The Ruler of the Waves

The good folks at Mout Zion Bible Church in Pensacola Florida, sent me a case of tracts and booklets to distribute along with our relief efforts at Lakeshore Baptist Church and to encourage our church members in the wake of hurricane Katrina. They included several copies of J. C. Ryle’s “The Ruler of the Waves.” Today I took the time to read through this encouraging booklet based on Mark 4:37-40. Let me quote just a part:

I have the privilege of being one of Christ’s ambassadors. In his name I can offer eternal life to any man, woman, or child who is willing to have it. In his name I do offer pardon, peace, grace, glory, to any son or daughter of Adam who reads this booklet. But I dare not offer that person worldly prosperity as a part and parcel of the gospel. I dare not offer him long life, an increased income, and freedom from pain. I dare not promise the man who takes up the cross and follows Christ, that in following him he shall never meet with a storm.

I know well that many do not like these terms. They would prefer having Christ and good health, Christ and plenty of money, Christ and no deaths in their family, Christ and no wearing cares, Christ and a perpetual morning without clouds. But they do not like Christ and the cross, Christ and tribulation, Christ and the conflict, Christ and the howling wind, Christ and the storm.

Is this the thought of your heart? Believe me, if it is, you are very wrong. Listen to me, and I will try to show you [that] you have much yet to learn.

How should you know who are true Christians, if following Christ was the way to be free from trouble? How should we discern the wheat from the chaff, if it were not for the winnowing of trial? How should we know whether men served Christ for his own sake or from selfish motives, if his service brought health and wealth with it as a matter of course? The winds of winter soon show us which of the trees are evergreen, and which are not. The storms of affliction and care are useful in the same way. They discover whose faith is real, and whose is nothing but profession and form.

How would the great work of sanctification go on in a man if he had no trial? Trouble is often the only fire which will burn away the dross that clings to our hearts. Trouble is the pruning-knife which the great Husbandman employs in order to make us fruitful in good works. The harvest of the Lord’s field is seldom ripened by sunshine only. It must go through its days of wind and rain and storm.

If you desire to serve Christ and be saved, I entreat you to take the Lord on his own terms. Make up your mind to meet with your share of crosses and sorrows, and then you will not be surprised. For want of understanding this, many seem to run well for a season, and then turn back, in disgust and are cast away.

If you profess to be a child of God, leave to the Lord Jesus to sanctify you in his own way. Rest satisfied that he never makes any mistakes. Be sure that he does all things well. The winds may howl around you, and the waters swell; but fear not. “He is leading you by the right way, that he may bring you to a city of habitation.” (Psalm 107:7).

Read the full tract: “The Ruler of the Waves.”

Florida Baptist Witness

The Florida Baptist Witness did a story on the great folks from Sawgrass Fellowship coming to help Lakeshore Baptist Church in the wake of hurricane Katrina.

SUNRISE (FBW)–A little bit can go a long way in a time of crisis according to Jan Deans, senior pastor at Sawgrass Fellowship in Sunrise.

After Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, the small church worked with their mother church, Coral Baptist in Coral Springs to send much-needed supplies to Lakeshore, Miss., 30 miles east of New Orleans.

Read the full story: Operation ‘Little Bit’ in small-town Mississippi forges partnership

We deeply appreciate the help Jan, Steve, and the other folks from SF brought. We look forward to their return visit in November.

btw, It looks like Sawgrass Fellowship just launched a new web site. Check it out.

Clean-up Crews Needed

Clean up after Katrina

I talked to some folks day before yesterday who came down to Lakeshore for the first time since the storm. They could not believe the utter devastation, the number of downed trees, the piles of rubble strewn everywhere they looked. The scene overwhelms the senses. Their jaw dropped when I reminded them that they were viewing the area after 3 1/2 weeks of clean-up. A lot has been done, but the clean up task remains monumental.

Chain Saw Work: If you remember the old game “pick up sticks” you will get some idea of what the landscape looks like in many areas of Lakeshore; only lots bigger. I couldn’t begin to estimate how many trees were snapped off or uprooted . We have several on the church grounds and countless others on church member’s property.

In addition to downed trees, we have a 100X40 foot wooded area of our church property we need clear cut. We will probably place a temporary building here so that we can keep the main portion of our land open for new construction.

Portable Saw Mill:
If anyone happens to have access to a portable saw mill and the expertise to operate it, we should be able to make lumber out of many of the trees. I do not know anything about this, but it seems to be something worth looking into.

Debris Removal: Tree limbs, household appliances, children’s toys, clothing, pieces of furniture, concrete blocks, and all manner of debris litter the landscape like grotesque monster confetti. All of this, large and small, needs to be removed. If you can operate a Bobcat, a tractor, a wheel barrel, or even a garden rake or broom, we could use you.

