ATLANTA (BP)–The most difficult five days yet in New Orleans Baptist Seminary’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina will come Oct. 5-9, NOBTS President Chuck Kelley said. These are the days campus residents may return, on a staggered schedule, to collect what is left of their personal items.
“It will be a very difficult time,” Kelley said. “These will be the worst days in the history of our school. God will see us through this, but not without tears.”
Kelley encourages everyone who plans to return to enlist five prayer partners. The prayer support will be needed, he said, for this “deeply trying spiritual experience.” After the visit, Kelley wants each seminary family member to share his or her experience with this team of prayer partners.
Dealing with the loss of precious personal items will be the most difficult experience during these days of grief and hard work.
“The stuff that’s important is not what you can go down to Wal-Mart or you can go to a car dealer and buy,” he said. “Now that stuff is necessary, but it is not important.
“The stuff that’s important is what no store owner carries, it’s precious to you for personal reasons,” Kelley said. “We’ve all lost it and although you’ve already intellectually accepted that, when you see it, it will be hard.”
Kelley expressed his deep love for the seminary family as he discussed the return plans with faculty and staff at the school’s temporary administrative offices in Decatur, Ga.
“If I could do anything to spare any of you the difficulty of these days, I’d do it,” he said through tears. “I’d just as soon it be me and nobody else. But that’s not the way God has done this. So we are going to go through this as a family.”
Seminary officials announced plans to open campus Oct. 5-9 one day after Mayor Ray Nagin announced that all city residents could return for brief visits beginning on Oct. 5. The seminary’s announcement came precisely one month after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast region Aug. 29.
Kelley said campus residents may return to NOBTS between the hours of 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. on a staggered schedule. Due to the Orleans Parish curfew, anyone who enters the city must be out by 6 p.m. During that time, members of the seminary family must clear out all the belongings they want to keep. Kelley emphasized that those who return should focus on rescuing the items they want to save, not on discarding items they cannot salvage. All the items left in apartments and houses on campus will be discarded at a later date by maintenance workers.
Strict guidelines for returning are posted on the seminary’s website (www.nobts.edu). These health, safety and logistical guidelines include a staggered return schedule assigning specific days to specific housing areas and precautionary measures for the return.
Kelley underscored the importance of following the guidelines during trips to campus. Because a number of health and safety concerns exist in the city, precautions must be taken. Following every precaution does not alleviate all of the risks involved in returning, he said.
“I want to make it clear, it is a risk to go into the city. It is a risk to go onto campus,” Kelley said. “This is not a normal environment, this is not a safe environment.”
Important guidelines for returning include:
— Those who enter must have up-to-date tetanus shots.
— No children under 18 will be allowed on campus.
— Non-campus residents will not be allowed on campus unless they are accompanied by a campus resident.
— Anyone who enters the campus must sign a waiver releasing the seminary of liability.
— Surgical masks, rubber boots and rubber gloves are required on campus.
— Residents should discard the clothing worn during cleanup before leaving campus.
Residents are only authorized to access their property on their assigned day. Residents must abide by the following schedule:
Group One: Wednesday, Oct. 5
— Faculty Houses and Townhouses
— Dement Street Apartments
— Carey Hall Dorm
— Courtyard Apartments
Group Two: Thursday, Oct. 6
— Men’s Dorms
— Lipsey Apartments
— Willingham Apartments — first floor only
— Crutcher Apartments
— Manor Apartments — first floor only
— Farnsworth Apartments — first floor only
Group Three: Friday, Oct. 7
— Manor Apartments — second floor only
— Staff Village Apartments and Townhouses
— Farnsworth Apartments — second floor only
— Willingham Apartments — second floor only
Group Four: Saturday, Oct. 8
— States Apartments
— Manor Apartments — third floor only
— Farnsworth Apartments — third floor only
— Willingham Apartments — third floor only
Group Five: Sunday, Oct. 9
— Open to all campus residents
Kelley emphasized the importance of strictly following the return schedule, which is designed to ease traffic and facilitate speedy entry. He said those who arrive earlier than their scheduled day will be turned away by security.
“I don’t see a way that there could be a change in the condition of your belongings during that four-day period,” Kelley said. “Just trust me on this, it is what it is, so stay by that schedule.”
These five days will be the only opportunity campus residents will have to retrieve their possessions, Kelley said. After Oct. 9, the NOBTS campus will be closed to anyone other than maintenance and security workers until the restoration is complete.