Heartsick for NOLA and the Gulf Coast

I’m heartsick tonight.

Watching the ominous sight of Gustav, and knowing what I know about NOLA and all of the Gulf Coast?

It’s just heartbreaking.

The past three summers, we’ve taken our mission trips to the Biloxi/Gulfport area. I know I speak for many in our church when I say that we’ve fallen in love with the people there. They have such good hearts, and are the kind of solid folks anyone would be proud to get to know.

Tonight, I am thinking about them. I am praying for all of them. And I am asking you to pray too. What I have learned in the last three years along the Gulf Coast is that everyone there has a story about the storm. Everyone. You hear stories form waitresses and hotel clerks. Tonight, I feel like sharing a few of the stories I know best, so perhaps you can put a face with your prayers.

I am thinking/praying about Jane Carroll, Ms. Day, and Aunt Joyce. Aunt Joyce is the actual aunt of one of our members. She’d never met Ms. Carroll –an African-American woman who lived blocks from her– before our trip.

Aunt Joyce was rescued after the storm by her niece Pam. (our member). I’m not assuming Aunt Joyce evacuated this time either, and am making a mental note to call Pam in the morning…

Jayne Carroll and her great-grandson both evacuated. But in the havoc of that crazy time, they weren’t reunited until, somehow, they both found their way to Chicago of all places. Here’s a story from a Chicago TV station about their time there as evacuees. (I know I have some nice pics of her, but they’re all at church…). This is a still from the story. Miss Carroll is the older woman on the left:


One of the highlights of that trip was hearing Ms Carrroll and Aunt Joyce sit on the steps of Ms Carroll’s home, and talk about the Gulfport of their youth, from their own perspectives…they talked about race, but they mainly just about about life. It felt like we were learning the history of Gulfport, as we helped them rebuild.

I am thinking/praying about the undocumented workers we met the second year in Pascagoula, who barely spoke any English, and who wanted nothing more than to move back in to the mobile home they’d lived in before the storm. They’d gotten some help from FEMA, but a relative absconded with the check, leaving them with nowhere to turn by the grace of mission teams. The twenty-five-foot storm surge had picked up the mobile homes in their tiny park, and tossed them around like rubber ducks, bring them to rest in all sorts of odd places.

I wonder tonight: Did they evacuate? Did somebody get by to warn them? Because I don’t think they have a phone or TV….

I am thinking/praying about Dave Thomas and his family in Biloxi. I’m pretty sure they evacuated, because of how harrowing their story was the first time. We worked on his house just two months ago, on our most recent trip, and here is Dave recounting for me, and for you, his horrible story from three-years-ago last night:

I am sure he moved into that house the week of the Fourth of July…finally moving out of the tiny FEMA trailer they’d lived in for almost three years.

And I am sure they evacuated again today.

I am thinking/praying about Ernest and Barbara, and their extended family. They were caught at the Superdome and suffered among the worst horrors of anyone I personally met.

All of the following is absolutely true. They….
…were lifted out of the waters by boat from their home
…waded through other waters to the Superdome
…got stuck in that living hell for several days
…did the unthinkable, and were forced to leave their grandmother behind at the Superdome, because she was one of the elderly who died there
…found their way to Dallas, where Rev. Shannon Hamrick found them among the dazed and lost in the Red Cross line at the Convention Center.

Our church helped get their family into a house here in Dallas in those first weeks after Katrina. We helped pay their rent, and fill the house with donated furniture for several months. Shannon and other volunteers worked hard to get the kids in school.

Eventually, they decided to go back to NOLA, because they wanted to rebuild their business there (drycleaning…). It took them months to find and reclaim the body of their grandmother, btw.

Even after I heard their story firsthand, I could hardly imagine the horror of it. And so, tonight, I especially wonder where they are. And I hope and pray they are safe.

This storm could be a killer. What we learned through our work in Mississippi is that the right side of a giant hurricane is often the worst part. That’s where the winds lash around in violent bands as the storm makes landfall. That’s where the storm surge is worst, as this short video we shot in Biloxi this June shows:

The forecasts seem to show that Gustav’s eye will miss NOLA. But please don’t rejoice. That merely means that the most likely storm surge will be right on top of it. Here is a good explanation of storm surge I found on Kos.

Good Lord. Driving back to the NOLA airport in late June, I was so thrilled by how many businesses seemed to be re-opened…by how few of the blue tarps I saw on houses and apartment buildings.

Not again, please God. Not again.

I hope you will pray for NOLA and the whole Gulf Coast.

Tonight, I also want to commend the Republican Party for not playing politics with this storm. I never assumed they would. I’m pleased McCain went to Mississippi today, because I always believed the people there were sort of forgotten in all the buzz about the horror of NOLA. Good for him.

I can’t resist, however, condemning this video, from a guy associated with “Focus on the Family,” and what he hoped would happen last Thursday in Denver:

It’s shameful.

I thank God no one is saying the same thing about Gustav.

Here is God’s real truth: God does not send weather to punish innocent people, or fallible political parties.

Storms just happen, period.

So, let us simply join in our prayers together these next few days.

Everyone along the Gulf Coast has a story about the storm. Tonight, I felt the need to share some of those most tender to my heart, and ask for prayers.

Because tomorrow, whatever happens, they will have new ones.

PS: I talked with Martha Blaine of Dallas Emergency Preparedness today. (She’s a NH member…) I also talked by email to Marji Bishir, our North Texas Conference Coordinator, via the UMC. There is a good plan in place for evacuees, and tonight many are coming here to the Dallas area.

If I hear of any direct ways folks can help, I will most certainly pass it along…and ask others to do likewise…EF

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He is Senior Pastor of Kessler Park UMC United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. Previously, he was pastor at Northaven UMC in Dallas for seventeen years. Eric loves to write on topics of spirituality, social justice, music/art and politics. The entries on this blog reflect that diversity of interests. His passion for social justice goes beyond mere words. He’s been arrested at the White House, defending immigrants and “The Dreamers,” and he’s officiated at same sex weddings in his churches, in defiance of what some believe is Methodist teaching. Eric is an avid blogger and published author, and 2017 recipient of the prestigeous Kuchling Humanitarian Award from Dallas’ Black Tie Dinner. (Human Rights Campaign) Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He’s a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named “best judge” by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County, and is currently the longest service district judge in that district. She was re-elected for a fourth term in 2018. They have the world’s best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. Find links to Eric’s music-related websites, at the top of this site’s navigation menu.

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