The First Thanksgiving

The First Thanksgiving

August 29, 2005 changed everything on the gulf coast. From landscape to language, and everything in between; you see and hear the effects in the everyday way people interact and live down to the smallest details. I guess its what they call “the new normal.” Obvious changes include new buildings, vacant lots, and remaining rubble. But even the way people think and talk has changed. “Before the storm” and “since the storm” has become the commonly accepted way to reference time.

Katrina stands as a watershed in the world-view of the gulf coast. This past Sunday I distributed a pamphlet which included William Bradford’s 1723 Thanksgiving Day proclamation. Before the service, I mentioned to one of our church members that I had a tract about the “First Thanksgiving.” They automatically assumed I meant Thanksgiving 2005 and began to discuss that day.

For nine weeks we had been sorting through water logged remains and mountains of destruction. Living in tents and vehicles, and campers; military style MREs (meals ready to eat) provided the main source of food along with the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and American Red Cross. Third world country living conditions slowed the progress and we probably had not yet realized how long of a road we had ahead of us. We were still trying to locate family members and friends to discover whether they had survived the storm.

Then, like a Hollywood Thanksgiving miracle, new friends from across the country flooded into the area with turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce and vegetables, dinner rolls, pumpkin pies, and every thanksgiving fixing imaginable. A large event tent erected in a freshly cleared field of devastation provided a place of worship amid the ruins. Even an inflatable playground graced the property for the children, who for the last nine weeks, had not had a safe place to play. For a few hours we knew what it must have been like for the pilgrims in a new world as they celebrated their “First Thanksgiving.”

The First Thanksgiving

The First Thanksgiving

The First Thanksgiving

The First Thanksgiving

The First Thanksgiving

The First Thanksgiving

The First Thanksgiving

New Van

Betsy's Van

Betsy Serral first traveled to Lakeshore in the summer of 2006 with her church, Providence Presbyterian of Hilton Head, South Carolina. She quickly fell in love with Lakeshore and has become one of our most valued partners and closest friends. She has made her way to Lakeshore over a half dozen times since then. In her most recent trip, an extended stay in the summer of 2009, she noticed that our very old utility van, used to transport building materials to the work sites, had been pushed well beyond its time of usefulness. On her return home, she took the initiative and raised the money necessary to purchase a new vehicle for the rebuilding ministry here. We now have a 2004 Chevrolet Express utility van. Thanks Bets! We love you.

Spring Break Testimonial

Why I Rebuild Lakeshore
In the four plus years of the Rebuild Lakeshore ministry we have had literally thousands and thousands of folks make mission trips to work along side of us on the gulf coast. Contractors and construction workers to teenagers and college students, soccer moms and business men to senior adult groups, and everyone in-between have pitched in and accomplished their part of the efforts God continues to do in our community for his glory.

Helen Cox, a college student from Georgia made a mission trip to Lakeshore this past spring break. She shares her experience below. The child pictured with her at the block party belongs to the family her group helped bring shingles to the dump. I praise God for everyone, like Helen, willing to come minister help and hope, in the name of Jesus Christ, to folks in our area. She writes:

This is a story about a mission trip I took with Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) over Spring Break. It made such an impact on my life that I want to share it. When I signed up for the trip, I thought I knew what I was signing up for having already been to New Orleans on several previous mission trips. God got my attention from the moment we arrived. This trip to rebuild Lakeshore, Mississippi was unlike any previous hurricane relief trip I had experienced. God showed me and taught me many things.

On March 14, 2009, I boarded the bus along with 21 other students from Berry College and Georgia Highlands College. Previous volunteers had warned our team of the biting gnats. When we arrived, the bus began to fill with gnats, and as we stepped out to get our luggage, we found them everywhere. Unpacking the luggage from the back of the bus, I began to wonder if I was going to regret coming to Lakeshore. When I got to the site of where I would be living, an old military quanza hut, and found I would be sleeping on an old military cot with my sleeping bag; I began to question myself again.

The host church, Lakeshore Baptist Church, was itself in as much need as some of the homeowners who they were helping. This church was destroyed by the hurricane. The fact that there was not even much of a building did not stop “church” from happening. Here God showed me how a truly faithful congregation looks. The members of the church were devoted and maybe the most welcoming group I have ever met. Each week they open their doors to hundreds of volunteers who are visitors to their church.

