Saturday, August 30, 2008

No Church on Sunday, Remaining staff evacuating

With the upgrade of Gustav to a Cat 4 and probably a Cat 5 by morning we have determined to cancel service tomorrow and ENCOURAGE all remaining LPC members and families to head for higher/safer ground. We did not want there to be any reason to remain in Bay St. Louis longer than necessary. John Sabin and I are the last two remaining staff members in the Bay. We will finish boarding up the church in the morning and then John will be heading to Brookhaven, MS and I will be going to Necaise, MS (about 40 minutes north of Bay St. Louis). We would ask you to please remember Hancock County in your prayers. There is a heaviness in the air here. The sentiment that I have heard over and over again is, "I just can't do this again..." I find myself nodding in agreement. For tonight Bay St. Louis is peaceful. There is a band at the Mockingbird and I saw a clarinet player just playing to himself on Main Street this afternoon. This town has a soul that is resilient, but she is tired and weary. I know how she feels. NOTE: Lynne Sabin will be updating this blog so check back during the storm. I will keep her updated via Satellite phone. Blessings and Grace, Jean P.S. Please read Psalm 107:23-32 and pray those truths for Bay St. Louis!

Governor Barbour announces mandatory evacuations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Aug. 29, 2008 PEARL - Governor Haley Barbour issued mandatory evacuations for Harrison and Hancock counties beginning Sunday morning for people living the following: • FEMA travel trailers • FEMA mobile homes • Mississippi Cottages • Residents in designated flood hazard zones. "There is no question we are taking this storm seriously, but there is no need to panic," Governor Barbour said at a news conference at the National Guard Armory Readiness Center in Gulfport. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, David Paulison, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and MEMA Director Mike Womack also attended the news conference. "As we prepare for the worst, we must pray for the best," Governor Barbour said. The Mississippi Army National Guard will launch a door-to-door campaign on Saturday to notify people living in low-lying areas, flood hazard zones, FEMA travel trailers and mobile homes and Mississippi Cottages to seek alternative shelter because of the threat of severe tropical weather. The State Emergency Response Team, which is comprised from MEMA and several other key state agencies, will also deploy to Gulfport this afternoon. Once there, the SERT will establish an Emergency Operations Center so they may monitor and assess resources and needs for local governments as Gustav approaches. Due to the large number of people expected to evacuate from Louisiana, Governor Barbour said Mississippi and Louisiana officials are planning to use the contraflow plan for both Interstates 55 and 59 this weekend. An exact starting time for the reverse laning of the interstates has not yet been determined. More than 7,000 Mississippi families still live in state and federal disaster housing. These units are temporary units which is why they are not elevated to heights to protect residents from floods and many are in flood prone areas, said MEMA Director Mike Womack. "MEMA's primary concern is for the safety of all Mississippi residents," Womack said. "But with so many people living in low-lying areas, these residents need to understand that this housing may be susceptible to flooding in a situation like this." According to the National Weather Service since 1970 there have more than 600 deaths attributed to flooding from tropical weather. More than 60 percent of those deaths occurred from inland flooding. Gustav is forecasted to become a strong hurricane as it enters the Gulf of Mexico in the next day or two. The National Hurricane Center expects Gustav to make landfall on the Gulf Coast as early as Monday or Tuesday. For more information and updates visit or call MEMA's Public Information Line at 866-519-MEMA

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lagniappe Closed for 2 Weeks!

If you are trying to get in touch with Lagniappe staff members please note that we will be closed to teams and out of the office beginning 5 p.m. August 15th until September 8th. We will be out of the office for those 3 weeks- the first two weeks provide down time for the staff following the summer push of teams and building. The third week is for staff planning, training and spiritual focus. Please keep us in your prayers during that time. Please note that staff have been instructed to turn off cell phones, not check e-mail or work at all, so please understand if you don't get calls back or emails returned. It is a sign of a healthy staff resting and believing that the Kingdom of God will go on for 2 weeks without them, not of indifference toward your needs. NOTE: We will worship every Sunday during the break at 9:30 a.m. at the church, join us then!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa—After the Cedar River crested June 13 at nearly 20 feet above flood stage, this city of over 120,000 feels deserted. An agrihub dominated by Quaker Oats and Cargill food processing facilities, Cedar Rapids in its downtown area saw floodwaters reach 12 feet above its worst flood on record, set in 1851. Nearly two months later, you cannot mail a letter, buy a bagel, check in at the Crowne Plaza, or check out a book at the city library.

