On behalf of everyone in SE Louisiana and especially the family of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, THANK YOU, for your prayers and concerns while we faced another hurricane on the anniversary of the big hurricane that brought us all together in the first place. Who would have thought that a hurricane would hit the same place on the same date. The good news is we survived. All the repairs that were done to protect the New Orleans area worked and the strategy to keep the pumps going 24/7 kept the street flooding to a minimum. To be honest, we’ve had some thunderstorms that were harder to handle. The biggest problem is the power outage that affected half of the state, 900,000 homes and businesses. It’s going to take a while for the utility company to respond.
Those outside of the federal-funded levee system did not fare well. There have been losses that will warrant a response from the churches as we reach out to those who were flooded. I can share of three that I am aware of that are connected to the Lutheran church. There may be others that I am not aware of. There is a meeting with the bishop and area pastors to assess the damage so that we can organize an effective response.
Before I get to those that are in great need and how you can help, here is the latest on Grace. We suffered minor shingle damage. We lost a tree and power to the building. However, we were one of the first to get power so we have turned Grace into a refuge center for our members and their family and friends to get out of the heat and rest and sleep and shower and eat at Grace. These last two days the heat index was over 100 degrees. So, your grace to us in the past is allowing us to be grace to others. And that will continue as we will switch gears and do our part in helping out in the recovery. We stand ready to host volunteers who want to help.
Grace has one member who lost their home to 12 feet of water. They live in Braithwaite, LA. This family has suffered so much lately. They have a 19 year old son who has been in the Burn Unit at Baton Rouge General Hospital for most of the past year. He suffered burns to 70% of his body The medical bills have mounting, especially having to make the 120 mile commute from their home to be with their son as much as possible. We were able to give the A,J. and Christina Guillot Family some emergency dollars from our Grace Memorial for Mission Fund and a donation from synod disaster funds available. I will know more in the coming week as to their exact needs. But it is quite evident that insurance will not cover everything since it was a flood. If you would like to contribute to their recovery, we have set up a special account called the “Guillot Recovery Fund.” You can make your checks payable to Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church to get your tax deduction. Please designate the donation to this particular fund. I’d like to make the personal plea to you on their behalf, this is one faith-filled Lutheran family that needs grace!
Our sister congregation in La Place, LA, Lutheran Church of the Galilean, took in four feet of water. They have not been able to get into the church to assess the damage, but they are going to need help. This is a congregation served by a Pastor Ken Shuman. There are a small congregation that is going to need financial help. They have faced many challenges since Katrina to rebuild their church and membership.
Several members of Galilean also suffer flood damage to their homes. Again, I don’t have details but I will gladly share them with you when they become known.
Also, I am aware of a member from Peace Lutheran Church in Slidell, LA that also flooded. Details will be forthcoming.
I am sure the synod will be establishing a relief fund soon. I would refer you to their website for more information: gulfcoastsynod.org
We will keep you informed how best you might be able to help if you are interested. At the very least, please offer up prayers for those i have shared information about and our neighbors in the bayou parishes to our south that got hammered. May God have mercy on them!!
If you are interested in coming to New Orleans to help in the recovery for both Katrina (as hard as it is to believe) or Isaac, please remember Grace is still hosting volunteers year-round. Please contact our Church Administrator, Kim Ely, for availability and more information on everything we can provide for you and your groups. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the Church Office at 504-482-4994.
Finally, I am doing fine having survived my first hurricane experience. Thank God for smartphones and text messaging. I was able to stay in touch with the outside world and even do some pastoral care over the phone. I even got to watch the storm blow by as I charged up my phone off the car battery. People have asked what it is like. I liken it to riding out a blizzard in North Dakota except you don’t have to shovel snow afterwards. And you don’t freeze either!! My home still does not have power, but I am camping out with others at the church, all the while doing pastoral care for those dealing with anxiety or stress (mostly from the heat). Thanks for those of you show stayed in touch with me and were concerned.
We are Grace, the grace of God that is! As the lesson from James tomorrow encourages us to do . . . let us be doers of that Word!!
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you for your partnership in the past and everything we might do together in the name of the risen Christ!
Keep the faith . . .
Pastor Leon Philpot