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Members count blessings after hurricane destroys church, homes

 


Members count blessings after hurricane destroys church, homes

Sept. 26, 2005

By Kathy L. Gilbert*

SLIDELL, La. (UMNS) — Standing outside the wrecked ruins of her church, Ella Doyle told members of her congregation, “God has got a better day coming.”

Doyle survived the terror of Hurricane Katrina aboard a boat with her husband and two sons. At one point, both of her sons disappeared beneath the water and her husband stopped breathing.

“I stood up in that boat and prayed,” she said. “I have no desire to walk around telling people I lost this or that; I didn’t lose nothing. The only thing we need to worry about is whether we are going to see heaven.”

For the second time since the hurricane destroyed their church and homes, members of Hartzell Mt. Zion United Methodist Church gathered Sept. 25 in the parking lot for the Sunday worship service.

“You look so dear to me,” the Rev. Ernest Scott told his congregation,

A soft breeze filtered over the 63 faithful. “Feel the gentle breeze of our God,” Scott said. “He sends the wind and the rain, but he still sends a gentle breeze.”

A 30-foot wall of water from Lake Ponchartrain slammed into the small community surrounding Hartzell Mt. Zion, soaking all the homes and leaving the people with nothing.

“My house is boarded up, but I am happy because the Lord is blessing me,” said Dora Jackson, 77.

Jackson lived in her home for 51 years before Hurricane Katrina ran her out. “I raised all six of my children in this house,” she said, looking around.

Donald Y. Archie, lay leader of the church, walked inside his water-soaked church for the first time this Sunday. He said he had been putting off looking inside.

When he came back outside he said, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

With tears in his eyes, he said, “We’ll come back.”

That sentiment was echoed by most of the people gathered under the cloudy skies.

Iris Turner, from Rochester, N.Y., came back to see about her family and told the congregation, “Nothing belongs to you. God stripped us naked, but there is a purpose he did this. It is time to get close and stop worshipping stuff.”

Charles Alfred, 72, said he and his wife lost everything they had in their 47-year-long marriage. Before services began, he talked about the renovations that had just been completed and the plans the church was making to expand.

“We were just getting ready to sign a contract to start building a family life center,” he said. Six feet of water in the church means two and a half years of renovation and $250,000 are down the drain, he said.

As members talked about blessings and losses, Scott gave them tips on coping with being displaced and scattered. “Be patient; learn acceptance.”

He also talked about how hard it is to lose everything. “I am being real,” he said, laughing. “I looked at my ruined suits and shoes and I just said, ‘ummm.’ Some of those things I just liked.”

The United Methodist Committee on Relief is working with the church to get a tent for the congregation, and church members voted to continue meeting at 8 a.m. every Sunday on the grounds.

“Keep your mind on heavenly things,” Scott said. “This is just a junction. We will get through this, and this too will pass.”

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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