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Hurricane Katrina Information

Hurricane Relief Donations

The Mississippi Baptist Convention Board is accepting donations to fund both the immediate needs and the long-term Mississippi Baptist disaster relief efforts along the Gulf and throughout the state. Checks should be made payable to MBCB, with “Hurricane Relief” noted on the memo line, and mailed to:

MBCB Business Office
P.O. Box 530
Jackson, MS 39205-0530

Fully 100% of the donations will be used directly for hurricane relief. More information on how to contribute can be obtained by calling (601) 292-3334, or e-mailing

Lead Story from the January 22, 2009, Baptist Record

“Developer drops Henderson Point offer”

By William H. Perkins Jr.

A halting regulatory process and the declining economy have combined to force the proposed developer of Henderson Point — the former Gulfshore Assembly on Highway 90 west of Pass Christian — to drop an offer to purchase the property.

“We no longer have a contract of sale on the Henderson Point property,” said Jim Futral, executive director of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board (MBCB) which owns the 34 beachfront acres on St. Louis Bay in Harrison County.

Gulfshore Assembly at Henderson Point was wiped out by a direct hit from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. A specially-appointed committee of Mississippi Baptists subsequently recommended that the assembly not be rebuilt and that the property be sold.

NewTrac East LLC, the development company, made an $18 million offer for the property in early 2008, but recently notified Futral of their intentions to withdraw after the Harrison County Planning Commission twice delayed a vote on regulations that would have allowed the development to proceed.

“When the (Planning Commission) finalizes its Smart Code regulations and if the buyer’s finances fall back into place, he may still be the purchaser and developer of Henderson Point,” Futral said in a letter to MBCB members. “We are not discounting the point that he wants to purchase the property, and if presented with a check tomorrow, I would be inclined to accept it.”

Futral said MBCB personnel will remain in close contact with the Harrison County Planning Commission as they proceed with their evaluation of the Smart Code regulations.

“I honestly believe they are working toward the adoption of zoning regulations that will enhance the Mississippi Gulf Coast and potentially make Henderson Point even more attractive to prospective buyers. We… will keep the lines of communication open with local officials,” he said.

“I was disappointed that the sale of the Henderson Point property did not go through because I know how many hours have been spent by various groups in prayer, planning, and negotiations leading up to this point,” said Mickey Dalrymple, president of the Mississippi Baptist Convention and pastor of Fairview Church, Columbus. “However, I am also excited to see what God has in store for the future regarding the sale of this property.

“This is His land, and it will all turn out for His glory. Our task is to remain faithful as Mississippi Baptists in seeking His will.”

Randy Von Kanel, president of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board (MBCB) and pastor of First Church, Tupelo, echoed Dalrymple’s comments.

“The news regarding the termination of the purchase agreement for the sale of the Henderson Point property came as a disappointment, but not a discouragement,” Von Kanel said. “In some ways, we were not surprised, given the delays with the (Planning Commission) and with the state of the economy.

“God has His hand on Mississippi Baptists, and we will simply trust Him for His perfect plan for the Gulfshore property. Those of us in leadership sincerely believe that our Father has something better in store.”

“We are disappointed the sale of Henderson Point has fallen through, but as believers we are aware that our Heavenly Father knows where we are and His best is taking place with Mississippi Baptists,” said Hal Bates, chairman of the MBCB Executive Committee and pastor of First Church, Collinsville.

“There have been too many Baptists praying about this matter for God not to be in this process. Whether we sell the property later, or God opens another door for ministry, His will is our greatest desire. It is always exciting when God directs His people.”

Before Henderson Point served as Mississippi Baptists’ beachfront assembly, the property was the site of a popular local resort at the turn of the 20th century and then was the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in the World War II era.

The convention board purchased the property in the 1950s at a federal government auction, renamed it Gulfshore Assembly, and utilized the existing Academy structures until Hurricane Camille leveled it in 1969. It was rebuilt in the early 1970s and suffered damage in several hurricanes before it was again destroyed, this time by Hurricane Katrina.

Lead Story from the October 30, 2008, Baptist Record

“Katrina rebuild wraps up on Gulf Coast”

Finishing Touches photo

FINISHING TOUCHES — David Baldwin (right) and wife Patty (second from right) talk with Ryan Kruse (left), Lori Kruse (second from left) and Cheri Wollenberg at the site of a Hurricane Katrina rebuilding project in Harrison County. The Kruses and Wollenburg, members of First Church in Fayetteville, Ar., were members of the last official team of volunteers to work on a Gulf Coast Association/Mississippi Baptist Convention rebuilding project more than three years after the killer storm came ashore in Mississippi. (Photo by William H. Perkins Jr.)

