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Volunteers from near & far undergird seminary cleanup

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–From as far away as Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and as close as Houma, La. volunteers are giving their time and energy to help restore New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

The efforts of these volunteers have seminary officials convinced many of the campus housing units will be available as early as April. Volunteers have completed the initial clear-out on all but a few second- and third-floor housing units. Groups will go back through each building cleaning and preparing the apartments for painting.

Many of the volunteers who are working at the seminary were motivated to serve in the city shortly after the storm. Rocky Bishop, who had been trying to get to New Orleans since September, finally made it in mid-November.

Bishop watched the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina unfold on television from his home in Saskatoon, Canada. He had no connection with the city, but wanted to help out.

“I heard a nurse being interviewed on CNN. She was crying, wanting anyone with experience to come,” Bishop said. “I am a nurse, so that really touched my heart.”

Bishop immediately began planning a trip to New Orleans. He knew God wanted him to go to volunteer but he did not know where to serve. He started raising money for a trip, applied for security clearance with the Department of Homeland Security and waited for an opportunity.

When Bishop’s pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church heard of his intentions, he put him in touch with Canadian Baptist Ministries (CBM). The group was planning a trip in October. Bishop signed up and continued to pray.

“I filled out all the documents and I prayed about it,” Bishop said. “I asked the Lord to lead me to the people who needed me the most.”

Just days before the trip, Bishop caught a cold. He was too sick to travel.

Bishop heard of a second CBM trip and immediately called to reschedule. When he inquired, he learned that all of the slots on the second trip were filled. He was disappointed, but determined to go to the devastated city. He searched the Internet for churches in the New Orleans area, then worked the phones, searching for a place to serve.

Finally, Bishop heard that First Baptist Church in Mandeville, La., would be happy for him to come.

Bishop purchased an airline ticket and prepared to travel to Mandeville. Just three days before he left, Bishop received an e-mail about the cleanup efforts at the seminary.

Finally on site, Bishop said the work at the seminary has been hard -– physically and emotionally.

“You are throwing out people’s lives,” he said. Tears came to the eyes of the father of three as he described throwing away damaged photographs, Christmas ornaments and children’s toys.

Bishop plans to return in early spring and hopefully bring his wife.

“I’m coming back because there’s a lot to do not only on the campus, but everywhere [on the Gulf Coast],” Bishop said.

Working alongside Bishop was Johnny Friloux from Houma, La. NOBTS was not his first volunteer stop.

Friloux served in a Jackson, Miss., distribution center shortly after the storm. While he was in Jackson, Hurricane Rita flooded his own home. Friloux returned to Houma, cleaned up his house and spent a few weeks helping his neighbors.

Then Friloux, a children’s pastor at First Baptist Church in Lockport, La., traveled to New Orleans to help with a distribution center on the West Bank section of the city. When that distribution center, located at Calvary Baptist Church closed, Friloux started helping at NOBTS.

“I couldn’t sit still and enjoy life unless I did what I thought God wanted me to do,” Friloux said. “To get me here, He’s ordered every step.”

Friloux has already served two weeks at the seminary, returning home on the weekends for church. He plans to continue helping NOBTS recover and get back to campus.