House Demolition: Most of the houses even partially left standing will need to be demolished. For example, you can see what the Fricki’s house looks like. Most of our member’s homes look like that or worse. As soon as the insurance companies give the OK, these houses will have to be torn down and hauled away.

Dirt Fill: Many trees were snapped and broken off at various heights, but many others came up completely by the roots leaving massive holes in the ground. After we haul off these roots systems, we will need to bring in lots of dirt fill. We will also need to build up the marshy areas of our church property to prepare for the new construction.

If you would like to schedule a trip down, we could use all the help we can get. Just tell me when you would like to come and what kind of work your group can do and we will point you in the right direction. Please put “clean up,” and perhaps the date you would like to come, in the subject line to help me keep things organized. You can contact me at elbourne@lakeshorebaptist.net.

Lakeshore on CNN

Lakeshore on CNN

CNN featured Lakeshore MS Tuesday night in a piece called “Forgotten Town.” Gary Tuchman narrates:

You’ve probably never heard of the tiny town of Lakeshore Mississippi, but you are unlikely to forget about it now; because no place was hit harder by hurricane Katrina. The homes in this coastal town have simply been blown away. Block after block of nothingness. Piles of rubble covering the memories of family lives…

People from here are still missing. Prayers for them are being offered behind a steeple that was recovered from a decimated church.

Tuchman interviews a few folks and shows just a small glimpse of the devastation. The camera pans across some of the destruction and then to our blue tarp make-shift shelter and our salvaged steeple. You can watch the video on the CNN web site.

Chris Bostick

My friend, Chris Bostick, finally reported in after the storm. He is OK, but his house is gone. Chris’s grandfather, Ed, and I were good friends. After Ed died Chris and I began building a similar relationship. God has been working in his life in various ways. Chris had requested baptism. We were in the process of discussing the supernatural change God performs in our hearts through regeneration, what it means to be a believer, and the forgiveness of sin Christ provides through his work on the cross. I pray that God will continue to work in his life to His glory.

I love Chris and his family. I hope they do not mind me posting a picture of where his grandma’s house used to be. The big front porch looked out over the water. Katrina’s monster storm surge took the entire house. Not even a single board from the structure could be found.

Mrs. Bobbi's house

I took this picture standing in Mrs. Bobbi’s front yard looking up at the slab for the front porch.

Mrs. Bobbi's house

Standing on the porch, looking where the house used to be you can see the slab of Ed’s big work shed off to the right. Chris’s house used to be somewhere back there to the left.

Mrs. Bobbi's house

Sitting on the front porch looking out to the water.

JoEll needs a car

JoEll's house and car

Our pianist, JoEll Fricke lost everything in the storm. Pictured above, you can see her house collapsed on top of her car. Her and her husband Geb just finished renovating the house and we had scheduled a church fellowship in their home the day before Katrina hit. We canceled the fellowship to evacuate. When the time comes I hope to have volunteers willing to lend her and Geb a hand in rebuilding their house. For now, JoEll really needs a car.

We found the church piano, that JoEll has played for years, in the woods across the road from where the church used to be. My pulpit laid beside it, surrounded by other rubble. We found the top of the piano about a hundred yards away.

JoEll's piano

I could not begin to tell you how much of a blessing JoEll has been to me and Lakeshore Baptist Church over the years. Her leadership in our Vacation Bible School musical highlights every summer. She always has an encouraging word for me. She volunteers for everything. Pictured below she wraps a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child. Her two beautiful children Gabrielle and “little Geb” are such a blessing. She is like a sister to me. I know it may be asking a lot, but I’d really love to provide her a means of transportation. If anyone would like to donate her a vehicle please call her at (228) 493-1317.

JoEll

Update: The Lord provides! A gracious church in the Chicago area donated us a car and we passed it along to JoEll. Now they need a house.

Share the Well

Everyone in Lakeshore had their own well, providing their property with water. The storm severely damaged or destroyed all the pumps, motors, and tanks for these shallow wells. The tidal surge broke most of them off leaving nothing but a pipe sticking out of the ground. Some of the wells may need to be redug. FEMA will not place temporary housing trailers on property without electricity, water, and sewage. We desperately need to get these pumps repaired or, in most cases, replaced. We have a couple of churches offering to fund this project, but I need someone with the expertise to head it up. If you know something about wells and would be willing to coordinate this please contact me at elbourne@lakeshorebaptist.net.

