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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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.
I need to take a breath today and thank everyone for the overwhelming outpouring of support we have received over the last two weeks. If you have been following my blog you know that Katrina hit Lakeshore Baptist Church hard. She took our church buildings, all our church member’s homes, and just about everything else in our community.
My Dad and brother traveled with me on my first trip down to Lakeshore to assess the damage. As we left Baton Rouge Healing Place Church loaded my Dad’s SUV with food, water, and relief supplies to distribute in Lakeshore. They also deployed a full trailer of food to the area. My sister Kristin and her husband, Ron Reynolds, work with the Healing Place’s eXcursion ministry.
Sometimes our pianist JoEll teases me about the doctrinal debates I engage in on the internet. We had to laugh this time because not only do those discussions serve the immediate purpose of standing for “the faith once delivered to the saints,” this time it served to hook us up with much needed gasoline, food, and supplies. I met Nathan White through my critique of Johnny Hunt’s SBC Pastor’s Conference sermon. Nathan brought our need before his pastor, Dave Stephenson. Greg London and Beau (sorry I didn’t catch your last name Beau) came down from Grace Bible Church near Atlanta with a F-250 loaded down with a 55 gallon drum of gas and a full load of miscellaneous supplies, including an ice chest full of lunch meat. After a week of green beans and fruit cocktail I brought them from Healing Place, a mayonnaise and turkey sandwich tasted like heaven.
Sawgrass Fellowship from Sunrise FL, sent 2 church vans and a whole Uhaul truck full of supplies, including 7 generators. Their worship leader, Steve Mullins, found us through this blog. I can’t thank God enough for these energetic folks who hit the ground running with vigor and encouragement. Pastor Jan Deans has promised a long term commitment and partnership with us and plans to return to our area in November.
As I type this, David Shormann of Houston is on rout to drop off lights, fans, dog food, and other supplies. He plans to drop these supplies off at one of the only buildings left standing in our community. One of our church members, John Richard, road out the storm in his house. Miraculously God spared the structural integrity of the house with John and his brother Cooper in it. I’ll save John’s full story for another post.
Gil Shivers, also from the Houston area in conjunction with a church in Weatherford, Texas, sent supplies to our area. Last I heard, they were heading toward Gulfview Elementary School. What a blessing.
I would be amiss if I did not mention the help I’ve received from my friend, Evangelist Tim Lee. He as already sent us $5,500 and has initiated a fund to help us rebuild our church facilities. God has used Bro. Tim in the past to richly encourage us and he does so once again in this time of need.
We have also received several financial gifts via paypal and checks through my parents address in Baton Rouge. Please forgive me for not listing them all this morning. The overwhelming outpouring of support has been such a blessing. We will continue to face steep financial needs as our church family seeks to minister to each other and our community. Gifts to the following address will be used to sup lament our church income as our entire congregation lost their homes. It will be a while before our church tithes and offerings provide self-sufficient income for our exploding ministry needs.
Lakeshore Baptist Church
1451 Great Oak Drive
Baton Rouge,LA 70810
BTW, I apologize to those who have emailed or called me and I have not had time to get back to you. If you have offered to help in a particular way, I am in the process of coordinating our efforts so we can best use the generous and welcome offers we have received.
Most of all we appreciate your continued prayers. We know that our sovereign God still governs and controls all things, from the killer winds and 25-30 foot tidal surge that swept our community into the gulf, to the flood of generous loving support from our brothers and sisters in Christ from across the country. We now know first hand what William Cowper meant when he penned the words,
God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.
Lakeshore Baptist Church before and after Hurricane Katrina.
Pictured left to right: my brother David Elbourne, Mrs. Bea, me, and James. James drives a truck for a living. Even with Katrina in the gulf, Mrs. Bea did not want to evacuate. James drove in from Texas just in time to take her to higher ground.
Mrs Bea heads up the children’s church at Lakeshore Baptist. Her daughter, JoEll is our pianist. JoEll, her husband Geb and two of their kids lived in a house on the same property. Mrs. Bea’s sister, Vergie, and her two grown daughters, Lisa and Tammy also had a house there. All three homes were destroyed by the storm.
We have always said that when you look up the word “hospitality” in the dictionary, it ought to have Mrs. Bea’s picture beside the definition. After the storm, my Dad, brother, and I made our way from Baton Rouge down to Lakeshore to check on things. When we drove up to their property Mrs. Bea and James were sitting in two salvaged kitchen chairs underneath the only bit of small shade they could find. The first thing Mrs. Bea did was give me a big hug and offer us all something to drink.
In the pictures below, you can see steps leading up to where Vergie’s house used to be. You can see what’s left of the blue house in the distance. James, Mrs. Bea, Vergie, Tammy, and Lisa have set up camp there and we have been bringing them food, water, ice, and miscellaneous essentials. I have a generator for them coming tomorrow. I would really like to get a better roof over their heads than just a tent as they make plans to bring in more permanent trailers onto the property. If anyone would like to donate a camper for this need please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.