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Gustav spawns ministry by Baptists

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–The most extensive damage from Hurricane Gustav’s winds in Louisiana is in a triangle formed by Baton Rouge, Alexandria and Lafayette, according to Gibbie McMillan, Louisiana Baptists’ disaster relief coordinator.

Across the state — from the coast to the northern tier of parishes — flooding from the storm surge and tropical rains (more than 20 inches in multiple locations) will require cleanup operations, with volunteers especially needed to assist the elderly and people with special needs.

“We are much better prepared this time than when [Hurricanes] Katrina and Rita came, but the damage is still major,” McMillan said. “The Louisiana Baptist [disaster relief] teams are moving into place to assist, and teams from our partnering states are arriving to make a difference in the name of the Lord. The Red Cross and Salvation Army have requested Southern Baptists to prepare almost 400,000 meals per day at various locations [in Louisiana].”

David E. Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana convention, said, “As we discover needs, we are confident that Southern Baptists will rally to help those in need. We are grateful for the disaster relief volunteers who are already on the job.”

To assist the pastors and churches in the hurricane-stricken areas, the convention’s website, www.lbc.org, offers various opportunities. The opportunity to give online to the Hurricane relief fund also is available.

In Mississippi, relieved residents expressed gratitude that Gustav delivered only a glancing blow to the state, unlike Hurricane Katrina three years earlier that came ashore near Bay St. Louis and caused widespread destruction not seen since Hurricane Camille in 1969.

“No doubt, it could have been much worse,” Jim Futral, executive director of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, said of Gustav. But, Futral noted, “[S]till there is destruction and loss” across the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”

Futral added, “People along the Gulf Coast held their breath for several days as Hurricane Gustav was making his arrival. Already, Southern Baptist Convention disaster relief feeding and recovery teams have been mobilized and deployed into areas damaged or destroyed by Gustav.”

Jim Didlake, director of men’s ministry for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board who is part of a disaster relief team on the coast, reported to the The Baptist Record, the convention’s newsjournal, “The spirit of the people to whom we’ve talked is good.”

Didlake reported on the morning of Sept. 2 that many areas of the Gulf Coast encountered considerable flooding, downed trees and electrical power outages.

“There’s going to be a need for some cleanup and ‘mud-out’ work,” Didlake said, referring to the procedure used when Baptist volunteers remove materials such as wallboard and carpet from a home that has been flooded.

“There will also be a need for financial assistance, building materials and repair work,” Didlake said.

Donations for Mississippi disaster relief ministries can be made payable to Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, designated to Hurricane Relief on the memo line, and mailed to the MBCB Business Office, Hurricane Relief, P.O. Box 530, Jackson, MS 39205-0530.

As in several other states, a number of Mississippi Baptist churches have joined with churches in several other states to open their doors to evacuees from south Louisiana and south Mississippi. Officials estimated the Louisiana evacuation alone at nearly 2 million people.

The Madison campus of Jackson’s First Baptist Church, for example, served as a shelter for 70 elderly residents evacuated from St. Margaret’s Daughters Home in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans.
Compiled from reporting by John Yeats, director of communication for the Louisiana Baptist Convention, and William H. Perkins Jr., editor of the Mississippi Baptist Record.

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