New Orleans and the Gulf Coast

Today, District Attorney Eddie Jordan announced that the grand jury found insufficient reasons to charge Dr. Anna Pou with murder in the deaths of four patients at Memorial Baptist Hospital in the days following Katrina. Dr. Pou spoke to the media, expressing her relief. DA Jordan expressed his confidence that this is the right decision. Attorney General Foti called his own conference in Baton Rouge to express his disbelief and said Jordan never called all the witnesses his office had recommended.

A collective sigh of relief went up from the community. None but a few insiders know beyond any doubt what happened at Memorial, but almost everyone is ready to put this business behind us. I say “almost,” because there are the family members of the deceased and then there are the members of Mr. Foti’s staff. Everyone else, though, has had enough.

It’s not over though. Dr. Pou has two lawsuits in progress, one against the State of Louisiana and one against the AG’s office. And I believe the family members of the deceased have their own lawsuits.

The one-day-of-the-month when everyone involved in the Unlimited Partnerships gathers for a day long meeting in the Leavell Center of our seminary was Monday. I audited the morning part of the meeting and took notes, but in reading the report from our leader, Dr. Bill Taylor, decided just to let you read some of what he had to say.


(To recap, Unlimited Partnerships is 7 seminary students, sponsored by seven outstanding churches or associations across the country, working with 7 of our New Orleans area churches in education, discipleship, and evangelism, in partnership with the seminary, our association, the state convention, and even NAMB. The one-Monday-a-month gathering is attended by the students, the 7 pastors, several special guests whom Bill Taylor invites each month, a professor or two, and Freddie Arnold and myself. Monday’s guests were Bill’s son Dr. Brent Taylor who pastors the FBC of Carrollton, Texas; Dr. Ashley Clayton of the SBC Executive Committee; Pastor Mike Fritscher, New Orleans native and leader of an outstanding church in Dublin, Texas; and Dr. Joe Privott, a businessman from St. Louis.)

Bill was impressed by some of the students’ reports of their work. Here’s a sample….

Bethany Hales (working with New Covenant of Harvey) conducted 4 sports camps in the largest housing project in Louisiana…..25 children have accepted Christ. The attendance in this church has gone from 30 to 55-60 and they have baptized 10 since U.P. began. The church has never had a Sunday School, but Bethany is starting one and presently training the workers.

Bill writes, “You will like this. Last week the drug lords in the area called the police and reported the church…said the church was selling imitation jewelry at a car wash. The police came…found this was not true… The policeman talked to the owner of the car wash and he let Bethany use one of the car-washing stalls. The young people and mission teams did not have to stand out in the blazing sun to give out tracts and share the good news. Can you imagine the drug lords calling the police about a young seminary student leading a group of children and students as they shared the gospel.”

“Angie Baumann works with Gentilly Baptist Church. She has expertise in lawn care and is leading a group of students in planting flowers in the yards of people in her neighborhood. As Joe McKeever said, ‘Can you imagine trying to write a job description where one must have an expertise in planting flowers and sod all over the community.'”

Then Bill quotes from a letter written by Dillard Wilbanks of the FBC of Dallas, Texas, who was with us last month and visited the home ministry of the FBC of Westwego where Jay Adkins is pastor.

“Per my recent visit I would say three things about Unlimited Partnerships and the New Orleans area church and NOBTS student that FBC Dallas sponsors: (1) The adult home Bible study group on Sunday afternoon with the FBC Westwego members came closest to duplicating the dynamics of that 1st century house church of any group I’ve experienced in my 40+ years of education ministry. The wide range of participants from new believers to the more mature added energy to the interactive study as “the light would come on” related to practical application of the Scripture being explored.”

“(2) There are great dividends in matching evangelistic churches and exceptional pastors with the brightest and best of a new generation of Christian educators who are students at N.O. seminary and committed to holistic disciple making.”

“(3) First Baptist Church, Dallas, invests some one million dollars annually in hands-on mission endeavors in and around the city. None of which I believe will make a greater contribution to the Kingdom and to the spiritual rebirth of a city than Unlimited Partnerships.”

(NOTE: Churches from around the country interested in getting in on the next round of U.P.–in partnering with a church in this area and sponsoring a seminary student–may contact Dr. Bill Taylor directly. His e-mail address is: billtaylor@billtaylor.org.)

