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Hurricane Lili tally begins; Baptist disaster relief resumes

EDITORS’ NOTE: The following story replaces the Baptist Press story Oct 3 titled, “Weakened but dangerous Lili hits; La. church hosts carnival workers,” providing corrected information about the outreach to the carnival workers.

LaFAYETTE, La. (BP)–“Maybe when we dig out from this a little bit, we can find out what happened,” Bert Langley told Baptist Press the morning after Hurricane Lili’s 100 mph onslaught of the Louisiana Gulf Coast Oct. 3.

Langley is director of missions for two Baptist associations in the areas where Lili made landfall — the 18-church Gulf Coast Baptist Association and the 45-church Evangeline Baptist Association.

“We’re grateful God slowed this thing down,” Langley said, noting that severe wind damage may become evident once damage assessments are underway.

A Category 4 hurricane, he said, would have “flattened” much of the region; Lili dropped to Category 2 just before landfall.

On Oct. 4, Langley had not yet received any reports of damage to the two associations’ churches. He and his wife, Deedy, and her stepmother were without power in their home in Sunset, about 11 miles north of LaFayette. They lost some shingles from the roof and had some water damage around their windows.

In DeRidder, La., meanwhile, a group of about 80 carnival workers opted to ride out Lili in a fairgrounds building. Baptist Press reported Oct. 3 that 100-125 carnival workers were being sheltered at First Baptist Church. However, on the evening of Oct. 2, the group, encompassing about 80 workers reticent to abandon their campers and trailers, decided to stay in a new metal building instead of accepting the church’s offer of shelter.

First Baptist did carry to the workers a meal of red beans and rice. Two days earlier, the church had continued its tradition of more than a dozen years of preparing a meal of brisket and fixings for carnival workers in town for the annual Beauregard Parish Fair. Several workers have made professions of faith in recent years as a result of witness by First Baptist’s FAITH evangelism teams, said Leslie Morgan, who leads the church’s annual carnival outreach.

Southern Baptist disaster relief units that had evacuated from working positions in Louisiana and Mississippi in anticipation of Hurricane Lili began returning to their former locations Oct. 4 to cope with increased flooding brought on by the storm.

In the areas of western Louisiana affected by Lili Oct.4, plans were being made for possible deployment of one mobile kitchen in Lake Charles. A total of four mobile kitchens, two communications units and two mobile shower units were on standby status. Those units are from Alabama, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia.

Buddy Day, disaster relief director for the Louisiana Baptist Convention, said areas near New Orleans — particularly south of the city — were dealt a double blow by Tropical Storm Isidore a week earlier, followed by the strong rains and storm surge of Lili.

“We’re going to put our three kitchens we had operational last week back in the same locations in the New Orleans, Houma and Slidell areas,” he said.

“There were a couple of towns down south of New Orleans that yesterday were underwater,” he added, noting that existing flooding that had started to recede in affected areas was only made worse by either the storm surge in coastal areas or as much as six inches of rain.

As of Friday morning, the Red Cross had planned to open an assistance center in Lake Charles where a Southern Baptist mobile kitchen would probably be asked to prepare food, Day said, but no other deployment plans were under way. A mobile kitchen operated directly by the Red Cross has opened in LaFayette, he said.

In Mississippi, meanwhile, volunteers staffing a mobile kitchen based at First Baptist Church of Biloxi were returning to resume feeding support in that area.

In the Houma, La., area, Steve Mooneyham, director of missions for the Adolphe Stagg Baptist Association, with 32 churches and missions, said he had received at least one report of a congregation that suffered losses from Lili. Montegut Baptist Mission was flooded by 1 to 3 feet of water when the small town’s levee broke, while the pastorium took on 4-5 feet of water. Bivocational pastor Wayne Elliott was in the process of moving his family there and lost the possessions moved thus far, Mooneyham said.

Many of the churches in the association are elevated above ground by 3-10 feet, but Montegut was not, he said.

At New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, President Chuck Kelley voiced thankfulness “that God has protected us from a significantly damaging storm.”

“It is an incredible blessing to be protected from two storms in two weeks,” Kelley said of Lili and Tropical Storm Isidore. “God continues to take care of this School of Providence and Prayer.

“We’re very excited about re-opening our classes and offices on Friday, Oct. 4, without delay,” he added, after the seminary was closed Oct. 3.

With landfall actually occurring two hours away, storm effects on the New Orleans campus included high winds but very little rain, reported Chris Friedmann, associate vice president of operations at the seminary. Though one-third of the campus experienced a power outage, there was very little damage to the campus.

“We only lost one tree,” Friedmann said. “And when it fell, it completely missed any structures around it.”

Friedmann said that “a good portion” of the seminary community evacuated the campus before Lili’s landfall. For the few who remained, the experience was instructive.

“We learned what the words, ‘hunkering down,’ really mean,” said Stace Cupples of St. Louis, a master of divinity student, after he and his wife, Shannon, weathered Lili’s torrents. “The worst part of the storm was our fear of the unknown. Every time we heard a gust of wind, we weren’t sure what was to follow.”

“We’re thankful that the Lord protected us from anything more than a minor flooding experience,” his wife added. “It was nice to actually be able to leave the apartment this afternoon after being cooped indoors for so long.”
Shannon Baker contributed to this article.

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