News Articles

Katrina took their belongings, but new missionaries undaunted

PENSACOLA, Fla. (BP)–They fled New Orleans with three days’ worth of clothes, a few photo albums and two pet chinchillas.

Right on their heels, Hurricane Katrina washed away their jobs, destroyed their cars and probably flooded their second-floor apartment. They’ll find out what’s left, if anything, when they’re allowed back into their urban neighborhood.

But all that won’t stop this young couple from going overseas — on schedule, they hope — to serve as Southern Baptist missionaries. John and Amanda (last name omitted for security reasons) joined at least seven other new missionaries directly affected by Katrina who were appointed Sept. 13 by International Mission Board trustees in Pensacola, Fla.

“We’ve been sleeping on borrowed beds,” reported John, a 31-year-old student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. “Things are uncertain. But one thing that we know is our calling. Our main question has been, ‘God, how are You going to work this out?'”

They’ve been staying with Amanda’s parents since retreating from New Orleans with a few suitcases as Katrina bore down on the city. Several churches and friends have provided extra clothes, department store gift cards — and lots of love.

“The phone is constantly ringing with people telling us they’re praying for us and asking about our needs,” John said. “We just feel God’s presence. We felt very displaced at first, but God is teaching us to trust Him in new ways. He has been very faithful.”

Before the storm, they thought they had everything planned: how many more paychecks they’d need to pay off bills, how much they would make on the sale of their cars, when and how to pack for the mission field.

Katrina washed all their plans away in a single day of destruction. But they still intend to start missionary orientation in October as previously scheduled.

“We don’t have anything ready, so one prayer is that we’ll be able to get back in (to New Orleans), find out what we’ve got, pack it and move,” John said.

Why not put mission service on hold for awhile until they get their lives back together?

“We’ve had our little moments” of confusion, Amanda admitted. “But we also feel very blessed, because a lot of our co-workers and people we know have lost so much more.”

They also now have a little idea, added her husband, of what so many Asians suffered in the tsunami — and what they continue to suffer without knowing a loving Savior.

“Martin and Stacey” (names changed for security reasons), another new missionary couple, will go to Africa later this year. They had just moved from a small town on the north shore of Lake Ponchatrain hit hard by Katrina. Martin, pastor of a small church in a nearby town, was completing studies at the seminary in New Orleans. His wife worked in the medical field.

“We sold our home three weeks before the hurricane hit,” Martin said. “We had actually moved just a little bit west of Baton Rouge, so we were out of the path when the storm hit. The house we sold was pretty much destroyed — only two trees left standing.”

Almost everyone in his church lost their jobs because many worked in New Orleans.

“Even though (the church) wasn’t physically damaged, we’ve suffered the ramifications of the hurricane, which is pretty much tearing the church apart,” Martin reported. “People are being relocated; businesses are being relocated. People had their own businesses, so they can’t work anymore. There’s a lot of talk about the destruction of churches, but this is a case where we’ve seen the church forcibly split up and members move away.”

After the hurricane, Martin and Stacey volunteered to help New Orleans evacuees at a special-needs shelter in Lake Charles, La.

“We had the opportunity to minister to them, pray with them, and (with my wife) being in the medical field, she was able to assess their medical needs,” Martin said.

He also returned home to help people clear debris from damaged houses and property.

“There are a lot of Baptist teams working there,” he said. “A lot of my neighbors are Catholic, and they came up to me and said, ‘Baptists from Oklahoma came and cleared my house.’ It’s been an incredible witness to them. God can bring an enormous amount of good out of this. It’s a good chance for the Christian community to stand up — and that’s what they’re doing.”
Michael Chute contributed to this story.

    About the Author

  • Erich Bridges