CNN featured Lakeshore MS Tuesday night in a piece called “Forgotten Town.” Gary Tuchman narrates:
You’ve probably never heard of the tiny town of Lakeshore Mississippi, but you are unlikely to forget about it now; because no place was hit harder by hurricane Katrina. The homes in this coastal town have simply been blown away. Block after block of nothingness. Piles of rubble covering the memories of family lives…
People from here are still missing. Prayers for them are being offered behind a steeple that was recovered from a decimated church.
Tuchman interviews a few folks and shows just a small glimpse of the devastation. The camera pans across some of the destruction and then to our blue tarp make-shift shelter and our salvaged steeple. You can watch the video on the CNN web site.
My friend, Chris Bostick, finally reported in after the storm. He is OK, but his house is gone. Chris’s grandfather, Ed, and I were good friends. After Ed died Chris and I began building a similar relationship. God has been working in his life in various ways. Chris had requested baptism. We were in the process of discussing the supernatural change God performs in our hearts through regeneration, what it means to be a believer, and the forgiveness of sin Christ provides through his work on the cross. I pray that God will continue to work in his life to His glory.
I love Chris and his family. I hope they do not mind me posting a picture of where his grandma’s house used to be. The big front porch looked out over the water. Katrina’s monster storm surge took the entire house. Not even a single board from the structure could be found.
I took this picture standing in Mrs. Bobbi’s front yard looking up at the slab for the front porch.
Standing on the porch, looking where the house used to be you can see the slab of Ed’s big work shed off to the right. Chris’s house used to be somewhere back there to the left.
Sitting on the front porch looking out to the water.
Our pianist, JoEll Fricke lost everything in the storm. Pictured above, you can see her house collapsed on top of her car. Her and her husband Geb just finished renovating the house and we had scheduled a church fellowship in their home the day before Katrina hit. We canceled the fellowship to evacuate. When the time comes I hope to have volunteers willing to lend her and Geb a hand in rebuilding their house. For now, JoEll really needs a car.
We found the church piano, that JoEll has played for years, in the woods across the road from where the church used to be. My pulpit laid beside it, surrounded by other rubble. We found the top of the piano about a hundred yards away.
I could not begin to tell you how much of a blessing JoEll has been to me and Lakeshore Baptist Church over the years. Her leadership in our Vacation Bible School musical highlights every summer. She always has an encouraging word for me. She volunteers for everything. Pictured below she wraps a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child. Her two beautiful children Gabrielle and “little Geb” are such a blessing. She is like a sister to me. I know it may be asking a lot, but I’d really love to provide her a means of transportation. If anyone would like to donate her a vehicle please call her at (228) 493-1317.
Update: The Lord provides! A gracious church in the Chicago area donated us a car and we passed it along to JoEll. Now they need a house.
Everyone in Lakeshore had their own well, providing their property with water. The storm severely damaged or destroyed all the pumps, motors, and tanks for these shallow wells. The tidal surge broke most of them off leaving nothing but a pipe sticking out of the ground. Some of the wells may need to be redug. FEMA will not place temporary housing trailers on property without electricity, water, and sewage. We desperately need to get these pumps repaired or, in most cases, replaced. We have a couple of churches offering to fund this project, but I need someone with the expertise to head it up. If you know something about wells and would be willing to coordinate this please contact me at email@example.com.
Yesterday, I went into New Orleans to check on my house for the first time since the storm. As my wife and I drove into the city we saw tremendous wind damage. We exited the interstate and snaked our way through neighborhoods attempting to get to our street. Much of the city was still cordoned off where standing water still filled the streets or downed trees and debris prevented navigation. Our hearts sunk as we saw the water lines on many homes and businesses reaching 3, 4, 5 feet and above. Pictures wouldn’t do the scene justice, especially for those familiar with what these historic neighborhoods used to look like.
Pulling onto Gentilly from Elysian Fields, hope began to spark as we noticed most of the older buildings sat higher than the flood line and did not appear to have taken in water. We slowly drove down our street trying to tell if the water had gone into any homes. Some did. Some didn’t. Many were too close to call. We could tell that the water had reached all the way to our front porch, but it didn’t look like it had ever topped it. Not until we opened the front door did we know for sure. I even reached down to touch the rug because after all I’ve seen over the past three weeks I almost could not believe it was dry. Everything remained where we had left it and nothing in the main house sustained any damage.
