Faces of Katrina: victims and volunteers
They are the faces of Katrina.
The Christian Chronicle introduces you to a half-dozen Christians touched by the storm — either as victims or volunteers:
THE HOMES OF 27 FAMILIES who attended the Bay St. Louis, Miss., church were destroyed or seriously damaged in Hurricane Katrina. But to minister Charlie Buckley, the most important post-Katrina statistics are these: 14 baptisms and 71 Bible studies. “Bible studies were never easy to come by before,” he said. But after Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort in Nashville, Tenn., sent truckload after truckload of food, water, supplies, furniture and appliances, residents became much more willing to hear the gospel, he said. “We have heard the residents say over and over, ‘The city government’s helping us a little bit, FEMA’s helping a little bit, insurance isn’t helping at all, but the Churches of Christ are giving us what we need,’ ” Buckley said.
FOR YEARS, JANET HINES has done mission work in Honduras. She even started a ministry called Mi Esperanza, offering loans and skills training to women in the Tegucigalpa area. Since Hurricane Katrina, the Mandeville, La., resident has worked full time with the relief effort in the New Orleans area. Hines, director of field operations for Hilltop Rescue and Relief, said her Honduras experience has come in handy as she organizes volunteer groups from across the country. More than 2,500 volunteers have served under the leadership of Hilltop Rescue and Relief, which is overseen by the Hilltop Community Church of Christ in El Segundo, Calif. Those volunteers have worked to gut and remove debris at more than 900 homes.
A MEMBER OF THE DIVISION STREET CHURCH in Biloxi, Miss., Richard Saulsberry moved into a new apartment with his family a few months before Hurricane Katrina. He requested a first-floor apartment by the pool. Instead, the car salesman settled for a unit on the second floor and griped about having to tote his furniture up the stairs. “I didn’t know the good Lord was looking out for me,” Saulsberry said. While Hurricane Katrina flooded the first-floor apartments, Saulberry’s unit emerged unscathed. The Division Street church roof was blown off, and 9 feet of water flooded the inside of the building. Along with member Tony Morgan and minister Paul Warren Sr. , Saulsberry has helped lead the congregation’s relief efforts.
BEFORE HURRICANE KATRINA, retired Air Force officer Johnny Hays taught ROTC students at a Chalmette, La., public school. When the hurricane wiped out the school, Hays, an elder at the Picayune, Miss., church, turned his military logistics experience to organizing hurricane relief work. Up to 30 volunteers a night sleep at the church building, where Picayune members help prepare meals. Seven families in Pearlington, Miss., where the Picayune church has focused its efforts, have been baptized since Katrina. Among them: Joseph “Ticker” Dawsey, a shrimper in the swampland town of Pearlington. Hays said Dawson explained: “I’ve heard about God all my life, but I’ve never seen Christianity displayed like the Church of Christ did by taking care of us.”
ANNE PEUGH (second from left)
ANNE PEUGH TOOK HER DOG to get a shot before going on a recent hurricane relief trip to New Orleans. “Oh, do they still need help down there?” the veterinarian asked her. Yes, Peugh replied as emphatically as she could. “There’s so much to be done that you can’t begin to describe it,” she said. Making her second relief trip in recent months, the church member from Grant’s Pass, Ore., came to help cook and serve meals at a school where Hilltop Rescue and Relief houses up to 450 volunteers from across the country. The menu for the volunteers on a recent Monday night: barbecue chicken, green beans, macaroni and cheese, and salad. A special dish was offered for the vegetarian volunteers.
LAST OCTOBER’S CHRISTIAN CHRONICLE featured a Page 1 photo of Otis Shields, an elder at the Elysian Fields church in New Orleans, praying during a meeting in Baton Rouge. At the time, he did not know his home’s status. “We’re just keeping our heads and our prayers up because God is good,” he said. A year later, Shields commutes from Baton Rouge as he repairs his flooded home. He still gasps driving through New Orleans. “You just go down block after block, and businesses are still not open,” he said, shaking his head at a boarded-up gas station. But he said his faith has not wavered because God has blessed him. The Elysian Fields church suffered damages to its bottom level, but the raised auditorium was not harmed. Sunday attendance, which averaged 325 before the storm, has dropped to about 120.
Sept. 1, 2006