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Tree specialist donates 3 weeks to NOBTS campus restoration


NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Immediately following Hurricane Katrina, certified arborist Jim Breaux offered a week of tree service to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. But the onslaught of flooding across the city put his trip on hold.

When Breaux’s crew arrived two months later, one week of work stretched to three once they saw the extent of the tree damage on the campus. Breaux, his son Austin and two other employees removed broken limbs and dead wood. They also pruned the trees and completed stump grinding for the many downed trees. All this at no cost to the seminary.

Breaux, owner of Personal Touch Tree Service in Dallas, lived in New Orleans for 10 years. During that time, he developed a friendship with a young couple at First Baptist Church in New Orleans — Chuck and Rhonda Kelley. Chuck Kelley was still an NOBTS student when Breaux met the future seminary faculty member and president.

Breaux left New Orleans 18 years ago, but he continued his friendship with the Kelleys and serves on the board of Kelley’s personal ministry -– Innovative Evangelism. That friendship with the Kelleys, his connections to the city and a love for the seminary motivated Breaux to volunteer his time.

“The most compelling aspect of the Hurricane Katrina story is not the unprecedented destruction, it is the great sacrifices being made by those participating in the recovery efforts,” Kelley said. “I find myself thanking God every day for people like Jim Breaux who came to help a friend and do something for Jesus.”

The seminary received the greatest tree damage and loss in the school’s history, so the crew’s job was not easy. Breaux said it took his crew one and a half to two hours to cut down some of the larger stumps to prepare for grinding.

“Cutting tree limbs is a small piece [of the seminary’s recovery],” Breaux said. “That’s what we know and that’s what we are doing.”

“To me, casting a crown at the feet of Jesus is taking what you do best and doing it for Jesus,” Kelley said. “That is what these men have done.”

NOBTS FEATURED ON NEW ORLEANS TV: Cleanup efforts at New Orleans Seminary have caught the attention of the New Orleans media. WWL-TV, the local CBS affiliate, aired a five-minute segment about the seminary Nov. 17.

Veteran New Orleans news anchor Sally Ann Roberts interviewed NOBTS President Chuck Kelley during one of his recent visits to campus. The segment also was broadcast over the Internet on the station’s website, www.wwltv.com

During the segment, Roberts showed the damage to campus housing caused by Hurricane Katrina. She also focused on the trustee board’s decision to return to New Orleans and the ongoing efforts to restore the campus to normal operation by August 2006.

During the interview, Roberts asked Kelley about the role of the seminary in the recovery efforts of the city. Kelley’s answer was unflinching -– the seminary will offer help and hope to the community in the name of Jesus Christ.

“I know our students and faculty will be out in the neighborhoods helping people rebuild their lives and their homes,” Kelley said.

On offering hope, he said, “It’s sometimes difficult to look up when everything around you is pulling you down … but we know we have hope through Jesus Christ. We know our hope in Christ assures us that no matter how bad the present chapter is, that last chapter is going to be good.”

Kelley told Roberts he is excited about the opportunity to rebuilt and renew the city and the eagerness he senses among the faculty and students.

“I can’t imagine a more exciting time to come to New Orleans and be a part of shaping one of the major cities of the world,” Kelley said. “Those who are here and those who come back are going to get to do something nobody has every done before -– start a city over again.”

Roberts said she had noticed the seminary’s lighted Leavell Chapel steeple surrounded by darkness in the early days of the recovery. She asked Kelley about the steeple’s significance.

“People have commented about what an encouragement it is to be driving along in this ocean of dark … and seeing that steeple,” Kelley said. “That’s why it’s there –- to be a sign of encouragement.”

Roberts concluded her interview by announcing the seminary plans to begin spring commuter classes on the New Orleans campus starting Jan. 23.

THE POWER OF PRAYER: When Bob and Linda Jackson, directors of MissionLab at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, heard that the Red Cross would no longer be providing meals for Seminary, they didn’t panic. They began to pray.

The announcement came in early November when the Jacksons were serving 400 meals a day to campus and city workers. The Jacksons quickly e-mailed all their friends about the crisis and asked for prayer. As the Jacksons’ friends heard about the problem, they told others. Soon an army of prayer warriors had been enlisted.

Though they had never met the Jacksons, one couple committed an entire day to prayer about the need at NOBTS.

“Twenty-four hours later we received the call that we [NOBTS] are a priority because not only do we feed our contract workers, we’re feeding police and we’re feeding [city] workers,” Linda Jackson said.

The Red Cross also informed the Jacksons that as a “priority location” the seminary would continue receiving meals as long as needed. The seminary now receives meals from the Salvation Army at noon and meals from the Red Cross at night. They continue serving 300-400 meals each day.

When the Jacksons reported that the crisis had been averted through prayer, the couple was overwhelmed. They told the Jacksons they had never before experienced such a quick and specific answer to prayer.

TEXAS BAPTIST GIFT — A timely gift from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention in 2001 helped New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary build the school’s first new housing in 30 years. Now Texas Baptists are working to restore these buildings following Hurricane Katrina.

The seminary administration was ready to start construction on the four-bedroom Manor Apartments back in 2001 but faced one obstacle -– they needed $150,000 in cash to begin the project. That same year, the SBTC took up a special offering for SBC seminaries and entities.

After the offering, SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards presented Kelley with the check for exactly $150,000. The gift helped NOBTS complete the much-needed new student apartment buildings and one of the buildings was named Texas Manor in honor of the sacrificial gift.

When Texas Baptists heard about the efforts to clean and repaint the second and third floors of student apartments, they acted to help restore Texas Manor, hiring a professional painting company to repaint the apartments.

After the repainting was complete, Texas Baptists decided to do more. They contracted the same company to repaint second and third floor apartments in the other two Manor Apartment buildings -– Providence Manor and Wood Manor.

The company repainted a total of 24, second- and third-flood apartments.
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