In addition to the flood-damaged post office, the hotel, the library, and food outlets like Bruegger's are about 100 flood-damaged blocks containing department stores, theaters, and government and other offices. Many commercial properties are hollowed-out or boarded-up shells of their former selves following heavy rains and days of standing floodwater in June. Those that survive sit idle, stripped of wallboard, flooring, and furnishings. On empty streets the hum of utility pumps and the generators to run them continues day and night.

Waterlogged are businesses, bars, banks, city hall, the city jail, and dozens of neighborhoods—in all, city officials say, about 18,000 structures, including around 15,000 houses. In many areas flood survivors are racing a deadline set by city officials for debris removal later this month; after that, officials say, it will be too late to salvage buildings overrun by mold and too difficult to haul away flood wreckage with the approach of cold weather and snow.

The degree of the urban devastation—if not its size—brings to mind Hurricane Katrina's wreckage in New Orleans and other Gulf cities. And that's what got to Keri Norwood, who followed news of Iowa's extensive flooding via the internet from her home in Bay St. Louis, Miss., 1,000 miles away. "What I saw was very similar to the way houses looked in Bay St. Louis after Katrina. I thought, 'We have been given so much with volunteers and help. It's only appropriate that we should give back.'"

Norwood ran an ad in her local paper soliciting volunteers to help in the Midwest. In late July she and a dozen other Bay St. Louis residents drove north to begin mucking out houses and cleaning up in Cedar Rapids. The group is multi-denominational: Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, and others. Norwood, 28, is on staff at Lagniappe Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Bay St. Louis, a church just 40 minutes outside New Orleans that continues to be at the center of Gulf Coast rebuilding ("Dark to daylight," Aug. 26, 2006). Lagniappe currently has seven houses of its own under construction and is hosting this year about 200 volunteers a day as part of a cooperative arrangement with Habitat for Humanity—three years after Hurricane Katrina.

Haven't Gulf Coast residents seen enough flood-related cleanup? "Coming here is therapy," laughs Curt Moore, another team member and an ordained pastor who now coordinates relief activities through Lagniappe.

Said Norwood: "If there is anyone who understands the pain and emotion of losing your home, it's these volunteers." Three team members did have their Gulf Coast homes wiped out down to the foundation, and they moved into new homes only earlier this year. Bob Delcuze of Bay St. Louis lost his home of 40 years in Katrina, and with the help of volunteers moved into a newly completed—and elevated—home on the same site in February. He decided to come to Cedar Rapids to help with flood cleanup here because "I feel like I owe it to somebody," he said. The damage in Cedar Rapids, according to Delcuze, "is almost like a normal hurricane, not like Katrina, but if your house is flooded, once it gets to the ceiling it's all equal. The issues are the same—am I going to rebuild? Will anyone help?"

Members of the Lagniappe team also understand the red tape. Insurance claims can take months to process and buyouts can take years. June's flood-waters breached an earthen levee along the Cedar River, causing the most extensive damage in old neighborhoods abutting the riverfront. Yet many were outside the floodplain and not eligible for flood insurance. And until the city comes up with a plan to extend or rebuild the levee, houses in those areas are in limbo.

Altogether the Lagniappe team members "mucked out" three houses in under five days—removing plaster, damaged wall studs, carpeting, kitchen appliances, and cabinetry. Along the way they and other volunteer teams have found themselves also hauling out personal belongings and helping residents sort the sentimental from the largely unsalvageable: photo albums, Christmas ornaments, toys, and wedding dresses.

One of the houses Bay St. Louis residents cleared sits at 80 22nd Avenue SW in a 100-year-old, largely working-class neighborhood. Owner Leland Maynes, who does delivery and other work for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, lived there alone after his wife died 14 years ago. Many residents here bought their homes from first- and second-generation Czech immigrants, who came to Cedar Rapids in a wave beginning in the late 19th century to work in packinghouses or to set up businesses of their own. Maynes' two-story frame bungalow, like every other home that lines the street, is sooty with mold climbing up to its second-floor window. Foot tracks cross front porches still an inch deep in river silt. Sunflowers and other stray volunteers spring up in foot-high grass no one's thought to mow. At dusk 22nd Avenue is soundless and absolutely empty of people. Street lamps won't come on, as electricity to flooded neighborhoods is cut.

The floodwater came up seven feet into Maynes' main floor, he said, while some homes in the neighborhood saw water lines extend 2-3 feet into the second floor. Now gutted, the home sits like thousands of others, windows and doors propped open to the street, drying, waiting. The front door bears a yellow placard. Under a color-coded system instituted by the city, yellow means limited entry at one's own risk. As of late July over 4,000 structures had been issued yellow cards. Others on the street have purple cards, meaning they will be demolished, and a few have green cards indicating they are now safe for occupancy.

