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His veterinary practice yields ministry on Miss. Gulf Coast

OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (BP)–Ministering to people through their pets is a part of Walter Mullen’s everyday veterinarian medicine practice. Since Hurricane Katrina struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Mullen’s efforts have quietly intensified.

“I am much more content being behind the scenes doing something for somebody than being up front and noticed for doing it,” Mullen said.

One of the veterinarian’s behind-the-scenes ministries in the aftermath of Katrina involved trips to Starkville, Miss., a five-hour drive one-way, to retrieve food and water for more than 80 pets that families had entrusted to his care as they were evacuating the region.

Mullen, a member of First Baptist Church in Ocean Springs, views boarding pets as an opportunity for ministry because, tragically, one of his clients died when she would not leave her dog during the storm. “She drowned. They found her holding her dog,” he said. “She was the quintessential, pleasant grandmother-figure.” Reflecting on the tragedy, he said, “It kind of sobers you up. It was something where we could have helped her.”

Since the storm, he has made sure the pets received the care they need, often by making adjusting his fees for the owners depending on the devastation of their personal property.

One unique way of adjusting his fees has been asking a client who escaped damage in the hurricane to write a check payable not to him for the veterinary service but, instead, to another client who lost everything.

Mullen lives in the house he grew up in Ocean Springs. It is almost four feet off the ground and approximately 25 feet above sea level and yet water flowed under the home.

Although he faired well, many of his neighbors did not, including his 95-year-old grandmother, with no visible sign of her home left on her lot. “Acts of service has been the biggest part of my ministry,” Mullen said. “I have had to clear a lot of glass and debris for my grandmother and our neighbors…. I found several things of hers that she [lost during the storm]. We also found some World War II medals for another neighbor.”

Mullen’s wife, Jan, stated that one of their staff from the veterinary practice became a Christian during her evacuation from the Gulf Coast. “[Walter] has been a good witness to his staff. [The employee] came and told him after the storm that she became a Christian because she knew he was a Christian too,” Jan recounted. “He gave her some guidance about finding a church home and getting involved in a Bible study.”

One of Mullen’s favorite Bible verses, Proverbs 3:5-6, has manifested itself in his life in the days after the storm. “Do you know why the storm came? No,” He reflected. “Do you know why you lost your house? No. But, if the trust is there, if the faith is there, you know that whatever happens, God is going to be there with you.”

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  • Keith Manuel