METAIRIE, La. (BP)–Seven years ago, members of Good Shepherd Hispanic Baptist Church in Metairie, La., had compassion on fellow believers in Honduras hit hard by Hurricane Mitch. And now the favor is being returned many times over as Good Shepherd recovers from Hurricane Katrina.
The folks at Good Shepherd sent 12 containers of food and clothing to an evangelical church and a Baptist church in Honduras in 1998 to help meet some of the needs left by the destructive storm.
“Now that Katrina has hit New Orleans, we never expected they would appreciate what we did for them seven years ago and they would decide to come here,” Gonzalo Rodriguez, pastor of Good Shepherd, told Baptist Press.
Juan Ramon Rivera, the pastor of the Baptist church in Honduras that Good Shepherd helped, brought a love offering of $1,000 from his church when he visited Good Shepherd in mid-October.
“He brought $1,000 from people who work in the marketplace and who are very poor,” Rodriguez said.
Daniel Romero, the pastor of the evangelical church that Good Shepherd aided after Hurricane Mitch, delivered a check for $17,000 from his people.
“What makes a difference is that Honduras is what we consider a country of the third world,” Rodriguez noted. “They are very poor people and we never expected they would come here to help us.”
In addition to the love offering, Rodriguez said Romero gave $4,000 to purchase a new floor for the church and its missionary house because both were heavily damaged by the flooding in New Orleans. Carpet was ruined and pews were tossed around, he said. One of the two air conditioner units stopped working and is in need of repair too.
Romero brought five men along with him, Rodriguez said, to help in cleanup efforts, and one of the men happens to own a restaurant in Honduras. So he bought and cooked a chicken meal for everyone at a celebration service Good Shepherd had Oct. 16, attended by more than 450 people.
“It was exciting. The church was packed and we had more than 25 professions of faith,” Rodriguez said.
Before Katrina hit, Good Shepherd had two Sunday morning services with a combined attendance of around 400. But a large portion of the congregation scattered because of the storm and not all have returned. Rodriguez said guests throughout the community and volunteers from other states that had come to help with recovery accounted for some of the large crowd during the celebration service.
Even after the $18,000 in sacrificial giving from Christians in Honduras, Rodriguez cited financial problems as the main challenge Good Shepherd still faces, much like many other churches along the Gulf. The congregation discovered that their flood insurance covered the church building but not the missionary house, which must be repaired.
And during this opportune time, Rodriguez hopes his church can reach out to other Hispanics in the community and offer them the hope of a personal relationship with God through Jesus.
“Pray for a lot of people that we need to reach,” the pastor said. “We need to organize an evangelistic team because there are a lot of needs among all the people without a place to stay, and we need the wisdom to see how we can help those people.”