rock comes calling, seeking a pastor. It’s tempting. How nice it would be to drive to the office through a lovely neighborhood where no limbs are piled alongside the street and no blue tarps cover damaged roofs. No stores are closing at 6 o’clock because of power shortages and no intersections are without traffic signals. Normalcy has its attractions.
Pray for our pastors please. And that goes doubly for the pastors west of here in Lafourche and Terrebonne Parishes and Joe Arnold, my counterpart, their director of missions. And triply for the pastors and leaders of churches in the Texas Gulf Coast, especially around Galveston.
Pastors have to keep reminding themselves that God did not promise us the way would be smooth and that storms would always touch down in other places.
He promised to be with us and to use us for His glory.
He will keep that promise. Be faithful, pastor.