By William H. Perkins Jr.

For David and Patty Baldwin, three years of living in travel trailers many miles from home has come to an end.

The Baldwins, two of the longest-serving volunteers in the Hurricane Katrina rebuilding program jointly sponsored by Gulf Coast Association (GCBA) and the Mississippi Baptist Convention (MBC), closed up shop on the first of October and returned to their home in Vicksburg where they are members of First Church.

The pair, who have been married 46 years, finished their service as full-time construction coordinators of the joint GCBA/MBC rebuilding program headquartered in the GCBA building in Gulfport.

“We didn’t have any construction experience when we came down here, but we knew we had to do something after the hurricane so we started praying” said David, who had retired after 34 years with International Paper Company. Patty was also retired after teaching school for 29 years.

The Baldwins were led to help staff a shelter immediately after the storm, and quickly rose to shelter managers. While at the shelter, they had an opportunity to talk with Jim Didlake, director of Men’s Ministry and disaster relief coordinator for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board (MBCB).

Didlake gave them several leads on ministry opportunities in the Pearlington area – one of the hardest-hit during the storm. They served a year at First Southern Baptist Church in Pearlington, helping to prepare the church for housing and building a campground, among other projects.

At the end of that first year, they responded to an invitation to work at the GCBA headquarters on a proposed association multi-purpose complex that would house the association’s next major disaster relief effort while also serving as a year-round facility for association activities.

That building has not yet been built, but the Baldwins started helping out with the details of the massive, multi-million-dollar GCBA/MBC rebuilding program. Before long, they were coordinating all construction for the program.

“We could see the need right away to get the program organized,” David said, “so we started getting volunteer survey teams together and sending them out so we would have an idea of what needed to be done.”

Those initial surveys resulted in the construction of 50 new homes for victims of Hurricane Katrina — nine homes in 2006, seven homes in 2007, and 34 homes in 2008. However, those totals do not reflect the overall effort of GCBA, MBC, and Baptists from Mississippi, the U.S., and around the world who came after Katrina help get the Gulf Coast back on its feet.

“We’re grateful to have played a small part in all of that,” Patty said. “We prayed to the Lord for a place of service, and He answered our prayers.”

“It’s been hard at times, but rewarding,” David said. “Just when we thought we had things under control, something would fall through. I remember one occasion when some money we were counting on was pulled at the last minute. We didn’t know what we were going to do, but a few days later we got a telephone call from someone who wanted to donate $278,000. The Lord took care of it.”

“The most rewarding times for me were when I got to see God at work in people’s lives,” said Patty. “We saw that over and over, and it was a privilege to watch Him accomplishing great things through His servants.”

“We had worked with David and Patty while they were at Pearlington and knew the heart they had for the work,” said Steve Mooneyham, GCBA missions director. “When they decided that the Father was leading away from the ministry at Pearlington, we approached them about joining with the association as our disaster relief coordinators. They joined us in February 2007 and worked diligently to restructure our approach to rebuild.

“David put together a team to assist him in doing the work in the three coastal counties. From those who came to work in the office to those who worked on the homes, David, Patty, and all the others worked tirelessly with volunteer teams to complete the work on houses damaged by Katrina.

“In 2008, we shifted our emphasis from repair to complete rebuild. David had recognized that most of the repair work had been done and we needed to focus on helping folks build from the ground up. Through David’s leadership of his team we helped quite a number of families into new homes. That was a blessing to see.

“I shudder to think where we would be without David and Patty. I do know that we were blessed beyond measure to have them as a part of our association.

“We owe them, and all who helped them, a debt we can never repay,” Mooneyham said.

“We’re going to go home for a while,” Patty said, “but we’ll be praying for God to open up another opportunity for service. This work has been so fulfilling.”

Chances are, they won’t be home in Vicksburg for long.

“David already has his shots for international travel,” Patty said, “and I’m getting mine right now.”

Lead Story from the July 10, 2008, Baptist Record

“Katrina rebuilding slated for closure”

Framing Up photo

FRAMING UP — Baptist volunteers frame a home on Washington Street in Bay St. Louis to replace housing washed away by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. The Mississippi Baptist Convention Board and Gulf Coast Association in Gulfport will soon be wrapping up operations and closing the home rebuilding program, three years after the killer storm ravaged the Gulf Coast. (Photo courtesy of David Baldwin/Gulf Coast Association)

By William H. Perkins Jr.

Mention the three years that have elapsed since Hurricane Katrina walloped the Mississippi Gulf Coast with her massive wind and waves, and most people will probably express wonderment at how time flies. Most people, but not Coast residents still hurting from the massive storm’s impact on their lives.

