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Dallas church, like others, opens hearts, wallets to victims

DALLAS — Back in Slidell, La., more than 500 miles southeast of here, Terrence Bradley owned a nice house and two cars. He even built a swimming pool out back.
What the 32-year-old painter, his wife, Deshawn, and their three young children didn’t have was a reason to go to church.
Hurricane Katrina changed all that.
After fleeing to Dallas, the Bradleys – like many other evacuees – were helped by the Mountain View congregation. The 500-member church not only provided food and clothing, but also found them an apartment, with rent and utilities paid for at least six months.
“I’m really Catholic, but me and my wife, we’re going to join this church,” Bradley said after worship on a recent Sunday morning. “They have helped us out to the max. I mean, there’s no more you could ask for. You come here and they treat you like family. This is where I’m going to be.”
Corey Bradley, no relation to Terrence Bradley, voiced similar appreciation for the care and concern showered on him by the Mountain View church.
Bradley, who escaped New Orleans with his 4-year-old daughter, Trinity, said he “knew people in the world who had people like this church.”
“But just to be affiliated with them like this is really a blessing, because there’s not many people that really, really open up their arms and hearts like this,” he said after going forward and asking for prayers at the recent service.
Asked how he was handling the trauma of losing his home and worldly possessions, he said, “Let me tell you one thing, I feel blessed like I’m in heaven because I’m here. I’m looking on TV and I see people I know on top of roofs.”
In a cooperative effort with dozens of Dallas-area churches, the Mountain View congregation worked to place more than 300 evacuees in long-term housing, said youth minister Andre Thompson, who coordinated the effort.
In many cases, landlords with open apartments or houses donated their use, with the church agreeing to cover electricity, water and natural gas, Thompson said.
“We’ll continue to support the families until we feel like they have gained enough financial income to get on their own,” he said.
At a recent service, dozens of evacuees joined the congregation in shouts of “Amen!” as minister J.K. Hamilton talked about how God had saved many people from harm with early warnings about Katrina.
“One who is not acquainted with God will say this is a strange time to say thank you,” Hamilton said in his sermon. “But isn’t it amazing that even when something comes through that would have wiped every single person out, that God somehow is able to keep his hand around the people so that they survive to tell the story that God has brought them out.”
Mountain View is a predominantly black congregation, but its work with other churches to help victims crossed racial boundaries.
When the congregation placed a family of 19 people in the Dallas suburb of Frisco, Thompson contacted Tim Pyles, minister of the mostly white McDermott Road church in nearby Plano.
Pyles and his congregation immediately started reaching out to the family.
“We have visited with them twice already to assess needs, and are working with them to get them plugged into schools, social services, medical care, etc.,” Pyles said in an e-mail a few days later. “One of the adults in the family has Down syndrome and one of the grandchildren has cerebral palsy. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for them in the shelters.”
Neighbors in the affluent subdivision brought furniture to the family, and the church supplied them with beds, a washer and dryer, and other necessities.
On a recent Sunday, eight or nine of the family members attended worship at the McDermott Road church, where they were greeted with smiles and hugs, Pyles said.
“I think there will be doors opened for the gospel through this horrible tragedy,” he said.

Filed under: National

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