One of our best friends, Mrs. Paula Hamilton, sent me the following letter commemorating the eight year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina
My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Eight years ago, your lives were changed forever as Hurricane Katrina came ashore. I remember hearing the news and watching the miles and miles of devastation along the Mississippi Gulf. Our church rallied together, collecting two truckloads of water, toiletries and clothing. Within a week, my husband Barry and his best friend Mike set off for southern Louisiana. They were stopped short due to road closures and left all our supplies at a church acting as a safehaven for evacuees.
Upon their return and testimony, we realized that wasn’t enough. A mission trip team was formed with our eyes set on New Orleans. They of course had the most need…so we thought. We began raising money and were scheduled to work the first week of June 2006. In late January, we received our assignment – it was HazMat! We would have to wear protective suits as we would be mucking out houses that had been underwater and left untouched. Due to the health risks involved, we had to reject this plan. Now what do we do? We had raised lots of money for Katrina Relief. Our mission trip leader, Mike Hinman, prayerfully set out to find another community that needed our help. While surfing the web, he came across a little website called rebuildlakeshore.com. After contacting Pastor Don, we switched our arrangements from New Orleans to Lakeshore, Mississippi. In June, we traveled 20 hours from Maryland to Mississippi by bus.
We couldn’t wait to arrive and be of service. We were excited to be on such an important mission to change lives. We had no idea that God ever present in this sleepy little town of Lakeshore was about to change our lives. Our bus was cheerful as we made our way through Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. We saw other teams at rest stops and were overjoyed to be part of a national relief effort. The closer we came to the Gulf coast, reality started to sink in. We saw FEMA trailers lined up in large lots and forests of trees snapped in half like toothpicks. That is when our bus became quiet. We then saw abandoned cars and trailers on Highway 90. We turned down Lakeshore Road and saw your school in rubble, houses boarded up, clothing hanging in trees, a FEMA trailer park. The compound at Lakeshore Baptist Church looked like a MASH unit in a war zone. I remember thinking “What had I done? bringing my husband who was undergoing chemotherapy at the time down here to work in these dire conditions??” We quickly realized we were standing at ground zero of this horrific storm.
We didn’t know what to expect…we didn’t know what we would be able to accomplish in only one week’s time…we didn’t know where to even begin. The next morning we met Greg and James and were told our word for the week was FLEXIBILITY. We soon found out why. Our group was split into 3 work sites. There were no street signs or traffic lights so directions were difficult to follow. Building supplies were limited, if they could be found at all. There were no trees for shade. There was no electricity for air conditioning or fans unless you had a generator. And it was hot as the dickens.
On the 2nd day of work, my knee swelled. I was banned from returning to the work site. Pastor Don suggested I help Miss Bea in the “store”. Although very disappointed, I stayed back and was obedient and oh so richly Blessed!! The children at my school had made cards and so I sat at the entrance of the quonsehut with my knee up on a box and handed them out. This was my journal entry for the day:
“People and the children were so touched by our cards. I gave out all but three…and lots of smiles and hugs and words of encouragement. I even got a few kids jumping up and down. One card had blown into the water and though faded and hardened, when I gave it to a little boy, he just gushed and said “Ain’t this so cute!” Here tattered and all, this dear sweet child could still see the love within…The children are looking for toys and books and stuffed animals and shoes. The people need FOOD. Many are feeding whole families. People come in the hundreds. They still need so much! Heavenly Father, bless Pastor Don and Miss Bea and Joelle and James and Greg and Jamie and George. I’m sitting here crying because I don’t want to leave. My heart just aches for these people. People have waited an average of 4 months before getting a FEMA trailer. Some are still living in tents. There are many people, but very few stores and very little food except far away…I am so saddened Lord and I know You are in total control. I just don’t know how they have made it. Please sweet Jesus, expand this territory here in Lakeshore. They are the ones SAVING LIVES HERE. We are merely Your Humble Servants. We never really knew or understood. We still can’t totally grasp it but I pray for Vision, Lord for this southern state of Mississippi and for Louisiana too. These people have truly touched all our hearts and they will never be forgotten.”
On this anniversary, I want you to know that you have not been forgotten. We pray for you constantly. We are so proud to have had the opportunity to work side-by-side as you stood strong as a Church. You have showered your community with Blessings upon Blessings. Your distribution center remained open when others closed. You have fed and clothed thousands and thousands of people. You have offered school supplies and uniforms and vacation Bible school to the children. You have collected toys and gifts from across the nation to hand out at Christmas. You have taught people how to grow a garden and how to manage a budget. You have given money and supplies to those in need and have helped demolish, rehab and rebuild hundreds of houses. You have ministered to your community and brought many to the Lord. You have certainly shown His Glory through all of these endeavors, and many many more.
YOU, the members of Lakeshore Baptist Church, have been humble and obedient servants. YOU have made sacrifices upon sacrifices and patiently waited upon The Lord for His Time to rebuild your homes. And now HE IS READY to rebuild your physical church. Sing PRAISES loudly to His Name and REJOICE in His Abundant Gifts. He loves you so…
Happy Anniversary Lakeshore Baptist Church.
All my love,
Paula Hamilton from Maryland