NEW ORLEANS (BP)–“I wanted to return some favors,” the Canadian said.
Larry Spencer, who was the founding pastor of Discovery Baptist Church in Regina, Saskatchewan, remembers how volunteers helped build the church’s facility in 1978 and subsequently assisted with various ministries in the community.
“We never would have been able to build the church,” Spencer said, “without churches in the South.”
A mission trip to New Orleans thus gave Spencer an “opportunity to reciprocate.” Seeing the scope of Hurricane Katrina’s destruction, Spencer noted, “There are going to be opportunities for years to come for those who want to take on this kind of ministry or who have experience.”
Spencer and numerous others in the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists have experienced firsthand the benefit of partnership in Kingdom work. In addition to assisting Canadian Baptist churches with ministry projects, volunteers helped build the CCSB mission center and seminary in Cochrane, Alberta.
Because “Canada has really benefited from volunteers … it was time for us to repay with what little bit we can do,” said Ken Ponath, construction coordinator for the 21-member Canadian Baptist Builders team.
“There’s no end to the need [in New Orleans],” Ponath said. “It’ll take years and years to get this place back to normal. It’ll take thousands of volunteers to get it back.”
Joining with other carpenters, electricians, accountants, retired pastors and office personnel from partner conventions in Arkansas and Kansas/Nebraska, the group spent a week rewiring, painting and installing insulation and sheetrock in 10 homes and at Gentilly Baptist Church.
Canadian Baptist Builders was established three years ago and the group worked on projects across Canada as well as disaster relief in Louisiana and Florida. For more than half of the Canadian volunteers who traveled to New Orleans, it was their first mission trip -– and one that left a lasting impression.
Moneen Wuthrich of Cochrane, wiped away tears in describing what she was seeing. “[P]eople are hurting and need the Lord…. [I]t helps to let them know they’re not forgotten.” She added, “Even the floods of the mighty Mississippi can’t keep God down.”
Tisha Murrihill, a professional harpist from Calgary, had no prior experience with construction work and admitted she was hesitant to go due to “worry about [her] fingers.” But after attending a prayer meeting, she knew God wanted her in New Orleans last February. “I want to be a pair of hands and feet, however God wants to use me,” she said, adding, “I bought a basic wiring book to read on the plane.”
Working diligently to measure where electrical wire would be placed in one home, Murrihill stared out a window frame and said earlier volunteers had “done so much already, but you can’t believe how much there is left to do…. All I can think about is, When can I come back?”
John L. Yeats, communications director for the Louisiana Baptist Convention, reflected, “I have served in the Northwest and understand how crucial volunteers are to the planting of Southern Baptist churches. Now these folks are saying ‘thank you’ with their time, skills and testimonies in New Orleans.”
For homeowner Jerry Dean Queen, having a team of volunteers help rebuild her home “really makes you feel like someone cares. You don’t get this every day … when someone comes from Canada to help. I feel like they’re God-sent people.”
Stacey Billger is the missions media strategist for the Louisiana Baptist Convention Communications Team.