Now, on to the Mississippi Gulf Coast….

Charley and Martie Elgin are laypersons who have devoted the last two years of their lives to helping the coast rebuild. They are precious friends in Christ and put out a memorable newsletter. Here are some quotes.

“Sometimes people will say, almost apologetically, ‘I’m sorry I can’t come to Mississippi and I’m not able to support the work financially, but I do pray for you.’ I quickly remind them (and you) that prayer should not be something we do when we can’t do anything else. It should be the first thing we do before anything else. (James 5:16) This is not a business…we are not a construction company…we are involved in a spiritual work which, by its nature, requires the application of spiritual tools or weapons (Galatians 6:18). So, please…pray.”

I told you there were special.

Charley writes, “We are past the Relief stage now and in the Recovery stage. Recovery on the Gulf Coast is much like what is happening in Iraq right now. It’s difficult to see change. It is hard to see the enemy. The people back home are not so certain that they want to continue to invest resources–people or money to continue to support the effort. I am concerned that many may have or are ready to ‘check the box’ that says ‘Katrina relief–we did our part.'”

“For them the crisis is over and order has been restored. It seems that all you see on the news is mostly about New Orleans (they have huge problems to solve there). But the devastation of the storm has scarred the landscape, ruined lives, crushed hopes, and created a great angst among the people far beyond New Orleans.”

“We were called to a home a few weeks ago. A woman down the street from a couple we minister to had shot herself in the head. Her daughter was in the next room. The daughter was with our friends while the police and paramedics did what they do in situations like that. The couple didn’t know what to do so they called us.”

“Another man burned his ‘new’ house to the ground and held the fire department off with a gun while it burned. It seems that the house had failed inspection and it was more than the man could take. He was arrested.”

“I just met with a 64 year old widow who has muscular dystrophy. She has run out of money and needs help to finish her home so she can move in. She is wheelchair bound and her house is 7 feet above ground. Ugh! Her ex-daughter-in-law brought her in. Lord help her!”

“People are in a silent struggle to get back in their homes. The struggle is now largely unsung by the media. But this is the course of things in this country. The attention of the nation has shifted to other issues (many just as important as what we do here, I might add). Bay St. Louis just reopened its tourism office…not focusing on the recovery but on what Hancock County has to offer tourists. (You really have to have a good imagination if you look beyond casinos for tourist attractions.) Businesses want to move on, get past Katrina. The tourism director said, “Ding dong the witch is dead,” referring to Katrina recovery. Maybe for her the Katrina witch is dead, but not for the thousands of people who still live in trailers.”

Charley is praying for volunteers. He quotes Rick Warren’s blog on “how to reclaim the church’s place in your community.”

“A way of bringing the Church into the center of the community is through doing what Christians least often do and unbelievers most expect us to do, care for the disadvantaged, the sick, the poor, the lame, the hurt, the underprivileged, the aged, the mentally ill and on and on. It is only through our actions that the church will reclaim its rightful standing in this world…by compassion. We will never preach our way back to the sinner. We will never politic our way back to the sinner. It is interesting that politicians have been very frank about the limitations of politics while Christians are getting more and more into politics. That’s not the way you change society. You change it by changing hearts, and you change hearts through service.”

The Elgins’ website is www.pathfindermission.org. Their e-mail address is pathfinder6@bellsouth.net.

Charley says he’s needing insulation, sheetrock, plumbing fixtures, interior doors, linoleum, vinyl siding, toilets, sinks, a commercial electric stove, commercial electric ovens, and refrigerators.

Their newsletter closes with the Scripture they have claimed for their ministry: “You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.” (Isaiah 58:12)

1 thought on “New Orleans and the Gulf Coast

  1. Thanks for the update on our Mississippi Coast. I echo the thoughts and feelings of the Elgins. It is the same from Pearlington east to Biloxi. With the NC and GA Baptist Conventions leaving in December, the void will have to taken up by the Gulf Cost Baptist Association and added to our ongoing rebuild emphasis. We will have a partnership with TN Baptists through August 2008. We still need money and skilled laborers. David Baldwin has taken over the coordination of teams in our association and can be contacted at 228-832-4311. We still have churches in the association willing to house workers. We need the help so please pass the word.

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