Christians give hope to Katrina victims in the U-S

By October 26, 2006

USA (MNN) — 80 members of the Castle Rock Community Church in New Orleans were evacuated to Hot Springs, Arkansas when Hurricane Katrina hit last year. The church was flooded and didn’t reopen until November. One year later, this church with the Evangelical Free Church of America is stronger.

Pastor John Gerhardt says, “The interesting thing right now, to bring you up to date, is the fact that as a church we’re larger now than we were before the hurricane. And, only 20-percent of our people are actually back that were part of our church before Katrina hit.”

Gerhardt, who also heads up Urban Impact New Orleans, says their ministry helped by loving people through humanitarian aid, mudding houses and other assistance. He has one answer for the growth. “People are ripe. God is really attracting people to Him and part of that is us as a church caring for people. Part of that is our ability to host teams that then go out in neighborhood and show God’s love and the combination of that is powerful.”

More than 3,000 Christians have partnered with Castle Rock Church to help the victims of the storm. “We share the fact that even though we flooded, that hope floats,” says Gerhardt. “And, we’ve found that government didn’t give us hope, other agencies didn’t give hope, but God did and it’s a living hope. And, we’ve had two people come to our church because of that.”

However, these teams have also learned from their work. Gerhardt says, “Now, they’re going home and saying, ‘we can do this in our neighborhood. There are issues in our community that now as a church that we can go beyond the four walls of the church.’ So, instead of saying, ‘Come to us’ and trying to develop programs that attract people, all at once we’re seeing the church (say), ‘No! I got to go to the people.'”

Teams are still needed for community clean-up and rebuilding, says Gerhardt. “30-percent of the homes in New Orleans still aren’t cleaned out. We have 12 schools in our community, and only three of them have been cleaned out. So we’re in dire need for that.”

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