Why, Certainly You’re Invited

We expected the attendance at Wednesday’s pastors meeting to be down since some 15 of us were attending the “Standing Strong in the Storms of Life” retreat in Mobile. Freddie and Elaine Arnold drove to the retreat Tuesday but there they were in our meeting this morning, along with Alberto and Romy Rivera, all of whom had driven the nearly three hours from Mobile in time for our ten o’clock beginning. We started the meeting with 20 present and soon had about twice that number.

Freddie reported on the retreat and announced that he and I will be out some this fall, attending state conventions and associations to encourage volunteers to come help rebuild this city. The final figures on Ridgecrest on the River: 289 registered, all of whom gave glowing evaluations on the conferences they attended. He urged churches to turn in their Annual Church Profiles, which is the means of our association and the denomination knowing attendance numbers, varieties of ministries, and names of leaders of our churches.

Alberto Rivera: We now have a great opportunity for church planting in this region. We held a Bible study in an apartment complex Saturday where lots of Mexican workers are living. If you have an apartment complex or hotel near your church, look for an entrance to begin reaching the residents. Do a windshield survey of your neighborhood. Drive around and see who lives there and what they are doing. Find people we can target as a focus group.

Alberto continues to promote the October 5-6 “Vision Tour.” Outside pastors and potential church starters will join us on the tour of neighborhoods needing new churches. On Thursday, October 5, we’ll cover Baton Rouge, Denham Springs, Hammond, and the area north of Lake Pontchartrain. On Friday the 6th, we’ll begin in Slidell and move into the New Orleans area. We need some local pastors to be hosts and consider co-sponsoring new churches. Contact Alberto in our associational office.

Linda Williams: In November, I’ll be speaking to a group of pastors’ wives in Oklahoma who want to minister to the wives here. I’m asking the pastors to get me information on their wives, preferably a short bio and a photo. The Oklahomans will pray for them and occasionally write them notes of encouragement.

Joe Williams: Any pastors interested in the ministry fatigue workshops, contact me. We can hold them on a Sunday or any convenient day. We just finished one (“Preparing for Storms in a Post-Katrina World”) for the members of Edgewater Baptist Church, and have another scheduled for the community this Sunday. The last date for possible workshops will be November 5. You need to allow 3 hours.

Hy McEnery: We’re still doing relief work, and have a few more teams coming in. I’m working with Child Evangelism Fellowship. We have a number of packets to give to you. Your people will need to be trained in their use, and we’ll be glad to provide this free of charge.

Steve and Ann Corbin: We’ve been visiting port workers when the ships are not in port. Yesterday, we shared with a couple about the “Purpose Driven Life” book, and are trying to get a Celebrate Recovery for the port workers at the new Port Ministry Center.

David Lema: Our church (Emmanuel Spanish) does not have the problems many have. But some of our families lost everything. We are helping them. Last Sunday we had 171 in attendance. And three made decisions for Christ.

Lynn Rodrigue: Port Sulphur is continuing to recover. Our church gives food and supplies to some 300 to 400 families a week at our distribution center. Second Harvester is still supplying us. A church in Denham Springs and one in Ohio have donated food. They’re sending an 18-wheeler our way Monday, bringing cheese, milk, bread, and paper products. We’ve been having problems with a generator. We pray and things work. We quit praying and they break down.

I drove out to New Orleans East the other day. It’s the first time I’ve seen that devastation. It’s far worse than I thought it would be. We’re doing better than N.O. East. It’s so depressing, like a movie scene. I didn’t know it was that bad.

We keep having Catholics coming, asking why their church isn’t doing anything. My father is a staunch Catholic and he’s been helping me. He doesn’t see his church doing anything, but he’s seeing what God is doing. I told him the Virginia Baptists have spent over 100 thousand dollars to help us and he was amazed. Sam Porter from the Oklahoma Baptists brought toys for my children. I took him fishing. He has seen what the Virginia Baptists are doing as we make plans for the new building and he said, “We don’t want to get in the way of Virginia, but we’ll be glad to help, too.” With this attitude, we’ll do just fine.

Last Sunday was our first Sunday out of the hot tent and in the modular building with air-conditioning. We had about 20 to 25 present. We’re about to start a school. We have 25 students ready. The only public high school in lower Plaquemines Parish is in Port Sulphur and has about 300 students. The elementary school in Venice has about 200. Buras is the only area downriver not coming back because they have no school. They were too damaged, I think.

Donald Miller: On Saturday, my wife and I will celebrate 34 years of marriage. I’ve enjoyed coming to these meetings to fellowship with the pastors.

Jerry Darby: I want to echo that. Few of our people are returning; pray for us. The state convention and the local association have been so wonderful to us. I shudder to think what it would have been without them. The Bible says every good and perfect gift comes from God. But He has used the state convention and the association in wonderful ways.

