Thursday, March 29, 2007


Gulf Coast devastation; Housing project; Samuel relocates.

Hurricane Katrina is gone, but still this month we are struggling on the Gulf Coast: struggling with devastated homes, devastated lives, and turbulent times. Please continue to pray for us.
Hurricane Katrina was the most costly hurricane in the history of the United States, causing devastation along much of the central Gulf Coast of the United States. Due to its sheer size, it devastated the Gulf Coast as far as 100 miles from the storm's center. At least 1,836 people lost their lives in Hurricane Katrina and in the subsequent floods, making it the deadliest U.S. hurricane since 1928. The storm is estimated to have been responsible for 81 billion dollars in damage, making it the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. Most prominent were the catastrophic effects on the city of New Orleans and in coastal Mississippi.

It formed in the Atlantic on August 23, 2005, crossing southern Florida before strengthening rapidly in the Gulf of Mexico to become one of the strongest hurricanes on record while at sea. The storm weakened before making its second and third landfalls on the morning of August 29, first in southeast Louisiana and then at the Louisiana-Mississippi state line.

Katrina's powerful right-front quadrant entered the west and central Mississippi coast, bringing with it a powerful ‘storm surge’ of water up to 27 feet above sea level, causing catastrophic damage to Mobile, Alabama; Slidell, Louisiana; and the Mississippi Gulf Coast cities of Waveland, Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian, Gulfport, and Biloxi. Rebuilding has begun in many areas, but today, a year and a half after the storm, a tour of the devastated area still impacts the visitor with shock and awe.

At the current site of God’s Katrina Kitchen in Gulfport, dozens of shipping containers were flung from the port into coastal residences. A huge red sea barge pulverized an entire community of motels and rental housing, coming to rest a block north of the coast highway among modest single family homes.

Housing on the Gulf Coast remains a critical shortage item, especially rental housing. This picture shows the devastation where the sea barge ravaged a 120-unit complex of modest rental units on Camp Avenue. One of the concrete-block apartment buildings (right center of the photo), was narrowly missed by the barge. There is little likelihood that affordable housing will be rebuilt on this prime land adjoining the beach.

Today, a year and a half later, the apartment building has been put into use by God’s Katrina Kitchen for storage and short-term bunk housing. But along Camp Avenue, many of the modest houses were severely damage by the storm and remain in disrepair.

The first house, which can be seen in this second picture, is a total wreck. The owner of the second house is repairing it in his spare time and has brought it to almost a habitable condition. As of last week, the third house remained in the same condition that Katrina left it: everything inside tossed about by the water from the storm surge. But this week the owner’s daughter gave the Kitchen clearance to send in a volunteer team to clean and gut out the house. The fourth house is being repaired part-time by the owner, the fifth is ready for insulation and drywall, and the sixth has had no repairs as of yet.

On the left side of the street, the first house is being rebuilt from scratch, while three out of the next four (a duplex) sit in disrepair. The owners of these houses are often octogenarians or older, living with kin and flummoxed as to what to do with the beloved but ruined household property where they raised their families.

Church Army Housing Project: We are continuing our quest for housing to provide a sober living home for those who complete the first phase of our Spiritual Transformation program. Since rental housing is in such short supply, we would prefer to restore one of the hundreds of Katrina-ruined homes sitting vacant all around us, and use the "sweat equity" to inspire our workers and help pay for the rent. Here on Camp Avenue we have been talking with the owners of the fifth and sixth houses on the right and the duplex on the left, and we have been preparing estimates for the cost of the repairs, with a view toward leasing the restored housing.

With the help of Church Army USA leadership, we have sketched the outlines of a potential funding plan, and hope to present a proposal by next month. Please pray for the Spirit to guide us into the right house, the right plan, and those donors that God has already prepared in advance to provide this blessing for the hurting people of the Gulf Coast.

Samuel’s Relocation: Samuel is our resident who was called to be baptised last month. By occupation, Samuel (see February report) is a specialist in flooring and tile. Shortly after he joined us, he told of receiving a vision in which he was laying tile in a church. When we visited the Free Church of the Annunciation in New Orleans, he was sure that he had found the church where he was supposed to help. This month, Deacon Milton called from New Orleans to say that the tile work was ready to start and housing was available for Samuel. Although this had been a turbulent month for our men in recovery here with challenges from their past lifestyles, yet God was gracious to call them back into obedience to Christ, and to call Deacon Milton to help supervise Samuel’s continuing road to full recovery. We are praying earnestly for both Milton and Samuel, and are giving thanks to God for providing both a place for Samuel and an expert tile-setter for Annunciation.

This month for our spiritual growth program, we are beginning the video series "What’s So Amazing About Grace?" and reading Philip Yancey’s accompanying book. We viewed the first installment last week, and we’re enthusiastic about seeing the rest of them. I highly recommend the book for your reading.

Mystery question of the month: Can you identify this magnificent flowering bush I stumbled across along the Tuxachanie Trail? (More on that hiking trip in the comment to the post below.) You’can post your answer to the mystery question as a comment here.

Thank you for your prayers and your generous gifts to the Gulf Coast, and may the God of All Mercies, the God of the Peace that Passes All Understanding, bless each of you abundantly.

….In Love and Peace,

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Tuxachanie Trail, Mile 10+

Sunday-Monday, March 11-12:

Approaching mile 9 of the Tuxachanie Trail on Sunday, I crossed Spike Buck Creek via the plank bridge which winds for some 50 yards across the marshy bottomland.

I found a tiny clearing beside the trail just past mile 10, pitching my tent under one of the many trees felled by Hurricane Katrina.

Monday I hiked packless another 3 miles or so, as Spike Buck Creek joined Tuxachanie Creek itself. The creek is a deep cut in heavily wooded forest, often hidden by the morass of huricane-tossed trees.

A deer skirted around my path, keeping 60 yards distant. His snort sounded like a horse; his large hoofprints on the trail bespoke a heavy buck. A shiny blue-black 3-foot long indigo snake lay across my path, languidly considering my presence. She challenged the end of my walking stick to a fight, then thought better of it and glided off. A scream from a bald eagle rang out overhead.
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not be faint. Is 40:31.