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New Orleans woman becomes a beacon of the hope that others shared with her

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Experiencing tremendous loss is a common theme to many New Orleans residents, but for Doris Cousin the string of tragedy started long before a hurricane ravaged the city. Within a year she lost family members, then her home and hope.

The bleak situation surrounding her intensified her downward emotional spiral into depression.

A foot and a half of water stood in her home for two weeks after the flooding of Hurricane Katrina. Few items escaped the mold that filled her house.

“Everything had to be taken out. It was heartbreaking,” Cousin said.

And then, things started to change.

Cousin applied to have her home rebuilt by Southern Baptist volunteers involved in the SBC’s Operation NOAH Rebuild (New Orleans Area Homes Rebuild), a three-year partnership project between New Orleans churches and associations, the Louisiana Baptist Convention and the North American Mission Board to help New Orleans in the wake of Katrina.

Last April, Don Snipes, a NOAH zone coordinator for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, arrived at Cousin’s FEMA trailer with plans to begin the process of helping her return home.

As a zone coordinator, Snipes is committed to seeing his section of the city spiritually and visually transformed.

“I’m in a position where I can share and touch people’s lives. I want to make sure they know where they’re going to be for eternity,” Snipes said.

Shortly after Snipes entered Cousin’s home to assess it, he noticed her need for prayer. He listened as she shared her series of losses, and he offered to pray for her grief. As her tears flowed, he shared the Gospel with her.

When he returned for a second assessment of her home, Snipes shared the Gospel again, prayed with Cousin and encouraged her to pray through her grief. Through their conversations, Snipes discovered she was raised as a Catholic, and she mentioned that the prayers were helping her.

“God began to break down barriers,” Snipes said.

About two weeks after Snipes witnessed to Cousin, a team of Canadian volunteers finished gutting her home and Cousin became friends with one woman from the team.

“She told me to go directly to Jesus,” Cousin said, adding that the woman walked her through the process of receiving Christ, and “I prayed that prayer and began to see things differently.”

Snipes said he noticed the change that took place in Cousin.

“In trusting in God, we learn to forgive and learn to let go. I’m trusting in God,” Cousin said.

Cousin’s family soon followed her lead as she shared with them the hope she received. Her daughter and granddaughter both made professions of faith, and the home that once held grief and despair now is a beacon of hope to the community.

“I felt like I had been given so much by the Lord, I wanted to give back,” Cousin said.

So she did. As a grandparent of children and youth in the neighborhood, she wanted to reach out to the young generation.

“[There is] so much out there that they could get into,” Cousin said.

Snipes initiated a meeting between himself, Cousin and David Rhymes to discuss how the local Baptist association, NOAH volunteers and Cousin could work together to reach her neighborhood. Rhymes is a North American Mission Board missionary serving as the evangelism strategist for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans.

Rhymes tapped into the network of volunteers to find a team who could help start the evangelism work at her home, and one particular team jumped at the opportunity to help.

The team prayerwalked the neighborhood, making contacts with 15 individuals and families, and provided a free lunch of hot dogs and burgers for about 50 neighbors.

“The events allowed us to begin building relationships in the neighborhood and connect Doris’ home to the evangelical work in her community,” Rhymes said.

The week ended with a two-day backyard Bible club on Doris’ property. A tent was set up, games were played and Bible stories were taught to the 12 children who attended.

“God clearly has a plan for Doris and her home,” Rhymes said. “We look forward to moving forward with a Bible study at her residence once repairs to her home are complete.”

Not far from Cousin’s home is the property where Elysian Fields Baptist Church once stood. The building was bulldozed after suffering substantial damage from the hurricane, and the congregation has merged with Gentilly Baptist Church.

Research by the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans indicates that 40 to 50 percent of the residents in the Elysian Fields neighborhood have returned to their homes following the hurricane.

“Within 10 blocks of Doris’ home, 10 to 15 homes are being worked on in some way,” Snipes said.

Ken Taylor, pastor of Gentilly Baptist, said the church wanted to make sure ministry continued on the Elysian Fields property, and several leaders see an open door for church planting initiatives to start in the neighborhood.

“There is a potential for the work there to be established before the community is back,” Rhymes said.

“[People in the neighborhood] have seen the work and the impact it’s had in the area. They are very open and friendly. A lot of this neighborhood has been touched,” Snipes said.

At least nine people are reported to have made professions of faith in the zone thanks to additional NOAH evangelism efforts in the area.

As volunteers placed the finishing touches on her home, Cousin said she has brighter days ahead.

“Thank you, NOAH, and to everyone who came through NOAH. You will always have a special place in my heart,” Cousin said.

Snipes noted that two and a half years after Hurricane Katrina, 140,000 to 150,000 homes in the area still are unoccupied, and a need for evangelism still exists.

“What is needed are soldiers of the cross volunteering their time and talents to touch the lives of people in the name of Jesus,” said John L. Yeats, communications director at the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
Stacey Billger is the missions media strategist for the Louisiana Baptist Convention. To volunteer with Operation NOAH Rebuild, call 504-362-4604. For information on evangelism opportunities in New Orleans, contact the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans office at 504-282-1428.

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  • Stacey Billger