Bill Johnson: I work for NAMB in East Atlanta. I’m down here meeting with the NOAH people, exploring how we can help you.

Steve Gahagan: We’re now able to pull electrical permits. We have an electrician from Texas working with us, getting the permits, etc. We’re wiring two houses right now. Taking rebuild and chainsaw requests; no more mudouts. The Salvation Army is giving grants of $10,000 for rebuilding some houses. They provide this money for faith-based organizations, and have been approving all our requests. It takes a lot more than $10 thousand to rebuild a house, but this really helps. We’re having to do our own case management.

What is case management? We have to determine if the person actually owns the home, how much insurance they had, what other money they have received, etc. We believe most homeowners are honest.

What will we do for the rest of the money needed to rebuild? We’ll pray. God will provide. If I didn’t believe that, I’d go back home to South Carolina.

Kirsten Agee: I’m Tim’s wife (and not his daughter, as Joe said). He’s working with Steve Gahagan in Operation NOAH Rebuild and I’m in the office. I’m the point person for people calling the office for help. I’m like a cheerleader. This month has been very slow, but we have 16 teams coming in October.

Our NOAH website is being improved and soon we’ll want to put a lot of your stories on it to encourage our volunteers. Our website is: www.operationnoah.net. I want your story. E-mail it to me at noah@namb.net.

Kevin Lee: Edgewater had 65 to 70 last Sunday for the “Storms” conference Joe Williams led. We’ve sent personal invitations to 160 homes we gutted out in the neighborhood, and publicized with the neighborhood associations. The conference this Sunday is for the community. It runs from 5 to 8 pm, with supper at 6 pm. People are frustrated and depressed. We want to minister to the community.

I have a request: Kids-Around-the-World is putting us in a new playground at Edgewater September 25-29, and they are required to have 10 volunteers on the site each of the five days. That’s more than our little church can provide. We need help! We’re scrambling.

Kirk Strawbridge: My wife started work today at Tulane Hospital. Pray for her. I’m getting ready to re-enter the seminary, and want to pastor a church.

James “Boogie” Melerine: Delacroix Hope is seeing new people coming all the time. This week three people rededicated their lives to Christ. People ask me if the former Catholics are still coming. They are, and they can’t understand why their friends just don’t “get it” when they tell them about Jesus. It’s up to us to shine the light.

Don Campbell: I’m a member of the school board in St. Bernard. Two groups recently came before us asking permission to stay in our schools. One was with Habitat and the other was called Hilltop, affiliated with the Church of Christ. Recently, we had to remove a hippie group for doing drugs and everything. The Hilltop people were so impressive. The leader gave a fine witness to the school board.

We started school in St. Bernard in order to draw people back home. Get the students and you’ll get the parents back. The high school in Chalmette now has 1800 students. Four of my family members are teachers. In fact, I’m a retired school teacher myself.

Boogie: Don is too humble to tell you, but he has been a school board member four terms. He always runs unopposed. (He’s a member of the Delacroix Hope church; in fact was one of those who used to witness to Boogie when he was running from God.)

Charlie Dale: Day Spring Baptist Church in Mobile is sending leaders to hold a Sunday School training conference in our church (Grace BC in Bywater). Saturday, September 30, 9 am to noon, for workers with children and teens, and Sunday, October 1, after church for adult leadership. You’re invited to bring your people for this training.

John Moore: I spent 30 years in collegiate work with the Louisiana Baptist Convention and now–as someone said–“I’ve gone over to the dark side.” I’m with Lifeway. I’m a network partnership specialist covering Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, etc. We want to help you do anything that needs doing. I’m here today to tell you if you are starting or re-starting your church, Lifeway will give you all the literature your church needs for the first quarter you’re up and running. Contact me.

Tony Merida: Kenner has six interns who are leading our church in outreach every first Saturday of the month. We also do prayer walking. Every third Saturday, we set up a prayer station in the French Quarter. I feel a great need for church planting in this area. We’re working with James Welch in beginning a new kind of church on Magazine Street uptown.

Tony has two more weeks before his Ph.D. dissertation is due at the seminary and asked for our prayers.

Following the meeting, we enjoyed the incredible meal provided by the wonderful ladies of Good Shepherd Baptist Church.

Occasionally someone who reads this will call and ask if he/she may visit the pastors meeting. “I’m not a pastor,” they’ll say. No matter. You’re invited. The kitchen crew takes a head count to see how many plates to fill, and thus far they’ve always had plenty. We’re down in attendance right now since some of our pastors have taken day jobs and others are in seminary.

We’ll continue to meet at Good Shepherd (officially, it’s El Buen Pastor Iglesia Bautista) through October from 10 to noon each Wednesday.