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Minister, wife weather Gustav at home in New Orleans

When Hurricane Katrina struck three years ago, I was just a few months into my new job with The Christian Chronicle.
I did not know many church members at all in the Gulf Coast area.
But as a result of Katrina, I made half a dozen trips to Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to report on hurricane relief and rebuilding efforts.
So, when news of Hurricane Gustav began to dominate headlines, I prayed not just for my Christian brothers and sisters in general, but for specific friends and congregations that are close to my heart.
My Chronicle colleagues and I prayed that Gustav would turn out to be a non-event and that we wouldn’t need to report on it. At this point, it certainly appears that God answered our prayers – and those of millions of Americans along the Gulf Coast and throughout the nation.
After Katrina, I wrote an in-depth feature about Charles and Angela Marsalis, who survived the storm by taking refuge in the balcony of the Carrollton Avenue church in New Orleans. I am happy to report that they did not stick around to do battle with Gustav – but evacuated safely to Nashville, Tenn.
One of the Marsalises’ boys told Jenny Garrison, wife of Carrollton Avenue minister Kirk Garrison, “There will be NO hurricane stories for the Marsalis family this time.” That made me smile.
But Kirk and Jenny did weather the storm at their home in New Orleans. In a Facebook note that Jenny gave me permission to make public, they explained why:
First, let me say thank you to everyone for your love, concern, offers of housing for us and our church members, and especially your prayers. And even thanks to those of you who have called or written to yell at us. Since everyone is asking the same question, I’ll try to answer it—

What are we thinking??? Staying in New Orleans????

I want to assure all our family and friends that really, Kirk and I aren’t crazy for staying here in New Orleans. Nor are we feeling cocky and invincible, either. We know there are serious risks staying here. But we’ve weighed them against some hard questions and balanced them with a few advantages, and we are (fairly) confident in our overall safety. We have the true advantage of living on high ground, in an area that has never flooded, behind the best-fortified section of the Mississippi at the Port of New Orleans. In fact… we initially didn’t want to live in this part of town at all. We wanted to be near the church building, ministering to the people in the neighborhood and accessible to our church family. But instead, we ended up here. There’s gotta be a good reason to be on high ground. The biggest risks for storm surge are not where we live, and at this point that’s the biggest danger for our area— but many of our church family do live in the surge zones. We think staying here lets us be able to assess the damage to our members’ homes and to our church faster— which in turn will let us get the word out to our brotherhood faster as well. Because of Carrollton’s relief work after Katrina, we applied for special placards that would allow some of our members back into the city quickly after a disaster with free movement to set up and establish relief supply sites or work— Kirk has the second highest level pass that the city issued, which is a blessing as well as an advantage. Our hard questions had to do with where can we do the most good for Carrollton over the long-term? We honestly think out of all our options, staying lets us help Carrollton the most over the long term.

So. We’ve got lots of water, a small generator to keep the refrig going, tons of food, plenty of cat kibbles and supplies, and a lot of faith that we are where we are supposed to be. We could be wrong— I’m not claiming God told us to stay here, nor do I think we get a free pass on danger just because we think we’re doing His will. I am saying I trust God to protect me and my husband so that we can work for Him and His kingdom. And if He doesn’t, I know that He has a place ready for the two of us there in Heaven with him, too…

Keep those prayers going for the levees and for the storm to continue its weakening!!

Love to you all,
Jenny and Kirk
Last night, Jenny provided this update: Hey Bobby!

We just got power back on! Woo hoo and Praise the Lord!! We’re hoping it lasts!!

Thank you so much for your concern and prayers!!

Almost all of our members evacuated this time safely.

We can only answer for our members in the New Orleans area— at this point all we’re facing is debris and the expected types of damage one would have with this storm. Kirk was able to check a few members’ homes and Carrollton’s building but not Hollygrove— damage there was minimal. New Orleans won’t really be clear of danger until the storm surge finishes moving through the lake— that won’t be until Tuesday some time, so keep those prayers going. There’s still a few questions even tonight about the Industrial Canal but official folks are cautiously optimistic. Some of the surrounding parishes, however, are having trouble with flooding and storm surge, and the southern winds are increasing that flow, so the danger is still quite real, not just for Orleans but all this area.

We’ve heard reports about much more damage in the southern parishes, especially Houma, Morgan City, and Baton Rouge— please keep praying!!!

We are also very grateful and touched by the outpouring of individuals and churches who called or emailed Carrollton Avenue on Saturday and Sunday to offer housing and support to our members. They were truly the loving face of Christ at a scary uncertain time.

In His Love, Jenny
Kirk e-mailed me this morning with another update:
We weathered the storm fine, some leaks here at the house but nothing catastrophic.  Grabbed the church van and a “Disaster Responder Pass” and rolled around a bit.  Our building had water in it but no more than usual after heavy rains J.  Checked on several members homes and damage was light—a shingle or two, downed limbs, an awning ripped off but nothing too dramatic.  
God was with us on this one and answered prayers.  I’m not looking at “disaster relief” work at this point unless something really changes.  Morgan City or Houma may be different stories as well as the parishes on the coast south of us. 
While we were at Carrollton last night (until we got chased off by the police) the power came back on.  Awesome!  We didn’t have any damage or flooding at the building—just a few limbs down. 
We actually got power back on at our house last night too.
We’re heading onto the West Bank (Gretna, Harvey, Marrero, and Waggaman) to check on all the houses of our members over there since we hear Jefferson Parrish is honoring our tier 1 re-entry placard after lunch.  Tomorrow, if Orleans will loosen up, we’ll check on most everyone else’s house.  We’re calling each member as we get to their house. 
 Thank you for everything — prayers, encouragement, and all that you do.

I also touched base with Les Ferguson Jr., minister of the Orange Grove church in Gulfport, Miss. Les said he had heard of no needs or damages involving church members there, although some remain without power.
“Now, we get to stress some more over the projected paths of Ike and Josephine!” Les added.
We’ll keep praying! And we’ll update the Chronicle site if we learn of any needs or damages involving churches and members on the Gulf Coast.

Filed under: Inside Story

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