The Home Stretch

The Lord blessed us with a very productive summer. Progress on the new building moved forward as planned and now we are entering the home stretch.

As soon as we finish the siding, roof the front porch, and set the steeple, the outside of the building will be complete. Then we can get the parking lot ready and start landscaping. For the restrooms we need to lay the tile, set the sinks and toilets, install the grab bars, hang the mirrors, etc.

We also need to complete the entryway. Because this area sits beneath the “base flood elevation” we need to use all flood resistant materials. Primarily this means sheets of hardiplank siding instead of sheet rock. That will all need to be hung, floated, and painted this fall. Of course, we also have all the “punch list” type things to do as well.

If anyone would like to schedule a mission trip to help finish up the building, we could use your help. We have had a wonderful response and a tremendous amount of help thus far, but we do not have any teams on the calendar at this point to finish things up.

When Nature Calls

Its a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. I praise the Lord for First Baptist Church of Ponchatoula Louisiana who was here last week. They successfully dug the trench and laid the sewer line for the new church building. Its not as glamorous as some of the other things, but it was a necessary project and I praise the Lord that they were willing to do it. At least it was fresh pipe. This actually reminds me of several stories. I’ll share one and try not to be too graphic.

It was the first couple of weeks after the storm. Remember, Katrina completely destroyed this area, there were no standing buildings, no utilities or services of any kind. Our church property had nothing but debris. We were camping out in tents, eating military MREs, and when nature called, we had to just go behind some rubble. So when a church in Texas called and asked, “what is your greatest need,” we talked about getting some sort of restroom set up.

We had an old septic tank on the church property, with a slab and a hole leading down to it. My idea was to build an out house over it and at least that would give us some privacy. They jumped on the project, prefabed the wooden structure in Texas, set it on a trailer, and headed our way.

When they arrived, I was off site. Unable to locate the septic tank, they dug a deep hole in what would have been the back yard of the old church. Picture an old-fashioned 4′X4′ outhouse and you get the idea. It was wonderful and served its purpose for several days. I was a little worried about the hole, but the guy said that he placed a bag of lime at the bottom and that would take care of things. Apparently, that’s how they did it in the old days.

Come Sunday morning, we were holding church services where the old building used to be. We had pulled the pulpit out of the mud, set it up on concrete blocks and on a piece of plywood that used to serve as someone’s roof. We build a makeshift awning out of salvaged lumber and a blue tarp to shield us from the hot September Sun. Since there were no walls on this structure, the outhouse could be seen right behind me as I preached. The awkward sight didn’t bother anyone, but the flies were a little difficult to handle. With the number of folks on the church property, the lime had gone past its usefulness. It was bad.

Relief supplies had been rolling in. Among the goods we received a pallet of bleach. We used it to clean out our wells as we tried to get water going again. One of the volunteers knew how to get rid of the flies. He poured a couple of gallons of bleach down the hole. Its been a long time since high school chemistry class, but apparently lime and bleach don’t mix well. The outhouse started smoking. Toxic white fumes billowed out of every seam of the structure and as we began the church service, I was a little afraid that it might blow up.

As we sang the “Call to Worship,” The Lord sent a favorable wind that blew the potentially deadly smoke away from the congregation. After church, the flies were all dead, but I warned everyone not to use the outhouse. It was the only toilet within miles and I had to place an “out of order” sign on it

Spring Break 2014

Over the last few weeks we have had some great students work with us for their spring breaks. Kentwood Community Church of Michigan prepared the site for the next teams coming throughout the summer. A group of High School students from Pittsburgh PA hit numerous projects including framing the Porte-cochère, painting, repairing the old fiberglass steeple, running HV/AC ducts for the lower level, etc. I couldn’t even keep up with everything they did. They were all a big help.

I wish I could list every team of students that have come down to the Mississippi gulf coast over the last several years. Dating all the way back to 2005, immediately following Hurricane Katrina, we have had some of the best teenagers in the country lend a hand in the ongoing efforts.

Selecting Colors

A great team of folks from Mid-Lakes Baptist Association of Missouri are doing a great job hanging the sheet rock in our new building this week. Which means we will need to select paint colors soon, and that reminds me of a story, I would like to share.

Shortly after the storm we erected our current “temporary” church building and began worshiping in it imediatly. We built interior walls and finally hung sheet rock. When the time came to paint the focal wall, I needed to decide on a color. So, I turned to JoEll for input.