Maynes is living outside the city temporarily with a friend. "I am prepared to wait, " he said of his house, "but I might give it away." That kind of ambivalence is everywhere. "Will sell for $10,000," is spray-painted on one boarded-up house, but around the corner is a vacated automotive store with, "You loot I shoot."

And that's where the Lagniappe team comes in. They can speak to disaster-dazed residents from a future flood victims don't yet see. "My goal is that this is the beginning, for us and for them," said Norwood. Already she has assembled another team to return to Cedar Rapids in mid-October. They are prepared to continue cleanup but hoping that some skilled labor—and reconstruction—will be on the agenda, too.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thanks Clyde!

This week marks the last week on staff for one of our contractors, Clyde Baker. Clyde resigned in the spring to pursue work with a mission in Belize. Clyde will be working with a mission school setting up a woodshop to teach students how to make and install custom cabinetry. NOTE: Clyde was a cabinet maker in Virginia Pre-K (before Katrina). The staff and interns gathered last night at the Mockingbird Cafe' for a celebration of Clyde's time with us at Lagniappe (and a little roasting as well). It must be said that Clyde has left a huge impression on the city, it's residents, the volunteers and on Lagniappe. He will be sorely missed, but undoubtedly back in the Bay in the distant future. If you would like more information about Clyde's new ministry in Belize please email him: Clyde is also raising monthly support so please consider him in your giving. Lagniappe is proud to be sponsoring Clyde in this new endeavor. Thank you Clyde...Soli Deo Gloria!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Lesson from Tater Tots

Last night was the last intern Bible study of the summer. We have been working through the book of Galatians, seeking to apply to gospel in very real and practical ways. During the discussion time Ashley Myhal gave the following application:
A lesson from tater tots
What can we learn from a tater tot? Yesterday, I went to dinner with some youth girls. We all ordered at Sonic and our food was delivered -hot, delicious popcorn chicken, sonic burger, onion rings, french fries, tater tots and sonic blasts. Yum! However, as soon as we passed the food around the car, two of the girls started to bicker over a stray tater tot. "It's mine!" "No, it was in my bag!" "But you got french fries!" I was mildly offended: after all, I had bought them dinner! They didn't have to pay for it, it was free! They had fries and onion rings! They even got Sonic ice cream! How could they argue over one, lone tater tot? Then I realized what a clear picture the Lord was giving me of what my own life looks like. I have been given awesome grace - free, unearned grace. I so selfishly grab for more - the tater tots of life. For some reason, I'm convinced that I won't be happy unless I have grace AND:grace AND that relationship; grace AND approval of my boss; grace ANDan easy life. I am essentially throwing my hot, delicious Sonic dinner on the ground - burger, fries, and a Sonic Blast, even! - and pouting because I am missing out on tater tots. What is wrong with me? I'm so grateful that through the gospel, I can look at those tatertots and not try to convince myself that they're not good - they are. Sonic tater tots are awesome. Friendships and approval are good things. However, I don't have to chase after them or fight for them. The Lord provides awesome things to me without me even asking. He gives according to His GREAT love, and what He knows that we need and what we don't need. I can trust Him with my life, completely. Funny how God can use Sonic tater tots to teach me about my sin and His awesomeness, huh?

Monday, August 11, 2008

just a few pictures

Just a few more days till we close; here are some pictures from last weeks teams. Thanks for coming ya'll!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Audience of One

What does it mean to have an audience of one? It's become a cheesy line we throw around in Christian culture to minimize self-consciousness. Today it became something more for me. Today I spoke with a team leader who has worked at Lagniappe in the past. He told me of an encounter with a gentleman who claimed he could play the guitar. The leader noticed that the man's guitar was missing some strings, as well as the chord that connected the guitar to the amp. An avid musician and lover of music himself, this leader bought the man new strings, tuned his guitar, and hooked it up to the amp with a new chord. As he and his students gathered around to hear the man play, they were surprised. The sounds coming from the guitar sounded nothing like what they expected. It was loud; it was discordant, and the students began to grumble. "I thought he said he could play," they laughed..."this isn't music." The leader stopped them. Pulling them aside he said, "you are not his audience. He plays for an audience of one. These sounds which sound so awful to you are making His creator smile. Whether he knows it or not, this man plays before God. You are just privileged to stand in the arena and watch." Suddenly the attitude changed. The students began to cheer. The discordant sounds became almost beautiful as they listened to them with the ears of the Father. This is what Paul means when he says, "But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose was is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God" (1 Cor. 1:27-28). This is why high school students can build houses in a week. This is why 19 year old college interns can have an incredible impact on our staff and the Bay St. Louis community. This is why sinful men can be pastors. This is why I-who am quick to run into the slavery of my own idolatry-can lead a Bible study about the freedom God offers us as His children. The beautiful part about this is that our lives are chaos. They are a mess...we turn the amp up as loud as we can, we "tune" the guitar all morning, and all we can make are discordant sounds. But that is not what God hears. And not only that, it is not what the world hears. Paul says that God chose the foolish things to "shame the wise." He does not say it just pleases God, but he actually says it affects others. Suddenly we can be friends with people, even though we know we will let them down. God might just use our failures to point our friends to His total sufficiency. We can be bold in our work, even when it is overwhelming-He promises to use the weak to shame the strong. We can be content when we are despised by the world; God promises to use the "low and despised to bring to nothing the things that are." God takes our chaos and makes it beautiful-not just for Himself but for the world. I hung up in tears, excited now "to boast all the more gladly in my weakness...for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 11:9b, 10b).