High and Dry

4608 Painters Street

Yesterday, I went into New Orleans to check on my house for the first time since the storm. As my wife and I drove into the city we saw tremendous wind damage. We exited the interstate and snaked our way through neighborhoods attempting to get to our street. Much of the city was still cordoned off where standing water still filled the streets or downed trees and debris prevented navigation. Our hearts sunk as we saw the water lines on many homes and businesses reaching 3, 4, 5 feet and above. Pictures wouldn’t do the scene justice, especially for those familiar with what these historic neighborhoods used to look like.

Pulling onto Gentilly from Elysian Fields, hope began to spark as we noticed most of the older buildings sat higher than the flood line and did not appear to have taken in water. We slowly drove down our street trying to tell if the water had gone into any homes. Some did. Some didn’t. Many were too close to call. We could tell that the water had reached all the way to our front porch, but it didn’t look like it had ever topped it. Not until we opened the front door did we know for sure. I even reached down to touch the rug because after all I’ve seen over the past three weeks I almost could not believe it was dry. Everything remained where we had left it and nothing in the main house sustained any damage.

Magnolia tree out back window

As I feared the old Magnolia tree fell in the back yard, but it fell away from the house. If it would have come the other way it would have taken out my office. The picture above looks out the back window.

The house’s old original attached garage had been enclosed and converted into an apartment years ago. It had a couple feet of water in it. No one currently lived there, but we are a little concerned that the mold could travel into the main house if our landlord doesn’t get in there soon. We also noticed several roof tiles missing and fear that a good rain could cause leaks. Our garage in the back did take in a couple of feet of water. The broken garage door prevented me from checking in on it but I’m sure we lost our washing machine and dryer and everything else in there. The shed in the back yard caved in, but it didn’t house anything of importance. Considering everything, we weathered the storm very well.

shed

While most of our stuff didn’t sustain damage, we will not be able to live in the house for quite some time. We loaded my Dad’s SUV with as much as we could take. We packed it high with the kid’s musical instruments, computer equipment, pictures, keep sakes and some clothes. I’d like to get back asap to retrieve my library and other things to keep it from mold or roof leaks. With another storm in the gulf it looks like they have reclosed the city for now, so I’m not sure when our next trip will be.

My House

Water on Painters Street

For the last three weeks I’ve been talking about Lakeshore where Katrina destroyed all our church member’s homes as well as all the church buildings. I live (lived) about 45 minutes from Lakeshore MS in New Orleans LA. Today I have a chance to get into the city and check on my house for the first time. I do not know what we might find. The 75 year old Gentilly Terrace home sits above sea level up on a pre-lake levee berm. Its hard to tell whether that was high enough to keep it dry while most of the city got saturated. The online interactive New Orleans Flood Map indicated nearly 6 feet of water in our street, and over 3 feet in my back yard, which represents a 1000 square foot average. The aerial picture above shows water at least up to front door. Did it rise over the steps leading to the porch? I don’t know. I’ll find out in a few hours. If the water did get in, even a foot, we will have three weeks of mold growth to deal with. The muck could have easily taken my entire library. Enough speculation – time to hit the road.

God Visits Lakeshore

This morning I preached from Luke 7:11-17.

11 Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. 12 As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” 17 And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.

  1. The People Feared God.
  2. The People Glorified God.
  3. The People Recognized Christ’s Greatness.
  4. God Visited His People.
  5. The Word Spread Far and Wide.

The unnamed woman of Nain would have felt right at home sitting under our blue tarped makeshift shelter as Lakeshore Baptist Church gathered for worship this morning. Her husband had died and now she walked to the cemetery to bury her only son. In that day these losses would have also greatly impacted her only means of economic support. Like the rest of us sitting on salvaged chairs and broken pews left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, she had lost everything. With the stench of death in the air and salty tears flowing down already stained cheeks, Jesus Christ speaks resurrection life, leaving onlookers no other choice but to sit in awe of God’s death conquering power, glorify Him as the King of life, and begin to recognize Christ as supreme over all things.

So many people have stopped by our church property over the last 3 weeks to witness the devastation first hand, to bring much needed food, water, clothing, and supplies, offer assistance, and prayer. I’ve mentioned a few of these wonderful people and need to find the time to tell you of several of the others. We see God’s people, the body of Christ, serving as His hands and His feet, providing life affirming hope. We know that God will rebuild our church buildings, our houses, and our lives and we believe He will do it through the overwhelming support we receive through His people. When Jesus raised the widow of Nain’s son from the dead, the news of Christ’s resurrection power spread throughout the world (Luke 7:17). God is working the same newsworthy miracle in Lakeshore as onlookers stand in awe of what God can do through His people. We pray that God will continue to use our suffering and pain for His glory, honor, and praise. We pray that through our loss, people will recognize Christ as their all satisfying treasure.