On our first day of work we were split into two groups. My group did many small, oddball jobs. Some of the things we did included helping around the church, completely demolishing an old RV and sorting its scraps. Then on the third day, our group was sent to a house. The homeowner had been gathering up shingles and taking them to the dump to dispose of them. When we arrived, four of us got in his car and took a road trip to the dump. During this time, we learned a lot about the homeowner. Once at the dump, we put on our gloves and climbed in the trailer and began throwing shingles in the dumpster. It was a small task, but it saved the homeowner almost an entire day because of our help. At the end we were not sure if we would see him again so we said our goodbyes took a picture with him just in case. I really enjoyed being able to go and help him. Two days later, we were told that after lunch we were going back to the house. This time we learned to fire caulk, and use caulk guns.

One of the groups there that week planned a block party for the end of the week. We went out in the community with some other groups and went house to house handing out flyers and spreading the word. I will never forget how we had hesitated at this one house because the couple looked somewhat rough. We went ahead and not only were they interested in coming to the block party, they had previously donated some clothes and stuff to the church. One of the neatest things was seeing how everyone wanted Lakeshore to thrive again.

Together we reached out to the community, rebuilt houses, and did small tasks for those still struggling to come back from the hurricane. I will never forget this trip. Oh and incase you are wondering, despite all the gnats I still would go back to Lakeshore in a heartbeat. I have no regrets.

Helen, thank you so much for your faithfulness and your willingness to share your experience. And btw, we don’t always have gnats. 🙂

Looking forward to 2010

In just about 8 short weeks we will ring in the new year. Between now and then we have 8 mission trip teams schedule to be in Lakeshore. For those familiar with the relief, recovery, and rebuilding efforts here, you know that sometimes we have 8 teams in one week. This slow down during the holiday season allows us to project a bit into January where we will have hundreds of hands eager to continue the progress.

If you promise to realize that all plans remain tentative, I’ll post a run down of our hopes as to particular projects on the church property.

The Bunk House

Lakeshore Bunk House

Today the bunk house sits ready for Coast Electric to connect temporary power. Once we have juice we can test all systems, including the geothermal HV/AC and prepare for occupancy. I posted a long punch list a couple months or so ago. September and October teams completed most of that work. The remaining tasks include:

  • Hang vinyl soffit
  • Pour concrete slab for walkway
  • Caulk porch ceiling
  • Box in top of posts and inside of porch ceiling
  • Stain wrap-around porch, railing, and exposed wood.
  • Screen in lower level

Lakeshore Bunk House soffit

The soffit, which hangs about 20′ above the ground will require some sort of scaffolding to install. We also need some folks not afraid of heights for this job.

under the Bunk House

We have a slab under the 30′ X 50′ main house, but now we need to build concrete forms and pour a slab under the 8′ wrap around porch and sidewalks out to the stairs.

Having this concrete work complete will open up the next project on the agenda – screening in the lower level. Actually, since the green plate for the screened in area will sit on the existing concrete, we may be able to tackle both these tasks simultaneously.

The Mercy House

The Mercy House in progress

I have been so pleased watching the Mercy House come together. I have great hopes for this facility as our church continues to grow in its mercy ministry to the glory of God.

In the next few weeks we hope to have the back porch built which will also serve as a platform for the air conditioning compressor. We also hope to have the slab poured, the electrical, plumbing, HV/AC, and insulation complete. Having these things in place will open the project up for a great amount of work in January including:

  • Framing in the lower level
  • Wiring the lower level
  • Sheet rocking the upper level
  • Siding the entire structure
  • Laying the tongue and groove flooring on the front porch
  • Boxing in the columns
  • Installing the balcony railing

The Warehouse

Behind the Mercy House we plan to erect a 30 X 40 metal quonset hut, similar (but smaller) to the one we currently use for worship and other things. The materials for this building were donated a while back but we never had a place in the master plan for it. We do now. This structure will serve as storage for the Mercy House ministry. In January we will need to prepare the site and pour the slab.

The Pump House

the pump house in front of the Lakeshore Mercy House

The well for the Mercy House sits in the front yard. In order to present an esthetically pleasing front to the Lakeshore Road traffic, we have designed a small 10 X 10 pump house that will match the look and feel of the Mercy House.

Parking Lots

We plan to have crushed limestone parking for the mercy house off of third street, parking for the church property along second street, and parking in front of the bunk house. We will need this property graded for proper drainage and the limestone spread. Having this done will greatly enhance our property for everyone.

The Fellowship Hall

preliminary rendering of the Fellowship Hall
We do not plan to begin the Fellowship Hall until the completion of the Mercy House. Once the distribution center relocates to the new facility, site prep for the new fellowship hall can begin in that space. Please join us in prayer as we continue making plans for this building.