Friday, August 01, 2008

Kevin Costner, " Field of Dreams"

Ray, people will come Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won't mind if you look around, you'll say. It's only $20 per person. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they'll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.

Iowa-Day5 Postscript

After having breakfast in Iowa City we drove around the campus of The University of Iowa. The flood waters are still high but not threatening. The buildings in this photo are of the some of the fraternity houses. There was over $240 million  in damages to the university.
An abandoned upper scale neighborhood. Arklie said that the community spent $2 million dollars to a private company to sandbag, gut, and remove debris. Looks a lot like the Coast
On the Coast we buy plywood to cover our windows and doors. In Iowa they pack sand. Apparently they didn't stack them high enough.
Removing sandbags. Tomorrow a volunteer group will come to this neighborhood to assist the removal of the sandbags.

Iowa-Day 5 The Long Ride Home

Self-Portrait Friday Morning
The team left Hope Church in North Liberty (20 min. South of Cedar Rapids where we were working) at 5am. I flew in and out of Orlando and won't leave until late Sunday evening. My plan is to worship at the host church and visit with the members here. Needless to say it is very quiet around the church. Arklie Hooten, Disaster Response/Short-Term Coordinator is still here and we went to breakfast this morning. Arklie has been here for 5 weeks setting up the program of relief. Please pray for him as he has not been home in that time. If you contribute to this ministry of the PCA please know that your donations are put to good use. I'm going to tell on him now-As I mentioned he hasn't been home in 5 weeks and desperately wants to see his family. Looking for tickets in such short notice the cost is quiet high, over a $1,000. Arklie said, " I couldn't justify spending that much of MNA's money for a ticket." Well things will turn out well because his wife Kat, son Grey, and a team from East Tennessee State arrive late Sunday so it should be a good week for Arklie. Please pray for more leadership to move to this area of need; site managers, project managers, case managers. Volunteers are still coming but the need is great.
Since I didn't do so earlier in the week let me introduce you to the team from Bay St. Louis/Waveland. Carol Wasielweski, LPC staffer with the perpetually perky smile. Carol was whereever there was a need and served with a smile. Plastic anyone?Driving from the worksite back to the church with particles of fecal matter on your clothes is not something you want to get on the upolstery, even if it is only a rental.Raw sewage backed up from the teatment plants and settled into basements and throughout houses; in and through furniture, carpet, walls,etc... I doubled over several times and Simon got sick once but for the most part it was not bad. Really. I wore a respirator, not a paper mask. Thankfully no one was sick due to adequate clothing and preparation. I don't suppose these are the things you want to advertise if you are recruiting for volunteer projects but it's good to know up front. Prior to the trip I asked Arklie if it was necessary to have the rubber boots. I bought them from Walmart and I'm sooooo glad I did. It was the best $15 I have ever spent. Walking in dark muddy waters with good traction is necessary plus you don't want dookie in your socks. Yesterday, just as we were about to stop working, Aaron started to remove kitchen cabinets at Louis's house. Taking wild swings with the 25 lb. pry bar he lost his footing on the slimy vinyl flooring and hit the floor. WHAM! Keri being the great team leader drove him to the hospital where it was confirmed that he broke his thumb clear in two. He is ok and still managed to be his cheerful self, laughing and smiling throughout the evening, even forgoing pain medication.
Aaron Davenport of BSL testing out the chair with the hole in it. "What's this?," he asked. Aaron is a very thoughtful and inquisitive young man. Yesterday he had a phone interview with Americorp and will begin working with them sometime this year.
Bob Delcuze is from BSL and lives one block north of the LPC facility. Bob is a member of Main St. Methodist Church and a member of NOMADS, a relief and mercy wing of the Methodist Church. Bob is 71 but he worked circles around all of the young people. Bob retired from Stenis where he was a Mechanical Engineer. Bob was the go-to guy if we had a question yet with all of his experience he humbly directed with great gentleness and humor. It was a joy to get to know him. He knew why there was a hole in the chair. I suppose that came from being a MS State grad. They teach you those things there you know!
