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3 hurricane-stricken churches gain hope from Builders for Christ

CHALMETTE, La. (BP)–“We desperately need to find 800 new friends,” said Lawrence Corley, founder of Builders for Christ and project manager for the rebuilding of First Baptist Church in Chalmette, La.

Otherwise, Corley said, “[W]e may have taken on more than we can do” unless additional volunteers step forward to help restore the Chalmette church along with Northshore Baptist Church in Slidell and the Church Without Walls in Lafayette -– each heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina’s onslaught in August 2005.

“We don’t believe for a minute that these three churches will have the personnel and resources to finish their building if we aren’t able to,” Corley said. “They’re still repairing their homes or so burdened by the ministry needs in the community that they can’t stop to become contractors when we’re gone, so we must have new people to join in this effort and complete the task God has given us.”

Corley, founder of Builders for Christ, an Alabama-based Southern Baptist organization, noted, “The unique character of our group is that we are organized to blend as many as 100 different congregations participating in two or three church building projects a year in a cohesive, productive church building effort.”

Both men and women volunteers are needed, skilled and unskilled, for weeklong work assignments to start in late May and continue through mid-August.

Toward that end, the organization will host people from more than 60 churches across the United States in planning meetings March 10 at Northshore in Slidell, March 24 at First Baptist Church in Chalmette and March 31 at the Church Without Walls in Lafayette.

Representatives from other interested churches are welcome to attend any of the sessions, which are geared to help everyone be on the same logistical page, said Corley, who can be contacted at [email protected].

For those unable to attend, Corley said, “It is important that those who are interested in these projects at least contact the coordinators. It is best to send a construction and a logistics representative to the meeting so you can get detailed information. However, in any event, contact the project coordinator so your group will be prepared for and properly coordinated with the others.”

The other coordinators are Earl Rhyne, at [email protected], for the Northshore church and Allan Ivemeyer, at [email protected], for the Church Without Walls.

At First Baptist Chalmette, which has plans for a 23,000-square-foot building, at least 150 volunteers a week are needed. In all, First Baptist needs about 50 churches to help.

Northshore Slidell needs about 30 churches; Church Without Walls in Lafayette, about 20 churches.

“I have a list of 250 tasks; for example -– install roof trusses,” Corley said. “Over the course of 13 weeks, every team will take a specific task a week.”

Housing will be arranged by the host churches and cooking is done on-site.

“We generally eat together and build Christian fellowship,” Corley said. “We have a time of instruction each day -– safety talks, task for the day -– then prayer, and testimonies from the local congregation.”

Corley, a church architect by profession, added, “It’s time to rebuild the churches since the churches have worked so faithfully in disaster relief, so the harvest can be reaped from such a witness as was made by the disaster relief teams.

“We have come to deeply love the people in these three churches,” Corley continued. “They have been faithful; they have been steadfast. They have hoped and prayed for the day to come when they could have their churches back, but what we have noticed is that they’ve lost so much and waited so long that they’ve lost hope -– even though they’ve not lost their faith. In that setting, we come to let them know that Jesus understands their loss and we want to be His servants to restore their hope.”