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Katrina anniversary prompts prayer rally


NEW ORLEANS (BP)–It’s been a long two years since Hurricane Katrina crippled New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005.

People here deal on a daily basis with not only changed lives -– loss of family, friends, neighborhood, lifestyle -– but also an unresponsive bureaucracy and ever-more-blatant crime and corruption.

A gathering to do more than observe the hurricane’s two-year point is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 29, at First Baptist Church in New Orleans.

“I think many people need the encouragement and the hope that comes only with faith in God, and only in prayer,” said David Crosby, First Baptist’s pastor. “The recovery and rebuilding have gone slower than people have expected. There’s some despair and frustration with how things are going, and with this event we’re reminding people that our true hope and strength is in God.”

Will Graham -– Billy’s grandson; Franklin’s son -– will be the guest speaker at what has developed into a 90-minute prayer rally. Like his grandfather and father, Will Graham preaches all over the world through the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Lisa Pierre, a black gospel singer from Dallas, also will be featured with a mass choir from First Baptist and Franklin Avenue Baptist joined by choir members from evangelical churches across the city. Pierre led worship during a Liz Curtis Higgs event in New Orleans about a year ago and was extremely well-received, Crosby said, noting, “We knew we wanted her back.”


Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue, will join Crosby as the prayer rally’s co-host.

“This remembrance service is just a way of not forgetting what happened to us,” Luter said. “We went through the most disastrous hurricane in the nation’s history, and there are still some parts of the city that aren’t up and running. We’ve come a long way but we have a long ways to go.”

Other sponsors for the Katrina prayer rally include the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans (BAGNO), Pastors Coalition of Greater New Orleans and the Pastors Resource Council.

“Having the prayer rally on the second anniversary of the Katrina event works on a lot of levels,” said Joe McKeever, BAGNO director of missions. “It reminds our people to stay on their knees, that we’re not going to be rebuilding this city without God’s help and guidance. It reminds America to keep us on their minds and hearts, that we’re going to be needing their help for a long time to come, and it reminds God of our continuing dependence on Him.

“You can believe we watch every nuance of the hurricanes in the Gulf these days,” McKeever continued. “We don’t wish one on anyone, but we are all in agreement that we cannot stand another one here. So, among the many requests we will be hoisting to the heavenly Father at the second anniversary rally is one for continued protection from hurricanes.”

Memorial services and other events are taking place across New Orleans Aug. 29, including the morning dedication of a Katrina memorial in the cemetery adjacent to First Baptist Church.

“We’re doing something with the evangelical community which has led in the rescue, relief and rebuilding of the city,” Crosby said. “We have spent two years sowing seeds of loving kindness in this city, and we need to pray for those seeds to be growing -– growing in peoples’ faith in and reliance on the God who created them and who sustained them, who sustains them even now. We’re praying for a harvest of those seeds.”

About 1,200 people participated in last year’s Katrina remembrance service at First Baptist, and organizers hope for a similar turnout this year.

“We are seeking the hand and face of God in this time of our recovery and our rebuilding,” Crosby said. “We have about 10 pastors and church leaders leading in this service, from different denominations.”

George Shinn, owner of the New Orleans Hornets basketball team, is slated to give a testimony of how God worked in his life and in the life of the Hornets in the aftermath of Katrina, entailing a temporary move to Oklahoma City and now their return.

“We are asking all pastors to set aside this Wednesday night, to have your choir participate in the citywide choir for the evening, and to be personally present at the event,” Crosby said. “This event last year was one of the great worship experiences of my life, and many others said they felt the same. We are hoping and praying for another outpouring of God’s Spirit as we meet this year.”

The event also is an attempt to keep strong the sense of unity that permeated the city’s Christians in Katrina’s wake, Crosby said.

“One of the most positive effects of the great flood is the unity that we have experienced across denominational and racial lines as believers in Christ,” the pastor said. “Let’s continue to foster this truth of our oneness in Christ. I hope you will plan now to join us for a climactic moment of praise in these difficult times.”
Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.