THERIOT, La. (BP)–Amid the destruction and widespread sense of helplessness along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana brought on by hurricanes, pastor Jerry Moser said there is tremendous opportunity, and he hopes Southern Baptists will take advantage of it.
“The people here have seen their community flooded before. Like always, they will rally around each other. They will rally around their community and do their best to take care of each other,” Moser, of Bayou DuLarge Baptist Church in Theriot, said. “People here do not give up easily, and they certainly don’t want to leave their homes.”
But Moser has a sinking feeling that some of the coastal residents, especially the older ones, won’t have a choice but to move inland. The double whammy of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike just three years after Katrina and Rita has left the community in shambles.
“For generations, these hard-working people — mostly fishermen and oil field workers — have endured, overcome and struggled to stay on this strip of land surrounded on three sides by water,” Moser said. “Many were just starting to get their homes repaired and raised off the ground when they were slammed again. I had helped a number of them, but there was still so many more to go.”
The small fishing community south of Houma took the full brunt of Hurricane Gustav as it plowed ashore and roared north, but the town managed to weather the storm. It was Hurricane Ike’s flooding rains that proved too much for the already damaged homes to take.
“The Lord allows these types of events so we can reach the lost in the midst of a crisis,” Moser said. “It is a chance to minister to people who are open. By being here with them and by having endured what they have, you earn the right to speak with them. I have made sure to not let an opportunity pass me by.”
And neither have the hundreds of Southern Baptists who have poured into the area to help with recovery efforts. Nineteen churches in Louisiana’s Gulf Coast Baptist Association suffered damage from the two storms.
In the days after Gustav, while many waited in vain for FEMA to bring in promised food, water, ice and other supplies, numerous Baptist churches were among the first offering help.
Church members served as first responders in the days directly following the storm — cutting trees, spreading tarps over damaged roofs and assisting parish authorities wherever they were needed.
As more aid streams into the impacted areas, Moser wants people to be mindful that the recovery effort won’t be completed in a couple of weeks, several months or even several years. It is going to take a long time for the area to fully recover.
“On the short end, and most importantly, people here need prayer and more cleanup crews,” Moser said. “In the long end, we are going to need a lot more prayer and for people not to forget us.
“We are going to need all forms of assistance with the rebuilding efforts, especially amongst the smaller churches along the bayou, and we are going to be needing it for a long time,” Moser said.
“And we shouldn’t just limit our assistance to just Southern Baptists. I believe the church should be attractive to all,” he added. “If we do as God commands us to do and show we love and care for our brothers and neighbors at the same time, we become more attractive in the eyes of the community. It shows we care, and if we are willing to do this for them, maybe they will begin to listen.
“It is a tremendous opportunity to reach the lost, and God has put it there for us to use,” Moser said. “Let’s use it.”
Philip Timothy is a staff writer for the Louisiana Baptist Message.