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New Orleans pastors continue to share burdens & challenges

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–A call to faithfulness was sounded as 40 pastors and church staff members in the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans met Sept. 28.

The group first met three weeks ago in Jackson, Miss., with about 20 pastors present. On Wednesday, Sept. 28, the group was again called together at First Baptist Church in LaPlace, just west of New Orleans.

“Our pastors and staff members are spread out from Oklahoma to Texas and all over,” said Joe McKeever, director of missions for the New Orleans association. “More and more are able to return to their homes, so the group is growing.”

The most important reason for the pastors to gather was to find encouragement, McKeever said.

“The guys are feeling very lonely now. We need to get together. The first pastor who spoke told us he’s lost everything. He was in tears. That’s when we stand beside him and say, ‘Let us remind you. We’re all here in this with you.’ They need to know we’re here for them and will help them,” he said.

Before Hurricane Katrina hit, the New Orleans association had 75 churches and 60 missions. Those numbers are no longer valid, and McKeever doesn’t know just how many churches — or church members — will remain as people begin returning to the city.

Weekly pastor meetings will be held to provide information on resources both locally and nationally.

Louisiana Baptist Convention personnel were on hand Wednesday to distribute financial aid to each fulltime pastor and staff member. The funds are from the convention to personally help affected church personnel.

They also provided information on other resources available such as the North American Mission Board’s Adopt a Church program.

“The pastors all received packets of information telling them how to get into the program,” McKeever said. “This a great way to go. We want each church to have about a dozen or so sponsors. They’re going to need more help than any one church can do.”

(Information about the Adopt a Church initiative can be obtained via the Web at www.NAMB.net; toll-free at 1-800-462-8657; or e-mail to [email protected]).

The mood of the Sept. 28 meeting varied as pastors each told their stories.

“One pastor was excited about all of the opportunities there are to witness and serve. His church has for years served about 75 people. Now they have a ministry to the entire neighborhood. People are coming to know the Lord every day.

“Then others have lost everything. They don’t know if the church members are ever coming back. They are in tears,” McKeever said.

And one pastor exhorted: “Keep your hearts warm.”

“These things go in waves,” McKeever said. “Another tragedy will come and resources will go there. But we’ll still be here trying to dig out and rebuild.

“The first thing we need is prayer that we will be faithful, that we will know what to do. Everybody here is determined that this city will not be what it was. God has given us an open door for us to go through and we want to be faithful.”

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  • Sherri Brown