Here is a report from Mike Mason, of thequest church in Columbus, Ohio (Mike Jentes, pastor), about his recent ministry with fellow church member Larry Totzke in Shreveport, Louisiana.
We went for about nine days and we worked quite a bit. Most of our team of Grace Brethren people were in some kind of leadership position. I rose all the way to Laundry Coordinator by the end of my time there 🙂
Our Grace Brethren team consisted of about 13 people who were spread out over various shelters. I went to a shelter with Larry Totzke (from the quest) and Steve Kern (from Wooster, Ohio). It was a really interesting experience.
We got to meet so many wonderful Red Cross people and also many wonderful New Orleans people. I was amazed at the attitude of the evacuees. Even though they lost everything, they were in good spirits, usually.
Because the disaster was so huge, the shelter I was at was unlike any Red Cross shelter previously. Usually a Red Cross shelter lasts about three days. You get in, you get out. Because of the severity of Katrina, the shelter I was at will be open for at least two more weeks (over a month total).
The shelter was named Hirsch, although I don’t know why. It was located on a fairgrounds. The fair begins October 10, so they would like to be shut down by then.
The shelter was located in a decent-sized basketball arena. We were about 200 yards away from the football stadium where they play the Independence Bowl. Tulane University, which is in New Orleans, will play some of their home games there. We got to go to their “home opener” Saturday night.
This was no ordinary Red Cross shelter because it was started before the Red Cross could get there by a local Assemblies of God church. Our leader, Steve, was one of the pastors there.
Overall, Steve did a great job. Many, many interesting things happened. We had a great team show up from a Billy Graham organization. My job would have been much more stressful if they hadn’t been there.
Besides handling new supplies/laundry, I had a lot of interaction with the “clients”/evacuees on the floor. The most stressful day was when we doubled our population from 300 to 600!
One last cool thing. We had a group of nine show up from Lincoln, Nebraska. One hundred churches in Lincoln pooled their resources and sent these nine down with two charter buses to take evacuees back to Nebraska. They agreed to give up to 60 people free housing and food for up to a year.
Not only that, but they would help them find a job and also agreed to pay to send them back to New Orleans whenever they wanted. I thought it was an amazing way to share the love of Christ.