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14 volunteers in New Orleans show church’s give & go spirit

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Mount Zion Baptist Church sends 20 percent of the gifts it receives on through Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program and, in 2006, church members nearly tripled their Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goal for international missions.

But missions is more than dollars and cents, senior pastor Perry Brindley said as he led a team of 14 volunteers from the Canton, N.C., congregation to New Orleans to work with Operation NOAH Rebuild, a two-year initiative of the North American Mission Board to help rebuild New Orleans-area homes.

“Not only do we want to give, we want to go,” Brindley said.

Steve Gahagan, construction manager for Operation NOAH, told the North Carolina volunteers that Hurricane Katrina and subsequent flooding left an estimated 100,000 homes damaged or destroyed in the greater New Orleans area. NOAH’s goal is to rebuild 1,000 homes, representing 1 percent of the number affected.

“We have a tremendous job to do,” Gahagan said. “But if we can rebuild one home or change one life, then our time has been well-spent.”

“That 1 percent,” Brindley said, “represents many families, including the family we are helping this week.”

Lifelong New Orleans resident “Ms. Emelda” had just finished overseeing the renovation of her carport into additional living space for her five-member family when they had to evacuate for the hurricane.

Now, with new drywall put in place by the Mount Zion team, Ms. Emelda said “it’s beginning to look like a house again.”

“My daughter found me crying in the [FEMA] trailer,” Ms. Emelda said. “I told her I’m just so grateful. I praise God and thank Him for this group that is helping me.”

Of the Mount Zion team’s eight men and six women, half were age 55 or older. The youngest volunteer was Logan Rogers, a third-year student at Southeastern College at Wake Forest.

Team member Lawrence Lanning lost his home to flooding in September 2004 when back-to-back hurricanes Frances and Ivan came through western North Carolina. “I received help,” Lanning said, “and I want to help others.”

Mount Zion’s 2006 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering exceeded $23,000, beyond the original $8,500 goal. Brindley said there was nothing extraordinary about how they promoted the offering; he simply had asked the 500-member congregation to give out of God’s abundant blessings in keeping with Mount Zion’s vision of reaching people for Christ both locally and globally.

Veteran disaster relief volunteer Peggy Shepherd said service to others is important to an effective Christian witness and it begins at home.

“If you can’t help your own people, you better not get on a bus and go somewhere else,” Shepherd said.

But the amount of devastation in the area took the team by surprise. Jim Trantham, a retiree and longtime Mount Zion member, said the full impact of the devastation cannot be comprehended through television images and is more widespread than he imagined. Shepherd, as a mother and grandmother, said she was disturbed by the tremendous loss that children in particular have experienced.

The team stayed in volunteer housing operated by Operation NOAH and kept daily journals as a way to encourage others to participate in a return trip to New Orleans.

“You don’t get to be a witness if you don’t actually come,” Trantham said.
For information on volunteering in New Orleans with Operation NOAH, call 504-362-4601 or 1-877-934-0808. Marilyn Stewart is a correspondent for the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s communications team on assignment in the New Orleans.

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  • Marilyn Stewart