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Two years after Katrina, New Orleans churches still rebuildingcomment (0)

September 6, 2007

By Joe McKeever

Before Hurricane Katrina made landfall on Monday, Aug. 29, 2005, the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans could count some 140 churches and missions. One month later, when we re-entered the area, we were able to identify 35 still operating. Today, two years after this life-changing event, we’re up to 94.

“So, are your churches back to normal and operating?” is the question I field most often. The answer is, “Some are. Some are doing great. Some are gone forever. Some are meeting in someone’s living room or in someone else’s buildings. But all have been affected deeply and are changed forever.”

Most of the churches we lost were small congregations or young missions. When the floodwaters devastated their neighborhoods and ruined their buildings, thus scattering their members, the smaller and more vulnerable congregations quickly ceased to exist. Only the stronger ones managed to pull enough of the scattered members back together to resume services in one form or another.

In many respects, the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans is a microcosm of the Southern Baptist Convention.

We have churches in every category you can think of — displaced, struggling, normal and flourishing.
Most of the stronger, more successful congregations are those that moved quickly after the storm to establish ministry in their neighborhoods.

By “displaced,” we mean those that are no longer able to meet in their original buildings. These include Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, which meets at First Baptist Church, New Orleans; First Baptist Church, Chalmette, and St. Bernard Baptist Church, Chalmette, which meet together at the local high school; Free Mission, which meets at the Baptist association’s center; New Vision Baptist Church, which meets with First Baptist Church, Luling; and Good News Baptist Church with First Baptist Church, Destrehan; and some meeting in homes, such as One Faith Baptist Mission, Canal Boulevard Deaf Baptist Mission and Faithful Community Baptist Mission.

Freddie Arnold, our associate director of missions and North American Mission Board church planter missionary, and I sat down recently and went over the entire list of churches and missions, assigning them to the various categories to the best of our knowledge.

As with any church, conditions change frequently, but this is the situation as we know it at the moment.

While every one of our churches lost members after the hurricane, with large numbers of key leaders departing from some congregations, some are struggling more than others.

At every opportunity, we urge people to keep praying for the rebuilding of New Orleans and the restoration of our churches to a “new normal.”

We have no wish and no plans to return to the level of dedication, involvement, effectiveness of pre-Katrina days.
We believe and urge our friends to believe with us that God has big plans for His people called to live and serve in this city.

A Scripture we keep returning to is something God told Israel in Babylon during the days of their exile: “Work for the welfare of the city where I have sent you … and pray on its behalf. For, as it prospers, you will prosper” (Jer. 29:7). (BP)

EDITORS’ NOTE — Joe McKeever, an Alabama native, is director of missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans.

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