September 9, 2005
Winnipeg, Man. — Mennonites in Canada have been
watching the heartbreaking news of the Gulf States disaster along with
many other Canadians. However, few Canadian Mennonites probably know that
there is a Mennonite Church USA area conference in the region. Today,
Mennonite Church Canada received a news release via Mennonite Church USA
that can help us be informed.
The following compilation of facts will help the wider church pray for
and be in solidarity our brothers and sisters there.
Did you know…
- The Gulf States Mennonite Conference, the second smallest area conference
in Mennonite Church USA, comprising 14 congregations in Louisiana, Mississippi,
Alabama and Arkansas.
- No loss of life of conference members has been reported thus far.
- All but two of the congregations have been affected in some way.
Many members have received property damage or lost homes.
- Mennonite Disaster Service update reports of its work in the region.
for information based on its damage assessments that began Sept. 1.
MDS says it is not yet time for volunteers, as search and rescue operations
are still in effect and this will remain priority for the next few days.
- Karen Yoder, a staff member of the area conference, wrote: “So
far we have not had much communication, but we have heard from a few
friends down south. [Some members] homes are still standing, with some
damage. Gulfhaven Mennonite Church, and most of the people from Gulfhaven
are a few miles from the beach. It sounds like the worst of the damage
was the first mile from the beach. I haven’t heard from any of
our friends from Des Allemands, or from Amor Viviente in Metarie, La.,
a suburb of New Orleans.”
- Bob Zehr, interim pastor at Open Door Mennonite Church in Jackson,
Miss., wrote, “Apparently Lighthouse Fellowship has disappeared
as lower Plaquemines Parish has disappeared into the Gulf.”
- The Gulf States Mennonite Conference’s Pine Lake Fellowship
Camp has been a place of peace, reconciliation, relationship building
and safety since its founding in 1966. In the sixties and seventies
it was a place where people of various racial and ethnic groups could
come together to worship, pray and play in safety. It has also served
as a refuge from hurricanes of the past and today is a staging area
for MDS projects following this storm. The camp itself survived building
damage, but has an “awesome clean up task ahead.” Already,
two income producing retreats had to be canceled.
- Arlyn Friesen-Epp, director of Mennonite Church Canada’s Resource
Centre, worked with Mennonite Central Committee in New Orleans in 2000
and 2001. Arlyn says, “We still have connections with some of
the folks in the downtown community we lived in, some with the larger
ecumenical church circle we worked with, and with some of the MC USA
congregations along the Gulf.” Arlyn expresses particular concern
for the”… inner-city residents we had come to know who will
not have had means (probably) to have left the city.”
- Shane Perkinson, associate pastor at Home Street Mennonite Church
in Winnipeg, has a mother and grandparents who live in the Gulfport
area of Mississippi. They managed to evacuate to Jackson and are safe.
The grandparent’s home is totally demolished. His mother’s
home sustained six feet of water.