A steeple of hope in battered Gulf Coast
By PAMALA K. McCARVER, Special to The Californian
Six weeks after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, I traveled to Mississippi to meet my husband, who was a part of the FEMA operation center at Stennis Space Center.
Stennis Space Center is a main center for relief workers who were assembled immediately after the hurricane with the primary mission of supplying shelter, water, ice and food.
The operation’s center was approximately 20 miles from the beach community of Lakeshore, Miss. This part of the Gulf Coast was hit the hardest by the impact of Katrina.
The water damage to the homes located inland was extensive. Piles of damaged property littered the highway, and cars and boats were randomly tossed in all directions along the roadside. Hundreds of bare trees were either uprooted or snapped in half due to the battering winds.
The homes along the coast had simply been blown away or washed into the ocean. There were complete blocks of emptiness, as if these homes had never existed. Piles of rubble covered treasured family possessions. Dead power lines draped trees and covered the streets. Trees were littered with personal possessions.
A feeling of hopelessness and despair permeated the community. Even the toughest veterans of disasters could not escape the shock and horror of the pain these families experienced daily. Many families chose to remain on their property in small tents or trailers, probably because they had nowhere else to go. Some were not ready to leave what they had spent a lifetime building.
The scenes of devastation had become unbearable for me, and I randomly turned up a street to leave the town. As I looked up, I could not believe what I saw: Positioned upright on the side of the road was a solitary white church steeple next to where a church once stood. Behind the steeple was a temporary shelter made out of blue plastic tarps.
On one side was a food bank. On the other side was a meeting room for the community to gather and share their stories. Attached to the steeple was a sign:
Lakeshore Baptist Church
6028 Lake Shore Road
Pastor Don Elbourne
I stopped and talked with a young woman named Courtney Elbourne, the pastor’s wife. The Elbournes had lost their home, but this did not stop them and their community from continuing on with their lives.
Courtney reminded me that their community had nothing to do with buildings, rather a lot to do with relationships, and that true giving does not come from what we have — rather, giving from the depths of what we do not have. The people of Lakeshore Baptist Church had very little, but what they did have, they shared with others.
The steeple is a beacon of hope for a community struggling to rediscover its future. If you would like to know more about Lakeshore Baptist Church or assist them in serving the people of the Gulf Coast, they can be found at www.lakeshorebaptist.net or write them at 1451 Great Oak Drive, Baton Rouge, LA 70810.
— Pamala K. McCarver is a registered nurse at San Joaquin Community Hospital who lives in Tehachapi. Her husband, Randy, is a captain with the Kern County Fire Department.