The Big Queasy

Sunday 20 November 2005, 7:36 pm


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.

This 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.

Steeple at the Methodist Church in Waveland
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 8500 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.

Here is a web page about what has happened here in Hancock County: http://risingfromruin.msnbc.com/the_towns.html

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.

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