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NOAH sends 10,000 workers to N. Orleans

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–At its first anniversary, Operation NOAH Rebuild has topped more than 10,000 volunteers and 200 professions of faith in helping New Orleans-area residents recover from the impact of Hurricane Katrina.

The initiative now moves into its second year with the announcement of a project coordinator and with the expectation of outdistancing the first year on all fronts.

David Maxwell, recently named NOAH project coordinator, oversees the supervision of staff, office and warehouse operations and volunteer management. Maxwell left a Louisiana pastorate to join NOAH in November 2006 as a construction coordinator.

“I left the pastorate, but I didn’t leave the ministry,” said Maxwell, former pastor of Ridge Avenue Baptist Church in West Monroe. “This is a tremendous mission field and it is right in our backyard.”

When NOAH crossed the one-year mark on May 1, it reported 10,338 volunteers were mobilized on 671 teams, and 203 professions of faith were recorded as volunteers shared the Gospel on-site.

“When a homeowner sees volunteers day after day, group after group working long hours in his home, he wants to know why and he is open to the Gospel,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell, as coordinator for the construction project, worked closely with homeowners as he walked with them through the rebuild process. One homeowner, a Buddhist woman, told Maxwell she objected to Christianity because of Christian acquaintances whose behavior was inconsistent with their faith. Maxwell told her that hypocrisy is not specific to Christianity and “it’s not about looking at people, it’s about looking at Christ.”

“Someday before this is over and her house is complete, I will have the opportunity to sit down and share the Gospel with her,” Maxwell said. “That is why God has put us here.”

Operation NOAH began the transition from disaster relief to rebuilding in May 2006 when office staff and personnel were put in place to coordinate the process of moving from gutting homes to a concentrated rebuild focus.

NOAH is a partnership of the North American Mission Board, Louisiana Baptist Convention and New Orleans-area Baptist associations and churches. The two-year initiative has a goal of rebuilding 1,000 homes and 20 churches through the mobilization of volunteers from across the nation and Canada.

“That goal is very attainable,” Steve Gahagan, NOAH construction manager said. “I have no doubt that NOAH will touch that many homes, whether it is a complete rebuild or filling a work order such as roofing or drywalling the home.”

NOAH’s work focuses on electrical and plumbing rough-in, roofing, insulation and drywall installation and fills various other job orders as skilled workers are available.

“We need volunteers now more than ever,” Gahagan said. “We are gearing up, not slowing down.”

Gahagan, who came to the ministry with 20 years of construction experience, said God’s call on his life to join Operation NOAH Rebuild was so clear it couldn’t be ignored.

“This is the most exhausting, most intense ministry I have ever been a part of,” Gahagan said. “I don’t regret it a minute because I know I am doing what God has called and prepared me to do. I am humbled that God has allowed me the opportunity to be a part of this.”

The amount of work they will be able to accomplish during the coming year is directly related to the number of volunteers who are willing to come, Maxwell said. More importantly, he and Gahagan said the organization’s success depends first and foremost on prayer.

“We are in spiritual warfare — Satan doesn’t like what we’re doing, but we’re winning,” Gahagan said.

“We have a golden opportunity to share the Gospel and glorify God,” Maxwell said. “We need your prayers.”
Marilyn Stewart is a correspondent for the Louisiana Baptist Convention communications team. For information on volunteering in New Orleans with Operation NOAH, call 504-362-4604 or 1-877-934-0808.

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  • Marilyn Stewart