NEW ORLEANS (BP)–The first wave of volunteers in a major cleanup initiative at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary arrived Oct. 31, aiming to boost the campus to an even greater place of prominence in the city.
The first project for the team of volunteers from Alabama and Mississippi was the removal of belongings left behind by students in their apartments and dorm rooms, said Bob Jackson, director of the seminary’s MissionLab program.
Each week, a new wave of up to 50 volunteers will arrive on campus until the cleanup and renovation of the upper floors of campus housing is complete.
Gordon Perry, a volunteer from First Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala., described his first reaction to seeing magnitude of destruction and need on the campus: “You’re just kind of numb. You can’t believe it. It is just not imaginable.”
Several volunteers said the hardest part about their cleanup task is throwing away personal belongings left behind after students returned to campus Oct. 5-9 to move out of their apartments and dorms. Some items are ruined, other items were left because students could not fit them into vehicles.
“Going in a woman’s kitchen and looking at her recipe box and throwing away the things she saved — it’s tough. It’s still heartbreaking,” one volunteer said.
“I just think of some little young’un somewhere who doesn’t have his toys,” said Jon Daniels, pastor of Monticello (Miss.) Baptist Church, while another volunteer lamented, “Games, puzzles they made, and some of the artwork they put on the walls — it just gets to you after awhile.”
Virginia Kidd, wife of pastor Jim Kidd of Haven Baptist Church in Madison, Ala., said, “I think a lot of the students had not really unpacked, since this happened at the end of August. We found a lot of boxes where it looks like they just dug down in it to pull out some stuff and left the rest. It’s sad. It’s been real sad.”
Paul Nelson, another First Baptist Huntsville volunteer, sees God guiding their work. “Let me tell you about a bed we were taking apart,” he said. “It was a nice white-framed bed that wouldn’t come out of the door and it took Allen wrenches to take it apart. None of the three of us [from the church] brought Allen wrenches.”
In the apartment next door, Wallace Weaver opened a drawer and found two Allen wrenches. “‘… Reckon they’ll fit?’” he asked.
“So I picked one of them up and it fit, so I started disassembling it,” Nelson continued. ‘Then I discovered it wouldn’t fit one down on the bottom. The second Allen wrench was the right size…. It’s fairly clear to me that there’s more working here than the three of us.”
Kidd thought of Proverbs 3:5-6 as a verse of encouragement to the students who are currently displaced. “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths,” he quoted. “Don’t give up because he loves you.”
Kidd responded to the call of the seminary for volunteers, saying to himself, “‘That’s my seminary. I want to do all I can to get it back up.’ I love this place.”
Limited space is available each week for volunteers -– groups must schedule in advance with Bob and Linda Jackson at MissionLab; phone, (404) 226-9367 or e-mail, email@example.com.
Keith Manuel is senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in New Orleans.