More than two hundred volunteers from twelve states surrounded the piers and floor structure at 1800 Bartholomew Street in New Orleans' Upper Ninth Ward on June 11 to witness the wall-raising of the forty-first home to be built as part of the Baptist Crossroads Project.
Construction on the new home marked the beginning of a new chapter in the partnership between New Orleans' Habitat for Humanity and the Baptist Crossroads Foundation. Initially, plans for the Baptist Crossroads Project included forty homes in the Upper Ninth Ward. The initiative was the vision of David Crosby, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans.
In 2004, long before Hurricane Katrina, Crosby heard New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin say that home ownership is the most effective way of lifting a family out of poverty. Crosby prayed for guidance, and soon, he and his church began making plans to build forty homes. The Baptist Crossroads Project was the result.
In August 2006, just before the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, thirty houses were dedicated and the keys were presented to the new owners. Ten more houses were built that fall and the following spring.
"The Baptist Crossroads Project is a response to the challenge of Jesus Christ to love our neighbors as we love ourselves," Crosby said in a written statement read aloud at the dedication. "We celebrate today all that God has done already, and we anticipate even greater works that lie ahead on the horizon."
Jim Pate, executive director of New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity, pointed to what had already been accomplished by volunteers through the project.
"Almost every house in eyeshot in this whole area is a Baptist Crossroads Project house," Pate said as he motioned to the completed houses near 1800 Bartholomew. "The single most significant commitment that we have gotten to date from any organization [post-Katrina] is the Baptist Crossroads Project. We are honored to be a part of that."
Edward and Jennifer, the house's future owners, were on hand for the wall-raising. The couple joined volunteers in raising the walls of the house and writing prayers of blessing on the frame. Edward described briefly the couple's journey since Hurricane Katrina.
"It took us a long time to get to the position where we are today," he said. "We've been a lot of places without the comfort of saying, 'This is our home.'"
Edward then motioned to the dozens of houses up and down the streets that remain in disrepair. "You all can see around here the neighborhood is still not coming back as it should be," Edward said. "A lot of people are not coming back to the neighborhoods. We need your help and support."
That help and support will be evident over the next five years, the time period in which volunteers through the Baptist Crossroads Project will build an additional three hundred houses, said Inman Houston, associate pastor at First Baptist New Orleans and director of the Baptist Crossroads Project.
The Baptist Crossroads Project needs thousands of volunteers to achieve its five-year goal. To learn more about the project or to volunteer, visit www.baptistcrossroads.org.