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Texting keeps New Orleans seminary alert

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Since Hurricane Gustav, good news has been arriving to cell phones of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary families through NOBTS’ new priority text messaging system.

The system has been an information lifeline for the seminary community during the evacuation. When the storm moved out of the New Orleans area, a brief text message offered the following report:

“Campus secure. Damage minimal. Reopening Monday. Return possible Thursday. Praise the Lord!”

Many seminary students, professors and staff members first heard about the evacuation through the text messaging list, and they also have received daily updates on campus’ status.

Among the many lessons learned following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, seminary officials worked to develop more reliable communication options. The priority text message system was implemented to provide urgent, concise messages to the seminary family in emergency situations. Since the system was implemented in 2007, the seminary has urged students, professors and staff members opt in to the system via a secure online registration.

The seminary also developed a plan to address the computing needs during an evacuation. At the start of hurricane season, the seminary rented a moving truck to take essential computers and servers to the seminary’s North Georgia Hub in Atlanta.

By Sunday, Aug. 31, the seminary’s servers and website management had been transferred to Atlanta. The move ensured that the seminary website would be available to provide information throughout the storm. Longer, more detailed messages have been posted on the site.

Kelley wrote on the seminary website Tuesday, “The news continues to be good. Our operations crew and others are already at work cleaning up the campus, and similar work is beginning all over the city.” Kelley noted: “We had no flood damage at all, and no evidence yet of any internal damage to buildings, homes, or apartments.”

With the website working properly, the seminary community has more access to information, such as a “frequently asked questions” section, such as a report that the campus sustained a few missing shingles on buildings, damaged fences and downed trees from Gustav. Power already has been restored to the front of campus. On the back of campus which includes most of the student, faculty and staff housing, power is being restored gradually.

Kelley has used the web updates as an opportunity to provide pastoral encouragement to the seminary family.

“I conclude this update with a personal word from the journey of my soul with God. These last three years have been for me a Ph.D. seminar on the mercy of God,” Kelley wrote. “There is a mystery I cannot penetrate on how and why God chooses the mercy He provides to His people. What is crystal clear, however, is that in ALL circumstances God gives mercy and grace sufficient for the needs of his children (Romans 8:28-39).

“That is a conviction that is becoming very precious to me, and I hope to you,” Kelley continued. “Perhaps because New Orleans has a seminary training leaders for the Church all over the world, God is using our city as the location for this Ph.D. seminar in His mercy. In any case, I pray that we will all be faithful witnesses to the glory, mercy, and grace of God in these times and circumstances.”
Gary D. Myers is director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.