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Hurricane Katrina: Did you know?

   

September 9, 2005
-Dan Dyck

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. Visit www.mds.mennonite.net 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.