ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)—More than 80 Southern Baptist churches in South Louisiana suffered structural damage due to Hurricane Ida, Louisiana Baptist Convention Director of Missions John Hebert said.
“We have churches ranging from desperate to recovering, and the desperate ones need help. They’re below I-10. Insurance rates are out of this world. It’s going to be tough for them,” Hebert told Baptist Press on Sept. 1.
“But most of our churches will be OK in the long run. It’s just right now, we have a crisis at hand and we need all the help we can get.”
Churches in several communities in Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. John the Baptist and Jefferson parishes were damaged, including churches on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain and spanning more than 150 miles inland to Denham Springs. Ida killed at least eight people in the state.
“Devastation runs straight up 55, massively damaged all the way to Denham Springs,” said Hebert, who is assisting churches and pastors in recovery efforts as Southern Baptist disaster relief focuses on the larger community.
“Churches are just trying to get through the week right now,” he said. “We’re trying to just take care of the basic needs. … But they can’t think beyond getting the power back on right now.”
Louisiana deaths include four nursing home residents who died Sept. 2 and were among hundreds evacuated to Tangipahoa Parish ahead of the storm, nola.com reported. The bulk of the deaths from Hurricane Ida, at least 23, occurred in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland as the remnants of the storm system caused massive flash flooding in the Northeast.
Damaged church serves as feeding site
In Louisiana, Southern Baptists have established about 10 mass feeding units in multiple locations.
“We need volunteers, we need money, we need relief supplies, and that’s what we’re focused on right now, is relief,” Hebert said. “The next phase of this is rebuild. You help them get stabilized, and then you can think about starting to rebuild and get it back the way it was. We need help getting these churches stabilized right now.”
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First Baptist Church of Golden Meadow, which lost part of its roof in the storm, was preparing to serve as a feeding site on Sept. 3, according to its Facebook page. Water, tarps, diapers and wipes, hygiene products and cleaning supplies were made available to affected residents. The church is also setting up a shower trailer, but said it won’t be usable until water service is restored.
Grand Isle, the lone inhabited barrier island on Louisiana’s Gulf Coast, was decimated in the storm. First Baptist Church of Grand Isle, the only Southern Baptist congregation there, already had been without a pastor for months, said Nathan Stanford, the congregation’s previous pastor. No one associated with the church was available for comment.
“Grand Isle is wiped out. I’m understanding that the devastation’s like we’ve never seen in a storm,” Hebert said. About 80 miles north of Grand Isle, the more than 30 churches in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes were also hard-hit.
“The churches there, almost all of them are damaged, and damaged pretty severely,” Hebert said. “Roofs are gone. Pastors that live there, their homes are affected. Probably everybody down there has to have a roof. Unless it’s a real heavy duty steel roof, it’s gone.”
The Louisiana Baptist Convention lists supply drop-off locations and needed supplies on its website, requesting gas cans, brooms, disposable masks, latex gloves and other items, and is collecting information from pastors regarding damage to churches and homes.
Electrical power remains out in the area, with perhaps 1 million residents lacking power across several parishes. Entergy New Orleans said it was still assessing damage and hopes to have an estimate this evening of when more power will be restored, nola.com reported. The utility provider restored power to about 11,500 customers in New Orleans on Sept. 1, focusing on critical services such as hospitals.
Nearly all of New Orleans remained in the dark, as well as about 220,000 customers in East Baton Rouge, Ascension and Livingston parishes, 200,000 in Baton Rouge, and all of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes. Water also is turned off.