PASCAGOULA, Miss. (BP)–Bob Storie has been ministering in Jackson County, Miss., for decades. He has seen an ebb and flow of challenges, both as the son of a local Baptist pastor and one who has been a pastor himself as well as a port chaplain for 18 years and, currently, the chaplain at Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula. Nothing, however, has equaled the upheaval of Hurricane Katrina -– personally or professionally.
Storie’s 91-year-old mother-in-law, Ezmer Miller, had been extremely sick since May and was unable to travel when the warnings were issued about Katrina’s looming onslaught of the Gulf Coast. In Hurricane Georges in 1998, Storie lost a home that was only five feet above sea level, so when his new home was built more than 18 feet above sea level -– and the area was not in the federal flood plane — he felt his family would be safe. He had even dropped his flood insurance last year.
But during the morning hours of Katrina’s onslaught, the water rose quickly toward his split-level home. “When we realized it was going to come in the house, I told Maudie [his wife] to get her mother up in the kitchen. By the time [Maudie] got her there, the water had broken in the back door,” Storie recounted. He and his son-in-law “barely got it nailed shut before the water got over my head on the back porch. We paddled and waded back through the middle part of the house. …
“We floated Mrs. Miller out in a rocking chair. We got her blanketed up. She was wet and quivering. It was quite an experience for her and us” and for their pet poodle, which swam to the 91-year-old mother-in-law’s lap and remained there throughout the ordeal.
After a grandson called 911, firefighters came to help them get out of the neighborhood. “The firemen came and parked up on the corner…. Maudie and I waded out and the firemen carried [Miller] out in a wheelchair in chest-deep water.”
Miller spent the next few weeks in the hospital and a nursing care facility. Because of her previous illness, however, she never recovered. She died on Oct. 13 and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery at the end of their street on the bayou.
Storie said God has provided for his family’s needs in the days since the storm. Baptist disaster relief teams from various parts of the country have helped remove and replace the sheetrock that sustained damage. “We prayed, ‘Lord, when it comes time to replace the air conditioning unit, please let us have the resources available to do that.’ The resources were there and we had it replaced. It helped get the house dry and kept us cool at the same time,” Storie said.
Storie has remained on call at the hospital, splitting his time between ministering to people who sustained even greater losses than he did and tackling the repairs needed at his home.
In listening to people tell their stories, he has counseled, “God doesn’t put on us more than we are able to bear. God is the only one who can bring something good into a person’s life out of a tragedy like this. God’s grace is sufficient and He answers our needs out of His abundance and based on His abilities and not out of our abilities.”
One verse that Storie said has sustained him, and which he often shares with others, is Ephesians 3:20: “[God] is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.”
Keith Manuel is senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in New Orleans.