More than 70 Southern Baptist churches in South Louisiana recently suffered structural damage from Hurricane Ida.
“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,” Louisiana Baptist Convention Director of Missions John Hebert said. “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 (Interstate) 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.”
In Louisiana, Southern Baptists established about 10 mass feeding units in New Orleans, Morgan City, Hammond, and multiple locations on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain.
“We need volunteers, we need money, we need relief supplies, and … 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.”
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, previous pastor Nathan Stanford said.
“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 who 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.
— Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ senior writer.