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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Beatrice Church assists stranded seminary studentscomment (0)

September 8, 2005

By Sondra Washington


As Hurricane Katrina  ominously threatened the lives of south Louisiana residents, a Pine Barren Baptist Association church reached out to three New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary students and their families. 
   
Friday evening, Aug. 26, before the storm hit land,  Beatrice Baptist Church pastor Jeff Robison sat down with a New Orleans seminary directory calling friends enrolled in the school asking them to evacuate to Beatrice with their families. The next morning, Robison found out that his church members had the same idea to help evacuees.
   
“Saturday morning, one of my church members called and said, ‘Call everybody that you know and tell them to come up here, and we’ll take care of them,’” he said. “We continued to make the phone calls, and most folks had a place to go or by Saturday afternoon, had already started evacuating. Three families took us up on our offer.”
   
The first night, Robison personally housed the 15 evacuees in his four-bedroom home. Now two of the families reside in properties owned by Beatrice church members.
   
“I’m glad they’re here,” Robison said. “It’s no imposition, it’s no problem. It’s how Christian brothers and sisters should respond when we see another in need.”
   
According to Robison, the entire church has pulled together in this effort.
   
“So many people have done so many things,” Robison said. “The ladies at the church have put together a meal schedule to take care of their meals. We found out tonight that we’ve found a more permanent temporary house for the couple with five children, and we’ve also located him a job.”
   
Because New Orleans was so greatly devastated by Katrina, Robison and his congregation have no idea how long the students will reside in Beatrice. 
   
One evacuee, Viveck Arora, is an international student from India who is limited in the job market by a student visa, yet the church has committed to caring for him as long as necessary.
   
“They don’t have anywhere else to go and no family,” Robison said. “I told Viveck that he’s my friend and my brother in Christ and our church was his family. My church members told me to tell him not to worry about anything.”
   
After only two months as pastor of Beatrice, Robison is proud of and humbled by his congregation.
   
“I’m proud to be the pastor of the church, but their acts of kindness and service are humbling — but it’s the way they treat everybody,” he said, urging other Southern Baptists to help evacuees. “We’re going to take care of the ones God sent our way. We’re going to try to find them housing and jobs to help normalize their lives until school starts back.”
   
Local retail stores have also assisted the visitors by offering much needed supplies at no cost.
   
“It was providence that we had our friends four hours away who invited us to come to their home,” said Christina Zwetschke, the wife of one student, who is expecting their third child in a few weeks. “I wanted to be with people that I know and love.”
   
As church members arranged a doctor’s visit for her, Zwetschke called Beatrice an amazing church body. She added that her faith has strengthened through this ordeal.
   
“It’s very surreal,” she said. “It’s a feeling of uncertainty. I thought I was walking by faith before, but now I am really walking by faith and I know that God is going to lead us where we need to go. God is not surprised by my situation and He is still God.”
   
Wayne McMillian, director of missions for Bethlehem and Pine Barren associations, said he is also working to help the displaced New Orleans Seminary students find temporary ministry positions and housing in the area.
   
“We have churches that don’t have pastors, and I’ve been working with churches to set them up with pulpits to be interim pastors,” he said. “These churches have houses and they will be able to stay at those houses.”

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