Bill Currie, from BSL. Bill works at Stennis Space Center and is an AWESOME guy. I can't say enough about Bill. I think he was one of my favorite people on the trip (though it's both difficult and unfair to state such a thing. I guess it was because I spent a lot of time talking with him). He, like Bob, is wise beyond his years and is humble and fun to be around. We debriefed last night and the common statement was that we couldn't imagine another team being any better. I couldn't believe there were NO interpersonal problems, fussing, or bickering. There was only a common goal to serve. There were no egos. There was service to the community and service to one another. Bill is a member from Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church. The only reason I state that is because we truly had a representative picture of the body of Christ working is love and service. I was truly blown away.
Penny Foret and Arklie. Penny decided to come two weeks prior to the trip. She has such a kind and gentle spirit. I suppose that comes from owning and running a day care. She's just happy to be away from all those children. I know it's safe to say, and I speak for everyone, that we have all made wonderful new friends. We are already planning our next gather which will be a meal together on the Coast.
Victoria Romano from Milsaps. I guess I am the old guy who can now say, "Those young folk are amazing." Victoria always had a smile, was always working, and loves to talk politics. I am serious when I say this, but look for her to go places. She is a special young lady.
Keri Norwood, team leader. Keri did a precious job of leading the group. She was truly an AMAZING leader. Organized, humble, smart, and a little sassy. She was the perfect team leader. I know this was an encouragement for all of the long hours of planning. The Lord truly blessed our team by appointing her as our leader.
Steven Passman, Milsaps student and Long Beach resident. Steven came because Victoria invited him to come along. Another sharp dude. He was a great addition to the team. We even found out that I know his dad pretty well. It's a small world. Pictured below is the elusive Kathleen Monti. I never could get a photo of Kathleen without her mask or without her shyly moving away from the camera. Kathleen told us last night that this kind of trip was out of the ordinary for her but she saw the add in the paper and really wanted to come. She worked tirelessly everywhere, from shoveling debris to preparing the food she was such a servant. As with the rest of our new friends I look forward to seeing her again on the Coast.
Simon Davenport is Aaron's brother. Man these guys really love each other and were the hit of the party. Simon just became a Christian this last year and is so excited to talk about God's love displayed in Jesus Christ. Aaron is a drummer and plays in the marching band at Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. He has lots of great questions, laughs a lot and truly loves life. He is is planning on taking this next year off to tour with a band and is hopeful that they will 'take off.' Simon stepped on a nail that went through his boot and had to go the hospital. He testified during the Wednesday night service about the sovereignty of God in bringing the nail so that he could spend time with Leland. Leland drove him to the hospital and it was there that they were able to connect in a deeper way.

Iowa-Day 4

Thursday we started work on our 4th house. Wednesday while working on Leland's home his next door neighbor, Louise, dropped by just to check on her home. She wound up sitting, talking, laughing, and eating lunch. We told her we'd work on her house Thursday. Several team members were still working on Leland's while the rest began work on Louise's home. By mid morning Louise showed up with fresh peaches and ice cream. Our work began to take on greater joy and vigor having interacted with and gotten to know the families we are helping. They were truly the reason we came. The gutting/mucking was the vehicle. There is the possibility that the city/county won't allow rebuilding but that is still in discussion phase. Regardless, it will  be sad for the families not be back in their homes and yes it might be easy to say, "Why did we come?Why did we spend a week sweating, lacking sleep, slugging away with body aches and pains?" The answer is that we were able to provide the declaration and demonstration of the love of God shown to us in Christ Jesus. Hope was brought to two individuals as a reminder that the God of Heaven is there and is not silent. He knows, He cares, and He is able.
Taking a break. Louise is the lady on the far right. She was so joyful and thankful that we helped. As you pray remember her. I believe Michael Langer connected with her very well and will follow-up.
This is Leland. Not only did he work side by side with us, doing exactly the same work, he joined us at the church dinner/service Wednesday night, ate hot dogs with us a local restaurant (Their Benignos, Russos, Mockingbird...). He also joined us Thursday night at the church for dinner, bringing fresh sweet corn. We added a Louisianna flavour by sprinkling Tony Chesheries Cajun mix over the corn which was delish.
Carol in front of Cedar Rapids equivilent of Benignos, The Flying Wienie
Pictured are three flying wienies, Simon, Steven, and Leland.