Today we went to church at the Powerhouse of Deliverance. It is a
black church here in Bay St. Louis. The local City Team offices are
there in a trailer. The story I heard is that City Team donors
specifically requested City Team investigate helping out here only
three days after the hurricane hit. City Team leaders came here to
see where they could help, see who they could hook up with. Within
48 hours they had found friends and supporters at Powerhouse.
is also the church where Don Schottman helped put on the roof. Right
now the church is meeting in their sanctuary, but nothing is in the
sanctuary. They set up folding chairs and I would estimate today's
attendance about 80 including us. The church has no carpets, piano,
organ, or any other instruments, not even a guitar. But they sure
know how to clap their hands vigorously to praise the Lord! I
attended a pentecostal bible college in the 1970's so I know how
to praise the Lord with high energy when the situation calls for it.
The pastor showed samples of the new chairs and carpet they have
picked out. It was exciting to see that they plan to rebuild.
For lunch we went to a potluck at a Methodist church on the beach
in nearby Waveland. All that remains of the church is the steeple
with the cross on top. Sitting on the ground, the steeple doesn't
seem so tall or impressive, but it's a powerful symbol of the
resilience of these people who continue to serve the Lord in the
face of these adversities. The funny thing about this potluck is
that it is normally a holiday fund-raiser, but this time they served
a free Thanksgiving meal to the community. It was a real blessing,
and we are thankful that Shirley and her friends invited us even
though we aren't living or working in Waveland.
Waveland was hard hit by the storm. Most of it seems closer to the
gulf beach than Bay St. Louis, which is on a small bay right off
the gulf. The ruins there were indescribable. Bay St. Louis was
fortunate in comparison. It is estimated that 60-70 percent of the
Bay St. Louis residents have returned to their homes, although the
vast majority of those are living in FEMA trailers (which are
simply RV's hooked up directly to electricity and sewer, although
not always potable water). By way of contrast, only 10 percent of
Waveland's residents have been able to return. The houses there are
entirely shattered. We saw many roofs without houses underneath,
and many houses sitting on their sides. Mary says she saw one house
sitting on its edge and resting against a telephone pole. On a
previous trip, the earlier group saw a house along the beach with
the entire front torn off, but everything else intact and exposed,
much like a doll house. There were piles of rubble everywhere,
and we even saw a vacant lot full of damaged automobiles.
Since we had the day off and most of the group returns to California
tomorrow, they decided to see New Orleans, which is only about 50
miles away from here. The first sign of distress there was the
causeway, which had only one lane of traffic in each direction on
the same side, since the other side was destroyed on the New Orleans
end. After "landing" again on the north edge of the city, the
freeway passed over what seemed like miles of uninhabited houses,
apartments, and hotels. Apart from a few work trucks parked in front
of shopping centers and warehouses, the streets seemed deserted of
people and even cars. We saw one abandoned auto dealership with all
the lights on and all the cars still sitting on the lot. It was eerie.
We walked around the French Quarter for hours. It is apparently one
of the few places in the city still functioning, and still yet not
fully. There were many stores still closed, but some had signs that
they will be opening again shortly. Many of the restaurants and
trinket stores are now open. The aquarium is still closed. The day
we arrived last Thursday, the previous group had the treat of seeing
the dolphins that had been rescued from there. Anyway, we had coffee
at Cafe du Monde and dinner at Desire, an unfamiliar restaurant.
After emerging from dinner, the group got to see the "real" New
Orleans night life, which can be a little unsavory. There were lots
of drunks and one man walking down the sidewalk yelling obscenities
to his friend. I joked that he was just reading the t-shirts in the
windows, which was half true. We had a hard time finding "clean"
t-shirts to buy.
Thanks to Kathleen Brandt and Susan Coulter who sent me more emails
today. In answer to some questions, no, Mary is not looking over my
shoulder tonight, nor especially not last night, when I finished at
midnight central time. We love you all! We bought disposable cameras
and took a few photos today, but we'll have no way to post them until
we return home December 2.