Although thousands of Baptist volunteers have come and gone from the Coast since the killer storm made landfall in late August 2005, many more people and organizations had good intentions to come and help but for one reason or another simply never made the trip.

Those good intentions are about to be history, as Mississippi Baptists prepare to wind down their record-setting relief, recovery, and rebuilding effort — but there’s still work to be done and time to get involved, according to the construction coordinator for Gulf Coast Association in Gulfport.

“We have set a goal of wrapping up by the first of October,” said David Baldwin. “Between now and then, we still need volunteers to finish 14 new homes that are in various stages of completion.”

Volunteers are currently framing and “blacking out” the final 14 homes under construction in the Mississippi Gulf Coast area, Baldwin said, meaning that the installation of roofing, insulation panels, and siding is being completed.

“What we have left will be mostly inside work,” he pointed out. “We want to shut down the formal operations on October 1, but volunteers will still be accepted through October 17. It’s crucial that we have enough volunteers to finish these houses so Hurricane Katrina victims can move in as soon as possible. With school starting in a few weeks and the three-year time frame since the hurricane, we’re concerned that people will lose interest before the homes are finished.”

The houses that remain to be completed are the last of 35 homes built in 2008 with volunteer labor coordinated through Gulf Coast Association and funded by grants from the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board. More than 2,000 homes have been rebuilt by Southern Baptist volunteers since Katrina struck.

Construction Ongoing photo

CONSTRUCTION ONGOING — Baptist volunteers continue work on a new home on Highway 53 in Saucier for victims of Hurricane Katrina, which roared ashore in August 2005 and destroyed thousands of housing units on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. After three years of intense response, recovery, and rebuilding operations involving thousands of volunteers, Mississippi Baptists and Gulf Coast Association in Gulfport will formally cease organized Katrina relief programs. (Photo courtesy of David Baldwin/Gulf Coast Association)

The two floor plans which volunteers will be working to complete are a three-bedroom, 1156 square-feet plan, and a two-bedroom, 950 square-feet plan.

“There’s a tremendous need for skilled construction people — electricians, plumbers, finish carpenters, etc. — to help us complete these homes. All types of volunteers are needed to finish these houses and won’t be turned away, but we really need those skilled construction people for whatever lengths of time they can serve. We have camper hookups, and the teams don’t have to big teams. We have the money to finish the homes; we just need the labor,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin stressed the opportunities that the construction volunteers have to model Jesus Christ and be a witness before lost people.

“These houses are being built for widows and families and people who lost everything to the storm. The very first house we built, the occupant accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior during the construction. He told the volunteers working on the house, ‘I want to understand why you would do this for someone you don’t even know. Whatever you have that makes you want to do this for people, I want it, too.’ The volunteers were able to lead him to Jesus.”

For more information on volunteering for the final weeks of construction, contact Baldwin at Gulf Coast Baptist Association, P.O. Box 2369, Gulfport, MS 39505. Telephone: (228) 832-4311. E-mail: Web site:

Lead Story from the January 24, 2008, Baptist Record

“North Carolina Baptists returning home”

As We Go photo

AS WE GO — Richard Brunson (left), Baptist Men Director for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, presents checks totaling $60,000 to Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr, a member of First Church, Gulfport, during a special Rebuild Celebration on January 12 at the old National Guard Armory in Gulfport. The checks represent gifts from North Carolina Baptists for various projects around Gulfport. North Carolina Baptists, who have been headquartered in the Armory since Hurricane Katrina struck the Coast nearly two-and-a-half years ago, are completing their time on the Coast and heading home. (Photo by William H. Perkins Jr.)

By William H. Perkins Jr.

North Carolina Baptists on January 12 bade farewell to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where they have worked and ministered since Hurricane Katrina came ashore nearly two-and-a-half years ago.

Headquartered in the old National Guard Amory in Gulfport during their stay, North Carolina Baptists provided over 30,000 volunteers and more than 1.5 million hours of labor, prepared 575,000 meals, repaired 716 homes, and saw over 420 professions of faith.

At a special Rebuild Celebration at the Armory on January 12, North Carolina Baptist on-site coordinator Eddie Williams told the Gulfport residents in attendance, “We wanted to invite you here to say thank you. Thanks for helping us with the task God put before us. We’re going to miss you guys, but you’ll always be in our hearts.”

“It’s not about the bricks and mortar; it’s about the lives that have been changed,” he said.

