Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Katrina Relief Report

Well, I've almost managed to catch my breath if not my sleep after the week-long trip to Bay St. Louis, MS to help rebuild homes destroyed by Katrina. A dozen of us from church left on April 8th and returned April 15th. We engaged in all kinds of construction/rebuilding projects. One team of four wound up painting the interior of 4 different homes in as many days. Two of our number worked in the kitchen to feed the 180+ volunteers from such diverse places as Miami; Oak Grove, VA; Sumter, SC; and Greensboro, NC to name just some of the places of origin. The other 6 of our group at times worked as one team and at times split into 2 groups of 3 as they worked on sheetrocking, mudding, and finishing walls in 3 different homes. Everyone whose home we worked in had a story to tell of how they survived the storm or what they found when they returned home after evacuating elsewhere. It was therapeutic for them to share their story and we did our best to empathize and encourage as we worked. The overwhelming response of the residents of Waveland and Bay St. Louis to our presence there was one of extreme gratitude. Even total strangers would approach us on the street and ask if we were volunteers. When we replied that we were, they thanked us profusely for coming down to help them.

Pictures don't do justice to the level of destruction suffered along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It will be years before the area is back to normal, but over and over again the folks expressed their appreciation for Christians and especially Baptists who were laboring in their hometowns to help them get back to normal.

We spent our last day working on the home of a lady who is dying of cancer and wants to go home to die. Several other groups have been pitching in to help her as well. A huge thanks goes to FBC of Bay St. Louis for their generous spirit in hosting such huge numbers of volunteers and for putting the needs of their community ahead of even their own church repairs. Thanks too go out to Georgia Baptists who are helping to staff the office and coordinate the efforts of so many volunteers. The Lord will certainly take note of your sacrificial efforts.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Heading for Bay St. Louis, MS

I'll probably not be posting for several days as I'm leading a group of 12 from our church on a mission project to Bay St. Louis, MS to assist in rebuilding homes that were damaged or destroyed by Katrina. I'm not sure that our group is emotionally prepared still for the extent of the damage there, despite having seen pictures of it. We'll be leaving this Saturday, April 8th and returning the following Saturday to be home in time for Easter services. One of the highlights in addition to the opportunity of serving will be getting to spend time again with the pastor and his wife of the FBC there. We served together for many years in Argentina and I'm looking forward to being together again. For any who stumble across this post this week, our group would appreciate your prayers for our safety as we travel and work, for our productivity, and for our witness.

Monday, April 03, 2006

BGCM Meeting a Great Success

We had a wonderful gathering at our church this past weekend for the annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Missouri. Outstanding messages were brought by Wallace Hartsfield, pastor of the Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church in Kansas City; Alan Stanford, general secretary of the North American Baptist Fellowship of the BWA; Albert Reyes, president of the Baptist Univ. of the Americas and immediate past president of the BGCT; Carol Childress of WorldconneX; and Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of Billy Graham. We also heard great testimonies from Don Sewell of mission work taking place around the world. Don heads up mission partnerships for the BGCT. I was delighted to be able to host the executive secretary and vice-president of the Guatemalan Baptist Convention during their visit here for the BGCM annual meeting. We are looking forward to working closely with their convention in a number of missions projects during the coming three years. I am planning on being in Guatemala in August to teach a course at their seminary as well as explore together with some other BGCM representatives the needs that our convention might be able to assist them in meeting. We're grateful for their sweet spirit and willingness to partner with us.