News Articles

Louisiana pastor organizing hurricane relief for hard-hit Hispanic community

Pastor Guillermo Mangieri helped organize about 75 volunteers to help storm victims in Baton Rouge.

BATON ROUGE, La. (BP) – Hispanic residents are likely among those needing the most help in recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Ida that killed 13 people in Louisiana alone, Baton Rouge Pastor Guillermo Mangieri said.

As campus pastor of Istrouma en Español, Mangieri is mobilizing Hispanic Southern Baptists as part of the larger disaster relief outreach of Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge.

Volunteers from Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge have focused on chain saw work and large debris removal after Hurricane Ida’s destruction.

“The Hispanic community and our Hispanic Baptist brothers and sisters will undoubtedly be one of the groups most affected and with the least help,” Mangieri said. “Most of the Latino community live in rental properties and trailer parks. Very few are homeowners.” He added that Hispanic residents often do not have access to pertinent relief information from the government or aid organizations.

Mangieri, Istrouma Baptist Church Senior Pastor Tim Keith and other Istrouma campus pastors mobilized about 75 volunteers, a third of them Hispanic, in disaster relief in Baton Rouge in the days following Ida’s landfall as just short of a Category 5 hurricane. Mangieri is directly responsible for outreach to the Latino community.

“Our primary focus is chain saw work and large debris removal, though we do have a mud-out that needs to be done for a member that flooded,” Mangieri said. “This will be a weeks- if not months-long process of clean up. We are also contributing to other organizations and churches in harder hit areas.”

Southern Baptist Convention President Ed Litton toured much of the devastation in Louisiana this past weekend with Send Relief President Bryant Wright.

“It was truly an eye-opening experience to see the vast destruction of Hurricane Ida in Louisiana,” Litton said. “The storm’s terrible impact on churches, pastors, members and communities who are devastated by the powerful winds, floods and now extended periods without power is just overwhelming.

“Still I am deeply moved by the spirit of cooperation that exists among our Southern Baptist family of state conventions, associations and Send Relief as these organizations come together to bring relief and the love of Jesus to stricken areas and hurting people.”

Baton Rouge Southern Baptists have been able to respond to community needs without requesting disaster relief teams from the Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief (LBDR) and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, LBDR representative Clark Fooshee told Baptist Press today (Sept. 7).

In response to Ida, LBDR has mobilized feeding, chainsaw, tarp and mud-out units in 13 Louisiana communities, aided by volunteers from several states including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas, including Texas Baptist Men and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

Pastoral outreach is particularly important when disasters strike, Mangieri said.

“It is time for the congregation to see their pastor up front, as human as everyone, as weak as everyone, but being in front of every situation, ready to pray, hug, work a chain saw or prepare meals and together, as a congregation, be witnesses between ourselves and our neighbors,” he said. “It is the best moment to be a good neighbor.”

Mangieri and his wife Fanny rode out the storm at their home to allow outreach as soon as possible, aided by the congregation.

“My first reaction was to evaluate and check on the needs of each family that decided to stay. Our small-group leaders immediately started working on this,” he said. “One of the most satisfying experiences as a pastor was that every time I visited with a family in need, due to us being unable to communicate because of no cell phone service, one of our small-group leaders had been with those families already, organizing the necessary aid, whether it be removing trees or offering shelter and food.”

While the Center for American Progress reports that Hispanics have been disproportionately impacted economically by the COVID-19 pandemic, Forbes reported that the Hispanic homeownership rate has increased in recent years, rising from 45.4 percent in 2014 to 50.1 percent in 2020. The Hispanic homeownership rate increased faster in those years that that of whites and Blacks, Forbes reported.

“Our brothers and sisters have opened up their homes so other families could stay with them,” Mangieri said. “Our own home has served as a refuge for many families, where they find hot meals, a fresh shower and a bed for all those who need it.”

Istrouma Baptist’s outreach continued Monday and today with volunteers dispatched from its Ascension and Baton Rouge campuses, according to istrouma.org. About 2,000 worshipers attend the church weekly, with 100 attending the Spanish service, Mangieri said.

About 1,500 Baton Rouge customers remained without electricity this morning as cleanup from the hurricane continued, Entergy Louisiana reported. Emergency contractors were scheduled to begin picking up debris in East Baton Rouge Parish today, The Advocate reported.

No storm deaths in Baton Rouge have been reported.