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North Carolina Churches Help Louisiana Residents Celebrate Christmas in the Bayou

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina churches reached across racial, religious and geographical lines to express God’s love to hurricane survivors in Southeast Louisiana.

Lloyd Braswell, pastor of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Hope Valley Baptist Church in Durham, called and presented the idea of collecting Christmas gifts for Hurricane Katrina survivors to Christopher Ingram, coordinator of volunteer emergency response for CBF of North Carolina. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
Barbara Rowley of Hope Valley Baptist had expressed interest in putting together shoe boxes of toys for children.
 
“This project is the seed of her idea that blossomed,” said Ingram, minister of education at Ridge Road Baptist Church in Raleigh.
 
Ingram contacted CBF of Louisiana Disaster Response Coordinator Reid Doster and discovered that North Carolina churches could help more than just the children of the bayou.
 
In recent weeks, six collection sites throughout North Carolina received donations of kitchen utensils and cookware, dish towels, ice trays, can openers, coffee pots and cleaning supplies. Churches also donated bedroom items, such as sheets and blankets.   
 
Overall, 40 CBF of North Carolina churches participated, providing 116 “bayou boxes” for kitchens and 157 “bayou boxes” for bedrooms. In addition, Hope Valley Baptist Church collected 38 boxes of items for children. The response exceeded Ingram’s expectations.
 
“This project tells me that people in North Carolina are eager to serve,” Ingram said.  “Churches are eager to become mission engaged, and our churches are looking for ways to continue to be in long-term ministry in this hard hit area.”
 
Doster found Louisiana families who are in the most need to receive the kitchen and bedroom items. The bayou boxes will also help Fellowship workers in Lacombe, La., to build relationships with the community as a new church start is planned. CBF of Louisiana will start Bridgewater Community Church in January 2006 to serve West St. Tammany Parish. 
 
“I think the really heartwarming and gratifying aspect of this is that you have Christians in North Carolina who have really connected with folks hundreds of miles away,” Doster said. “The spiritual connectedness among widely dispersed CBF congregations is inspiring.”
 
In addition to the North Carolina churches, Doster noted that the project received support from CBF of Arkansas. Several CBF of Louisiana churches also responded in areas hit by Katrina. Broadmoor Baptist Church and University Baptist Church in Baton Rouge adopted specific families and continue to offer generous amounts of time, labor and funding to help them rebuild. First Baptist Church of Shreveport, La., and other individuals contributed financially to aid families in recovery. 
 
“What we’re seeing in the eyes of these displaced souls is a renewed sense of hope. It’s beautiful to behold,” Doster said.
 
CBF of Louisiana is committed to providing intense disaster response through the end of June 2006, Doster said. CBF of Louisiana can accommodate teams of at least 15 volunteers at a time. Each team needs one skilled construction worker to supervise.
 
To apply for volunteer opportunities, contact CBF Global Missions Volunteer Missions Office at (800) 782-2451 or volunteer@thefellowship.info.
 
For more information on the Fellowship’s Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, visit www.thefellowship.info/disaster.
 
Courtney Hodges writes for CBF Communications.