A Community Garden

As we look forward to opening the Mercy House, I’m considering a community garden project that will provide fresh vegetables to our distribution center. What do you think? I’ve posted some of my thoughts to the Garden Web Forum for input and ideas.

I’m the pastor of a church on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We have a food pantry serving low-income folks in our community, especially those struggling with poverty following Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill.

We also continue to host volunteers short-term mission teams from across the country in the ongoing relief, recovery, and rebuilding efforts. We have been doing a lot of clean-up and rebuilding over the last five years. For example, this March, just about 5 weeks from today, we will have about 400 high school and college students from Tennessee, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Alabama, Kansas, and Mississippi here for their spring break volunteering in a host of projects around our community. I’m considering focusing some of the attention on establishing a vegetable garden, here on the church property, that will then, in turn, serve our food pantry ministry with fresh produce.

I’m looking for ideas. Any suggestions on type of crops, varieties, plantings, best practices, etc would be welcome. Whatever we do, the long term sustainability of this project will depend on the low maintenance needs of the garden. While we will have plenty of help during the month of March to get things started, help will be sporadic, at best, throughout the growing season.

One idea I have involves what Native Americans called the “three sisters” – corn, beans, and squash. If I understand it correctly, the corn and beans complement each other with the corn stalks providing verticality for the climbing beans and the beans replace nitrogen into the soil for the corn. The squash then protects the ground and holds back the onslaught of weeds. I’ve never tried it before, but the idea sounds low maintenance to me. If I start germinating seeds in dixie cups this week, I would think the young plants would be ready for the ground by the time the spring break volunteer teams get here.

Any other ideas and discussion is welcome. Thank you so much.

Donations by the Truck Load

Donations by the Truck Load

In the last few weeks we have received several large shipments of donations. I wish I had time to highlight every group that generously supports our distribution center with food, clothing, and household items. We could not minister to the vast need that exists in our community without your help.

One of our contributors, Blaise Dornisch, regularly collects donations in Pennsylvania and drives them down to Lakeshore. In a recent mail out he reports:

Members of the Stepping Stone Foundation recently traveled to coastal Mississippi five years after the anniversary of hurricane “Katrina”. Many area residents continue to struggle with hardships left behind as a result of the storm. In addition, the effects of the BP oil spill have been particularly devastating to much of the regions work force, as consumer confidence in the safeness of seafood has greatly diminished sales. Many of the residents whose livelihood is on the waters have yet to receive compensation for their lost wages.

Lakeshore Baptist Church continues to demonstrate Christ mercy through this incredible ministry God allows us to participate in. The items received in the last few weeks will go out to families in need, almost as fast as they came in. Please consider doing a similar collection in your community, as we partner together for the spread of Christ fame on the Gulf Coast.

The Distribution Center

The Lakeshore Baptist Church Distribution Center

The Lakeshore Baptist Church distribution center ministry serves as a conduit of hope funneling donations to those in need across Hancock County MS. Currently operating out of temporary quonset huts and make-shift storage sheds, eventually we look forward to moving this operation to the Mercy House; now under construction. Open Wednesday through Friday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, roughly 300 families in our community turn to this source of help every week.

For those wishing to contribute to this cause, our greatest needs include non-perishable food such as canned goods, men’s and children’s clothing, baby items, and furniture. Please continue to remember us in prayer as we seek to exalt Christ through word and deed on the gulf coast.

The Oil Spill and the Mercy House

Oil Spil Lakeshore Mississippi

In 2005 Hurricane Katrina devastated our gulf coast community in Hancock County Mississippi. With five years of relief, recovery, and rebuilding, many still struggle to get back on their feet. Now, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill has left even the most sure footed on slippery ground. Many fear that the long term economic effects of the oil spill could prove more damaging than Katrina for our area.

Here on the gulf coast our entire culture and economy is tied to the water. Commercial, charter, and leisure fisherman; ancillary businesses like, ice houses, bait shops, and fueling stations, boat repair, seafood restaurants, tourism, and on and on. The anxiety level runs high, and folks fear their way of life will never be the same.

After Katrina, most on the Mississippi gulf coast immediately rolled up their sleeves and got to work in the rebuilding of their homes and community. The oil spill brings a completely different dynamic. The nature of this disaster leaves most people helpless without any hope of concrete action towards recovery. As one local resident put it, “its one thing to loose your house. You can rebuild that. But when your source of lively hood is gone, what do you do? I feel helpless.”

In the wake of hurricane Katrina, Lakeshore Baptist Church launched a massive mercy ministry. To date, we have hosted literally hundreds of volunteer mission teams involved with storm clean-up, rebuilding, and relief efforts of various sorts.

