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In their own words: Volunteers reflect on Katrina


Three times in the past year, I’ve traveled to communities hard hit by Hurricane Katrina and witnessed firsthand the tremendous faith and resolve of our fellow Christians.
I’ve done my best to tell their stories and communicate their emotions and experiences.
This time, I’ll get out of the way and let their words speak for themselves.
These quotes stayed with me after I returned home from my recent trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the New Orleans area.
Here goes:
 
“We stuck it through as a family. … Now, we talk to each other more. We say ‘I love you’ more. We give each other more hugs.”
TONY MORGAN, member of the Division Street church, Biloxi, Miss., whose family  climbed on their refrigerator, washer and dryer as stormwaters rushed in.
 
“They just packed up and left.”
JOSEPH “TICKER” DAWSEY, a hurricane victim and new Christian in Pearlington, Miss., discussing an abandoned, storm-ravaged Pentecostal church where the town’s first Church of Christ may start meeting.
 
“We started an effort the day after the storm that, if we’d left, we wouldn’t have been able to do for a week.”
GENE LOGAN, elder at the Ocean Springs, Miss., church, on relief work after 50 members waited out the storm at the church.
 
“Jesus was here before the storm, but I wasn’t looking. I tell everybody that the storm kind of blew my blinders off.”
EILEEN LOGAN, Gene’s wife, who has  worked full time since the hurricane organizing church relief groups.
 
“To me, it’s just like a soldier going out on the battlefield. Something comes up and he just does what he has to do, bearing up under incredible pressure. You press on and you minister to one another.”
FRED FRANKE, elder at the Carrollton Avenue church, New Orleans,  and founder of the Operation Nehemiah relief ministry, on why he wouldn’t consider his work after the hurricane heroic.
 
“I saw the destruction and it was just heartbreaking to me. I had to do something.”
JAMES McCORMICK, a flooring company owner from Ohio who came to help and stayed to work full time with Operation Nehemiah.
 
“He’ll sleep in a ditch and let somebody else have the sleeping bag.”
RONN ORMSOM, an Operation Nehemiah worker, describing what he has learned about Christian faith and compassion from Franke.
 
“This made me realize that there’s family out there, people I’ve never met before in my life. But because of our connection — being members of the church and their love of God — they came and helped us.”
TODD HAYES, member at the Ocean Springs church, on the dozens of volunteers who helped clean up and rebuild his family’s home.
 
“It makes me want to be on the first van down to help the next group. I want to be there to help somebody else.”
ROBIN HAYES, Todd’s wife
 
“We know we had over 200 volunteers who worked in our yard and our house. Words cannot express the love of the Lord, and that’s why they’ve all been here.”
PEGGY SHAW, Ocean Springs member
 
“You don’t see any atheists out here cleaning out houses. … Where are they?”
MARK LANCE, in a sermon at the Chalmette, La., church.
 
“After you’ve been there 50 years, it’s kind of hard to leave.”
J.V. RUSSELL, elder at the Chalmette church, on
building a new home after Katrina destroyed his.
 
“We’re just so lucky to have our faith because we wouldn’t have made it otherwise.”
LINDA SWANNER, member at Chalmette
 
“All we lost was a house. I know people who lost a lot more.”
MIKE SWANNER, Linda’s husband
 
“It’s like being in the middle of a nightmare, and it is not going to end. Just to rebuild their lives, their families, not even the buildings — it’s going to take years.”
LARRY DILLON, member of the Elysian Fields church, New Orleans, who lost a friend and several acquaintances in the hurricane.
 
GOT A STORY TO SHARE?
My thanks to Carla Calhoun, John Dobbs and Fred Franke for serving as my tour guides during my recent trip. My apologies to those congregations I did not have time to visit.
 
We’ve devoted substantial space to Katrina in this issue, but I know we’ve left out many whose good deeds and needs deserve attention.
 
I invite those who want to share their stories — as victims or volunteers — to e-mail Tamie Ross at [email protected]
christianchronicle.org. Please keep your submissions to 125 words or less. Tamie will be posting many of those responses at www.christianchronicle.org. Be sure to check them out.

Filed under: Inside Story

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