As I feared the old Magnolia tree fell in the back yard, but it fell away from the house. If it would have come the other way it would have taken out my office. The picture above looks out the back window.
The house’s old original attached garage had been enclosed and converted into an apartment years ago. It had a couple feet of water in it. No one currently lived there, but we are a little concerned that the mold could travel into the main house if our landlord doesn’t get in there soon. We also noticed several roof tiles missing and fear that a good rain could cause leaks. Our garage in the back did take in a couple of feet of water. The broken garage door prevented me from checking in on it but I’m sure we lost our washing machine and dryer and everything else in there. The shed in the back yard caved in, but it didn’t house anything of importance. Considering everything, we weathered the storm very well.
While most of our stuff didn’t sustain damage, we will not be able to live in the house for quite some time. We loaded my Dad’s SUV with as much as we could take. We packed it high with the kid’s musical instruments, computer equipment, pictures, keep sakes and some clothes. I’d like to get back asap to retrieve my library and other things to keep it from mold or roof leaks. With another storm in the gulf it looks like they have reclosed the city for now, so I’m not sure when our next trip will be.
For the last three weeks I’ve been talking about Lakeshore where Katrina destroyed all our church member’s homes as well as all the church buildings. I live (lived) about 45 minutes from Lakeshore MS in New Orleans LA. Today I have a chance to get into the city and check on my house for the first time. I do not know what we might find. The 75 year old Gentilly Terrace home sits above sea level up on a pre-lake levee berm. Its hard to tell whether that was high enough to keep it dry while most of the city got saturated. The online interactive New Orleans Flood Map indicated nearly 6 feet of water in our street, and over 3 feet in my back yard, which represents a 1000 square foot average. The aerial picture above shows water at least up to front door. Did it rise over the steps leading to the porch? I don’t know. I’ll find out in a few hours. If the water did get in, even a foot, we will have three weeks of mold growth to deal with. The muck could have easily taken my entire library. Enough speculation – time to hit the road.
This morning I preached from Luke 7:11-17.
11 Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. 12 As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” 17 And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.
- The People Feared God.
- The People Glorified God.
- The People Recognized Christ’s Greatness.
- God Visited His People.
- The Word Spread Far and Wide.
The unnamed woman of Nain would have felt right at home sitting under our blue tarped makeshift shelter as Lakeshore Baptist Church gathered for worship this morning. Her husband had died and now she walked to the cemetery to bury her only son. In that day these losses would have also greatly impacted her only means of economic support. Like the rest of us sitting on salvaged chairs and broken pews left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, she had lost everything. With the stench of death in the air and salty tears flowing down already stained cheeks, Jesus Christ speaks resurrection life, leaving onlookers no other choice but to sit in awe of God’s death conquering power, glorify Him as the King of life, and begin to recognize Christ as supreme over all things.
So many people have stopped by our church property over the last 3 weeks to witness the devastation first hand, to bring much needed food, water, clothing, and supplies, offer assistance, and prayer. I’ve mentioned a few of these wonderful people and need to find the time to tell you of several of the others. We see God’s people, the body of Christ, serving as His hands and His feet, providing life affirming hope. We know that God will rebuild our church buildings, our houses, and our lives and we believe He will do it through the overwhelming support we receive through His people. When Jesus raised the widow of Nain’s son from the dead, the news of Christ’s resurrection power spread throughout the world (Luke 7:17). God is working the same newsworthy miracle in Lakeshore as onlookers stand in awe of what God can do through His people. We pray that God will continue to use our suffering and pain for His glory, honor, and praise. We pray that through our loss, people will recognize Christ as their all satisfying treasure.
Yesterday, Jimmy Draper and his entourage surveyed the Hurricane Katrina damage along the gulf coast of Mississippi. Dr. Draper serves as president of Lifeway Christian Resources, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. He stopped by our church and I had the pleasure of sharing with him a little of what God has done through Lakeshore Baptist Church over the 11 years I’ve been pastor and what we feel God will continue to do in the wake of this devastating storm. Dr. Draper wanted us to know that Lifeway pledges a strong commitment to help us rebuild and continue working for the cause of Christ.