If you have been to Lakeshore, you have probably met JoEll. She has been serving as my secretary since the storm. Over the years, I have learned to value her opinion and her friendship. She often helps me think through decisions like this and she usually has very good advice and thinks through things well.

Now remember, about six grueling months had past since the storm and the landscape remained desolate. We were still in the long process of removing debris, there were no leaves on the trees, all the grass was dead, All the FEMA campers were plain white. The quonset huts were mud brown. Everything was dreary, lifeless, colorless, and depressing. Even when we were building sheds, we just gave them a utilitarian white wash and called it good enough.

JoEll recognized that we needed a little life injected into the dreariness of the long-term recovery efforts. We needed some color to brighten things up, something sunny. She said, how about “sunshine yellow?” I started picturing this big wall in the front of the church, splashed with “sunshine yellow.” I imagined people having to wear sun glasses to worship. I respectfully vetoed the idea.

At that point, I said, “I think I need a man’s opinion.” (See my article on Masculine Church Architecture.)I turned to James. He said, I think we need a man’s color; something like deep blue or green. Now that’s more like it! Green it was. We selected a nice earth tone green.

But I hated the idea that I had to reject JoEll’s suggestion and I really wanted to brighten her day. So the next morning, when I was doling out jobs for all the volunteers, I saved a special project for a couple of the ladies. I sent them on a “secret mission.” Once JoEll had gotten to the church property, they snuck off to purchase paint, and then over to JoEll’s FEMA camper, to paint her shed, yep, the brightest “sunshine yellow” they could find. I wish I could have seen the look on her face when she got home that evening. lol
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The Reformed Baptist Project

The Lord blessed us last week with a wonderful time of Christian fellowship and productivity when nearly 100 volunteers converged on Lakeshore to push forward with the new church building construction. We hung siding on the south side of the building, installed the air conditioning units and ran the duct work, dug the elevator pit, pour steps for the front entrance, set the large columns for the front portico, and several other things.

The team consisted of a network of Reformed Baptist Churches who have been to Lakeshore every January for the last nine years. I truly have been blessed by the relationships forged through this partnership.

To read a detailed account of the happenings throughout the week, check out their blog “The Lakeshore Project

The Back Porch

The Back Porch

The back porch of the church building is complete. The structure will hold the air conditioner units for the building, serve as the platform for the elevated electrical meter and feed, as well as provide rear egress from the building.

Men from Grace Covenant Baptist Church, Bermingham Alabama dug the footings, built the forms, set the rebar and prepared for the slab. Local men and our church members poured and finished the concrete. A great team from Pine Forest Baptist Church, Vidor, Texas built the deck and stairs.

The project turned out very nice. One of the volunteers said, “Its a shame such a beautiful back porch has to hold ugly air conditioner units.” Someone else replied, “God deserves the very best.” Everyone agreed.

The Back Porch

The Back Porch

Still Working

We still have a long way to go with the new church building. The Lord made great progress over the summer months. This fall, Lord willing, volunteer crews will add the front portico, a side porte-cochère, and a back porch to the building. We do not yet have teams lined up for these projects. If you, or someone you know, would like to make a mission trip and come to lend a hand, please contact our construction manager Mike Poirier at mike@lakeshorebaptist.net or 413-233-7557 (cell). We would love to have the outside of the building complete by Christmas.

Eight Years

Katrina Relief

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

Church Construction Partners

front view

We praise the Lord for the following churches and groups that have come to the gulf coast to help in the construction of our new church building so far.

  • The Reformed Baptist Lakeshore Project
  • First Baptist Church Zachary LA
  • United Methodist Church, Senneca PA
  • First Baptist Church Tullahoma, TN
  • First Baptist Church Ponchatoula, LA
  • First Baptist Church Jonesboro LA
  • Southern Kentucky Builders for Christ
  • Carpenters for Christ of Birmingham AL,
  • Builders for Christ of Central Georgia
  • First Baptist Church Joelton TN
  • Builders For Christ of Fort Worth TX
  • Mid-Maryland Baptist Association
  • Damascus Baptist Church, MS
  • Dumas Baptist Church, Dumas MS
  • First Baptist Church Mathiston MS
  • Trinity Church, Hilton Head Island SC
  • Greenlaw Baptist Church
  • First Baptist Church Grandview, TX
  • North Shelby Baptist Church Birmingham, Al

To add your name to the list, please contact us and make plans to take a mission trip to see this project through to completion for the glory of God.