Are we there yet?

Long Hard Road

I remember saying “We have a long hard road of recovery ahead.” I do not think I understood how long and how hard that road would be. Someone said it would take at least a decade of rebuilding for our community to recover. I do not know if I believed them, but God has somehow granted the compulsion to keep moving forward; one step at a time. I guess that comes with the whole “walk by faith, not by sight” thing. One step, and then another, and then another, and here we are, less than 6 months before that 10 year mark. From the back seat, are we there yet?

Hurricane Katrina hit August 29, 2005. Thousands and thousands of you have walked beside us down this road. I hate to call it a finish line, because another road lies ahead around the bend. Katrina relief may wrap up, but mercy ministry never ends, until Christ returns. I guess we do need to put a mile marker in somewhere. As August 29,2015 fast approaches, we still have a lot to do. Would you come and help for one final push?

This summer we need to wrap up the finishing touches on the new church building. We also need to put in a parking lot. I’d love to finally do some landscaping. All the temporary structures that comprised our relief, recovery, and rebuilding camp needs to be decommissioned and dismantled. The task list is long, but as always, that means no matter what you can do, God has a place where you can make a real difference here.

Do you have a mission trip planned for this summer yet? Please consider coming back to Lakeshore, lend a hand in the last leg of the journey, rejoice in the progress that you were a part of, and see how far God has brought this community for His glory.

Feasting on Christ

Ready for Worship
Suppose a good friend invites you over for dinner. Because of their love, they prepare an exquisite meal for you. They set a beautiful table. A flower arrangement serves as an attractive centerpiece. Your mouth waters as you smell the hot meal being served. As your host prepares to delight in the the satisfaction of you enjoying the meal, you lift the fork to your mouth… and stop short.

Before you put the food in your mouth, you say, “this sure is a nice fork,” as you dump the food back on the plate. “I like the way it feels in my hand.” You notice the plate itself and say, “and this plate! What is that, china?” You spend the rest of the evening bragging on the flatware, the glassware, and the place settings., but you never eat one bite of the meal your friend offered you. Would you be honoring your host?

As we prepare for our first worship service in the new building tomorrow (January 4, 2015), I am tempted to spend the entire service pointing out the beauty of this new facility, rejoicing in all the hard work that went into its construction, thanking the folks who poured their labor into seeing the building become a reality, focusing on all the details of the structure, etc. If I did that, and that only, I’d be missing the point. When it it is all said and done, this building is just a plate; a plate on which we serve the main course, which is Christ. (John 6:48-58)

I must preach Christ. He deserves our focus and attention. Yes, he has given us a great building. I look forward to seeing it filled to capacity with worshipers. In fact a great meal deserves nice utensils. The best fine dining restaurants don’t serve paper plates, plastic forks, and Styrofoam cups. God can be worshiped amidst storm debris under a blue tarp, in a metal quonset hut, or in a gorgeous new church building. No matter the physical location, let us not forget who we have come to worship and adore. As we feast on Christ, let us not get distracted by the place setting. “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” (Psalm 34:8)

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.

Rockin’ it


What a difference dry wall makes! Some of our guys, Mike Poirier and Randy McCarver, started hanging the sheet rock. They were joined by a great group of folks from churches of the Mid-Lakes Baptist Association in Missouri. The following week another great team from Lake Shore Baptist of Massachusetts continued where they left off. This week Mississippians from Dumas Baptist Church finished the job.

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

Ready for Spring Break?

Are you looking forward to spring? Historically our spring break weeks have been full of mission teams. At this time we still have several weeks open as we continue working on the new church building. We do not have anyone scheduled yet for March 2-6, March 23-April 12, and April 20 through the end of May. Want to come? Talk it up in your church. As the weather warms, we look forward to a glorious time in the Lord on the gulf coast this spring.