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Youth Supplement – Hurricane Katrina

November 2009 | by Caitriona Campbell

Hurricane Katrina

 

Hello, my name is Caitriona Campbell. I am sixteen years old and I live in Pennsylvania, which is in the northern United States. These past two years I have had the opportunity to go down to Lakeshore, Mississippi, which is along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, to help with Hurricane Katrina relief work. I would like to share with you a few of my experiences.

 

First of all, it’s important to understand just how destructive Hurricane Katrina was. She struck in late August 2005, with winds of up to 125 mph, and creating a wave that went six miles inland in most areas, but as much as twelve miles inland along bays and rivers.

     Trees were ripped out of the ground, and buildings were demolished. Entire houses were picked up and moved farther down the road. We saw a church building lying on its side in a ditch; it used to be on the opposite side of the road.

    

Everything gone

 

Approximately 850,000 houses were destroyed, as well as 900 religious buildings (churches, mosques and synagogues). Federal disaster declarations said it covered 90,000 square miles of the USA, which is about the size of the UK.

     I met so many people who had lost everything in the storm. Even four years after it took place, Hurricane Katrina is still on the minds of everyone down there. It made a huge impression on their lives and is something they will never forget.

     The church that I attend, Grace Baptist Church, Carlisle, of which my dad is the minister, is part of an association called the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America (ARBCA). For several years now, ARBCA churches have been sending people down to the Gulf Coast each year to aid Lakeshore Baptist Church down there.

     Lakeshore Church has an amazing ministry to its community. Since the storm, with the help of volunteers it has been able to rebuild over 100 homes in the area. The main purpose of the trips (which usually take place in January) is to continue that rebuilding process. I was not part of the construction team (thankfully), but rather on the ministry team.

     Being part of the ministry team for a week was such a blessing. There were seven of us altogether, and I was the youngest by quite a few years!

     The minister of Lakeshore Church, Pastor Don Elbourne, is nearly completely blind, and so doesn’t get out to visit people as much as he would like.

     He made a list of almost sixty people he would like to have visited. The ministry team split up into twos or threes and went round to their houses, talking and praying with them and inviting them to an evangelistic meeting.

    

Stories to tell

 

There were many interesting people I met. Some of them were people for whom the church had built their house, while others were members of the church. They all had stories to tell about when the hurricane hit.

     One couple, who lived in a beautiful new home, said that while their former house had been moved a little way down the street into an intersection, their post box had remained standing during the storm with the post still in it! (In America, each house has an individual post-box in front of their house where post can be dropped off and picked up. They rarely have post boxes in the door like in Britain.)

     One elderly lady, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, told how she swam through the water to safety, all the time clinging to her little dog. Some people stayed in their houses, simply watching as the water rose higher and higher, while others moved inland to escape Katrina’s fury.

     There were also stories of how Katrina had brought people back to God. One man in particular stands out in my memory. He had fallen away from God and was living a sinful and selfish life. However, after he lost virtually every-thing during the storm, he was brought back to the realisation of his need for Christ. He had a very moving testimony.

     There were times when I was down there that I felt as though I was stepping into a third-world country. One woman I visited didn’t even live in a house; she lived in a shed that was smaller than my bedroom.

     FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Association) provided mobile trailers and cottages for people after the storm. Now though, for whatever reason, they are starting to take those trailers away, so people without money to buy a house are pushed back into squalor.

    

Life-changing

 

When I saw those people living in such horrible conditions, it made me extremely thankful for the blessings that I have. It also made me realise just how much I take for granted. Going down to Mississippi for these past two years has been a life-changing experience.

     God is doing incredible things among the church and people down there, and I have grown very attached to Lakeshore. It was an especially good opportunity to experience that kind of work and meet other Christians from all over the United States who serve and worship the same God.