Now, with the oil spill challenge, we have a strong desire to continue ministering to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of local residence. This commitment will require a sustained effort and prolonged partnerships.

In an effort to minister to the long term needs of our community we have begun building a facility, affectionally known as “The Mercy House.” This permanent structure will replace the aging makeshift collection of storage sheds and quonset huts our ministry has been operating out of for the last 5 years as we continue providing food, clothing, household items, and encouragement to those in need.

Located just one mile from the beach on our major road leading to the waters edge, the Mercy House will serve as a community hub of hope providing a wide range of services

Currently we touch the lives of approximately 300 families a month through our food distribution and other benevolence ministries. The Mercy House will allow us to expand the ministry with regular educational opportunities, like our recent “How to Stretch Your Grocery Budget” seminar, encouragement events, and other resources aimed to aid families going through difficulty and uncertainty.

To help build this new facility send your tax deductible donation to:

Lakeshore Baptist church
PO Box 293
Lakeshore MS 39558

(make sure to put “Mercy House” in the memo line)

Thank you so much for being a part of the work God continues to accomplish on the gulf coast to the praise of his name.

The Mercy House

The Mercy House Vision

The Mercy House preview

The Mercy House preview

Four weeks ago I announced that the Hancock County Planning and Zoning Board approved the site plan for the “Mercy House.” Day before yesterday I posted pictures of the beginning of the new construction. Lord willing, the building will take shape next week. The above drawing renders our idea of what the finished facility might look like. We still need to decide on the color, but Mrs. Bea and I both like the color shown. :) What do you think?

The Lakeshore Mercy House will host our expanding mercy ministry which includes all the efforts currently taking place out of the “Distribution Center” quonset hut on our church property. If you have been following us since the storm, you know that thousands of folks have received assistance through our benevolence efforts. Food, clothing, household items, and other things donated to the church get distributed out to the community from here. This important ministry will continue through the permanent facility.

The location has also morphed into a sort of “third place” where locals congregate in a casual environment to gain support and encouragement from our volunteer staff and each other. While many come in looking for hard tangible assistance, like food for the night, others will often stop by just to say hi and continue relationships forged in the immediate crisis aftermath of Katrina. Daily fare often includes impromptu counseling sessions, prayer meetings, words of encouragement, evangelistic encounters, etc. We pray that this this ministry that God has graciously established will continue, flourish, and expand in the new facility as we point people to the mercy of Christ through the gospel of grace.

The Lakeshore Mercy House will also enable us to add new components to our mercy ministry. Please join Lakeshore Baptist Church in prayer as we seek God’s will in future direction and opportunity. Possibilities on our heart include financial management seminars, drug and alcohol addiction intervention and mitigation, biblical counseling, various food assistance programs, tutoring, and other things.

If you would like to contribute financially to this project, you can send donations to Lakeshore Baptist Church PO Box 293 Lakeshore MS 39558 designated for “The Lakeshore Mercy House.” Don’t forget, the ministry continues to depend on donations of food, clothing, and household items for distribution. Please see our “needs page” for a list of suggested items if you can help in this way. Thank you so much for standing along side of us as we continue to minister help and hope in the name of Jesus Christ to our community.

The Distribution Center

Immediately following Hurricane Katrina, God moved in the lives of countless people from across the country to send food, clothing, and relief supplies to our area. We began gathering these items on our church property and distributing them to our community. Three and a half years later, many find themselves still in extreme need. Lakeshore Baptist Church desires to continue ministering help and hope in the name of Jesus Christ in a very tangible way through our distribution center.

We rely completely on donations to stock the shelves. If you would like to contribute to this cause, see our “needs” page for a list of suggested items you can send. When your team makes a mission trip to Lakeshore, feel free to bring these items with you for distribution. Many churches find that a food drive leading up to their trip gives those unable to come a good way to directly help families on the gulf coast. You can also send financial contributions to Lakeshore Baptist Church and designate “distribution center” with your gift. We can then purchase items, in bulk, locally or through our regional “Feeding America” food bank.

Relief Site

Relief Site

Immediately after the storm Lakeshore Baptist Church began receiving donations of relief supplies from across the country. We set up a blue-tarp awning on the church property, where the church building used to sit, to hold church services and to distribute the contributions to the community. We snapped the picture above in October of 2005, just weeks after the storm. This effort evolved into our distribution center where we still provide assistance to those attempting to get back on their feet. We now open on Wednesday through Saturday with groceries, clothing, and household items brought in from friends from coast to coast.