Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005. Two years later, the devastating effects are still evident.
During Momentum (Brethren National Youth Conference) on July 21-27, 2007, young people and youth workers will be mobilized to Gulfport, Miss. to continue the work of restoration. Momentum sessions will be held on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, an hour away.
In addition to the time and energy supplied by the students and staff of Momentum, financial resources are needed for the rebuilding projects. CE National, sponsor of Momentum, is teaming with the Grace Brethren Disaster Relief Fund (managed by Grace Brethren North American Missions) to raise funds for the Gulfport projects. Because of the anticipated needs, a goal of $50,000 has been set, up from the $25,000 that was previously announced. To donate to the project, see the disaster relief fund website.
The needs along the Gulf Coast should not be underestimated. “If it were not for Christians coming to help, there is no way we could recover from this,” a representative of a bus company told Lee Seese, youth pastor in Everett, Pa., recently. Lee had called to make arrangements for his youth group to attend Momentum and explained the work project that was planned.
“There is much work left to be done,” the man told Lee. He said that people who have been traumatized and have lost hope still need help to take small, yet important, steps back to normality.
Grace Brethren people were quick to respond in 2005. Within two days of the storm, Grace Brethren North American Missions initiated a relief fund, which to date has received more than $210,000 toward the relief effort. Most of those funds went to local Grace Brethren churches that sent teams to the Gulf Coast. The response reached an international level when a gift arrived from Grace Brethren churches in Cambodia.
Students and staff who attend Momentum will be challenged to move from their comfort zones as they participate in the work teams. They will have opportunities to share their faith while meeting the needs of people who are helpless to recover on their own.
Hope Grace Brethren Church in Dillsburg, Pa. has been very involved in the relief effort. A team went to Mississippi during Christmas break 2006.
“Pass Christian, Miss. had come to a standstill as far as work being done,” observed Linda Spahr, a member of that team. “Folks I had worked for there were having their FEMA trailers taken away the next week, but still were not into their homes because there was no one to help dry wall and finish the work.”
She also noted that there were individuals who were paid to do reconstruction work, but never completed it.
“In Gulfport, things seemed to be moving along pretty well, but again, just not enough good help to go around,” she added. “There are lots of folks whose houses still have huge holes. The tarps they were given have long since blown off or become useless. Many of the people spent all they have trying to keep possessions dry and now are giving up hope. There is roofing and dry walling to be done, but more than that, they need to know that we have not forgotten about them. There is much to be done by the willing hands God sends there.”
Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr, in his State of the City Address on February 8, said, “While the days immediately following Katrina were most difficult, in many ways this past year has been more difficult. Like most of you, I didn’t think things could get much harder, but the truth is