I pointed out the strewn remains of our buildings as we stood on the cement slab. I showed him the mud splattered pulpit we drug out of the woods. I was humbled to have Dr. Draper wrap his arm around me as we stood in the shadow of a cross constructed out of the floor beams of our demolished building and have him pray for me and God’s continued ministry in Lakeshore.
We have been blessed by Lifeway over the years, especially through Sunday School and Vacation Bible School material. Lifeway also sells pews, pre-fabricated baptisteries, and other furnishings. They will provide a wonderful resource as we rebuild our buildings to minister and proclaim the gospel of God’s sovereign grace to even more people than before.
The other day I mentioned that one of our church member’s homes still stood after the storm. John Richard and his brother Cooper weathered the storm in John’s house. They actually started in Cooper’s house next door. When the storm surge rose to about 5 1/2 feet they somehow swam to John’s place, climbed up to the second story and hunkered down as the water continued to rise and the hurricane force winds howled. The water came in about 6 inches or so before receding. Nearby buildings blew or washed away. The metal shed, pictured below, sits in the street in front of John’s house. We don’t know exactly where it came from. The fact that John and Cooper survived can only be explained by a miracle. John shrugged and said, “I don’t know why, but I guess God ain’t done with me yet.”
I do not think John would mind me calling him an “interesting character.” He is a long time Lakeshore Baptist Church member and has a real heart for God. He has his own prison pen-pal ministry where he literally writes over 2000 letters a year to prison inmates all across the country. He lives content in the house pictured above with no air conditioning or other conveniences.
As we still await the OK from the insurance company to clear our church property, John has agreed to accept any clean up and construction assistance at his place. He built his house on sturdy 12X12 stilts that maintained their structural integrity during the storm. About 20 years ago he enclosed the bottom flore for their other brother, Gerald. Gerald passed away a couple years ago. Katrina completely gutted the bottom floor. If a clean up and construction crew would like to come in, rip out the existing walls and floor to the bottom level and re-enclose it, the church can use the space for storage while we plan to rebuild the church facilities. Anyone interested in volunteering for this job, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lakeshore Baptist Church gathered for worship yesterday. Most of our congregation still have not been able to return to the area since all their houses lay demolished. We have no electricity, water, or shelter. None the less, about thirty-five did make it to the church property. God blessed us with hope and encouragement as we sang, prayed, cried, and heard the Word of God preached.
I said we would meet on the church slab, but to be accurate the building did not have a slab. It sat on concrete blocks and a few years ago we pumped concrete underneath to solve an erosion problem. We met on that rough piece of cement with the rubble of our buildings all around us. We found the pulpit across the road in the woods. We drug it out and set it up on blocks and plywood left from the building for a makeshift platform. We rummaged through the debris and found a dozen or so metal folding chairs and a couple of broken pews. We set the pews on concrete blocks and cleaned them off as much as we could. My brother built a cross from the broken beams that used to support the church building and set it up behind the pulpit. The cross of Christ will continue to support us as we rebuild and move forward as a community of faith to the glory of God.
We sang Amazing Grace and I preached from Habakkuk 3:17-19 and John 14:1-6. Habakkuk walked in our shoes as he saw no fruit on the trees, no oil in the press, no flocks or heard in the stalls, but still trusted that God reigns in the heavens. We do not root our strength in the muddy soft ground of cars, and buildings, and land, but in the solid firmness of God’s hand of providence.
As we looked around our church property we saw nothing where it used to be. I pointed to where the piano used to be. It now lays shattered across the road. I pointed to where the steeple used to stand. Katrina tossed it into the woods on the back corner of our property. From where I stood preaching, the baptistery used to be right behind me, but it now sits all the way across the road. The pine paneling that used to embrace us in that room from every wall now sticks out from under the ruins of neighboring buildings, lays buried under mud, and splintered across the entire area. The storm deposited two trucks on the church property. We still have not discovered whose they are or where they came from. Our congregation’s houses either floated from where they belonged, or had their contents all sucked out into fields, ditches, and marsh. Beds, couches, tubs, washing machines, refrigerators, children’s toys all litter the landscape like monster confetti. Clothes once tucked neatly into dresser drawers now hang flapping from tree tops. All their things aren’t where they used to be, but God is still where He has always been – on his throne, ruling, reigning, and governing all things for His glory. He will establish our feet on the solid ground of His provision and we believe He will use this catastrophe to amplify the truth of His word and call many to anchor their hope in Him.