By Stan Friedman
NEW ORLEANS, LA (October 2, 2012) – The pastor of the local Evangelical Covenant Church says Hurricane Isaac left behind far more damage than most people living elsewhere know about and that full recovery will take years to achieve.
“Thousands have literally been washed out of their homes,” says Page Brooks, pastor of Canal Street Church: A Mosaic Community.
People outside the area may be under the mistaken impression that damage was relatively light because it was not considered a powerful hurricane, and the national news media has given little coverage in the storm’s aftermath, Brooks says.
Although Isaac was considered only a Category 1 hurricane when it hit land on August 28, it caused more destruction than any of the previous six hurricanes – except Katrina – since Hurricane Betsy killed 81 people in 1965. Other hurricanes included Camille in 1969, Juan in 1985, Andrew in 1992, Georges in 1998, and Gustav in 2008.
Canal Street is working through its nonprofit, the Restoration Initiative, along with government offices, churches, and other organizations to repair and reconstruct homes and provide additional assistance to storm victims.
During the past month, the small church has worked on the roofs and cleaned out damage in nearly two dozen homes, says Brooks. “We also have distributed more than $1,500 in gift cards from Wal-Mart and Home Depot; provided biblical trauma counseling to eight individuals; logged over 275 volunteer hours; and established a system and contacts for equipping groups to minister in the community over the next several months.
“We are also helping the local churches and their volunteer agency to develop and support community based social assistance and spiritual care for the east Plaquemines Parish residents around Braithwaite,” Brooks adds. “These two approaches appear to be the most appropriate course of action for each parish in the near term.”
The church has hosted groups doing repair work and is inviting more mission teams that would like to help with cleanup and restoration. It also is accepting donations of gift cards. Any financial donations will be used to purchase gift cards for distribution to families and individuals.
Brooks serves as a chaplain in the National Guard and was at the base the night Hurricane Isaac struck. “About 3 a.m. I received a text from one of my church members,” he recalls. “He stated that the water had overtopped the Gulf-side levees in Braithwaite. They immediately climbed into their cars and drove to the top of the Mississippi River levee where they would be safe – and wait to be rescued.”
Several days later, Brooks drove by where the church member had lived. “The 15-foot wall of water had pushed the house several feet from where its pillars stood,” he said. “My church member ran a citrus farm, which abound in the area. The oranges were turning brown from the salt-water exposure. This source of his livelihood was ruined, at least for this harvest season.”
Compounding the pain area residents felt was that the Isaac struck on the seven-year anniversary of Katrina and brought back terrible memories. “The heartache was perhaps twice as hard this time,” Brooks said.
For more information about helping with the work in New Orleans, call the church at 504-482-1135 or visit the church and Restoration Initiative websites.