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Kirk Garrison gives Charles Marsalis a crawfish paddle with his name engraved on it as a 10th anniversary gift.
Inside Story
Photo by Bobby Ross Jr.

And now you know … the rest of the Hollygrove church story

Behind the scenes of Christian journalist's years of coverage of post-Katrina New Orleans.

NEW ORLEANS — Journalists don’t always get to do “Whatever happened to?” stories.

I’ve been blessed, though, to return time after time to New Orleans to update readers on the progress of this city after Hurricane Katrina.


Related: Big mission in the Big Easy


I’ll never forget that in the first few days after that devastating 2005 storm, I caught up with a disaster relief team from the White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ in West Monroe, La.

A private plane took our small group — which included White’s Ferry Road ministers Mike Kellett and Alan Robertson — to relief meetings in Baton Rouge, La.; Gulfport, Miss.; and Mandeville, La., just across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans.

At that point, we couldn’t make it all the way into hard-hit New Orleans. But later, I returned and witnessed the miles and miles of debris on the ground — miniature mountains of tree limbs, mattresses, broken chairs, smashed toy robots and mildewed stuffed animals piled high outside thousands of homes.

In 2006, Charles and Angela Marsalis pose in the balcony of the Carrollton Avenue Church of Christ in New Orleans.

In 2006, Charles and Angela Marsalis pose in the balcony of the Carrollton Avenue Church of Christ in New Orleans.

I first met Charles and Angela Marsalis as I worked on a 2006 story about the first anniversary of Katrina. I interviewed them in the balcony of the Carrollton Avenue Church of Christ, where they and their sons had sought shelter as floodwaters kept rising when New Orleans’ levees broke.

In the balcony, I snapped a photo of the couple to go with my feature.

We have reprinted that picture multiple times in reports on the Marsalises. Each time the photo appears, Carrollton Avenue minister Kirk Garrison teases Charles about his shorts. I’m not sure what’s so funny about them, but Garrison laughs and laughs.

In 2008, in the Hollygrove area of New Orleans, a Bible storyboard is leaned against a tree. Across the street, minister Charles Marsalis and his young friends search for a football lost in the weeds.

In 2008, in the Hollygrove area of New Orleans, a Bible storyboard is leaned against a tree. Across the street, minister Charles Marsalis and his young friends search for a football lost in the weeds.

A few years later, I visited with the Marsalises in the Hollygrove neighborhood, writing about their work with young people in what I described as “a high-crime area where dealers build relationships with second-graders by treating them to a piece of candy or a dollar bill.”

Since then, I have had at least three opportunities to worship with the Hollygrove Church of Christ, the congregation that grew out of the Marsalises’ front-porch Bible studies with boys and girls after Katrina.

In 2006, Charles and Angela Marsalis pose in the balcony of the Carrollton Avenue Church of Christ in New Orleans.

Angela Marsalis, Charles Marsalis, Bobby Ross Jr. and Kirk Garrison at the recent 10th anniversary celebration of the Hollygrove Church of Christ.

I enjoyed seeing the Marsalises again — and exchanging hugs — while covering the congregation’s recent 10th anniversary celebration. They still don’t much like submitting to interviews. They’d much rather focus on sharing Jesus.

But after all these years, I think they’ve grown a little more comfortable talking to me.

Now, about those shorts …

Bobby Ross Jr. is Chief Correspondent for The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected]

Filed under: Hurricane Katrina Inside Story

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