In Rememberance photo

IN REMEMBRANCE — Gary (left) and Edith Holland, long-term volunteers from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, light memorial candles on January 12 at the old National Guard Armory in Gulfport for the 10 homeowners who passed away while North Carolina Baptist volunteers were restoring their homes devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The North Carolinians are wrapping up their long-term operations on the Coast, nearly two-and-a-half years after Katrina came ashore. (Photo by William H. Perkins Jr.)

Milton Hollifield, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, read from Exodus 3. “God said, ‘I am aware of the misery of the people.’ We need to remind people that God knows and God cares. That’s why He sent Jesus Christ.”

“The way we worked together hand in hand, God did more than we could imagine,” said Richard Brunson, director of North Carolina Baptist Men.

Referring to Matthew 4:18-22, Brunson said, “The disciples left the comfort of their homes and families to follow Jesus. North Carolina Baptists left the comfort of their homes and jobs to come here for two years (in the name of Jesus).”

As a parting gift from North Carolina Baptists, Brunson presented Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr, a member of First Church, Gulfport, with checks totaling $60,000 for various public projects around Gulfport.

“Work that you can’t hire people to do, North Carolina Baptists came in and did it perfectly. It’s a bittersweet situation to see friends we depended on moving on, but we know you are moving on to do more good work.

“Four hundred and twenty people won’t go to hell because of North Carolina Baptists. If anything ever happens in your neck of the woods, just look up because we’re coming,” Warr said.

Additional monetary gifts from North Carolina Baptists were presented at a special worship service at First Church, Gulfport, on January 13.

At the January 12 Rebuild Celebration, Chuck Register, pastor of First Church, Gulfport, pointed to the words of Jesus in John 21:15-17. The resurrected Christ asked Peter three times, “Do you truly love me more than these?” Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love You,” to which Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

“I’ll never read this passage of Scripture without thinking of North Carolina Baptists,” Register said. “At every turn you said, ‘Yes, Lord, we love You more than these,’ because you knew there were sheep who needed tending.”

As part of the January 12 Rebuild Celebration, candles were lit in memory of the ten homeowners who passed away while North Carolina Baptists worked to restore their homes. A special prayer garden was also dedicated, at a location on the Armory grounds where rebuild volunteers often retreated for prayer time.

A continuing long-term recovery and rebuilding program is being developed and will be coordinated by the Baptist associations along the Gulf Coast. Details on that project will be released soon.

Lead Story from the December 13, 2007, Baptist Record

“$18 million offered for Henderson Point”

Katrina’s Aftermath photo

KATRINA’S AFTERMATH — Months after Hurricane Katrina destroyed Gulfshore Assembly near Pass Christian in August 2005, the property sits idled and ruined with the Earl Kelly complex reduced to a rusting frame. A Louisiana developer has made an $18 million offer for the property. (Photo by William H. Perkins Jr.)

By William H. Perkins Jr.

The Mississippi Baptist Convention Board (MBCB) voted unanimously on December 4 to move forward on a developer’s $18 million offer to purchase the Henderson Point property in coastal Harrison County that served as the home of Gulfshore Assembly before being destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

Developer Douglas Johnson of Mandeville, La., submitted a Letter of Intent on behalf of NewTrac East LLC, to purchase the property for a multi-use, multi-million dollar project he plans to name Gulfshore Point.

The offer from Johnson, a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, comes after the MBCB Executive Committee on September 24 rejected all offers made during an open bidding process that brought disappointing results.

Johnson was not one of the bidders during that process. He contacted Convention Board officials several weeks later and inquired about the status of the property.

“We’ve been reminded again that we are involved with God and not the other way around. The way this offer came about clearly shows the movement of His hand,” said Gary Richardson, MBCB president and pastor of North Oxford Church, Oxford.

“Mississippi Baptists are a blessed people, and we can be assured that the Lord has plans that are bigger than ours. I just feel honored to be able to watch this happen and see where He takes us from here,” Richardson said.

“We have really enjoyed working with the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board to facilitate the acquisition of the Henderson Point property,” Johnson said. “We believe our goals for the property are in line with the values of the convention board for stewardship of the land.”

Hurricane Damaged photo

HURRICANE DAMAGED — Bill Hurt Jr. (right), pastor of First Church, Decatur, Al., and former pastor of First Church Natchez, and Lloyd Sweatt, pastor of Meadowood Church, Amory, survey a room at Gulfshore Assembly near Pass Christian after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the facility in August 2005. Hurt and Sweatt were members of a special committee that ultimately recommended the sale of the property. (Photo by William H. Perkins Jr.)

Messengers to the 2006 annual meeting of the Mississippi Baptist Convention voted to accept a post-Katrina special committee’s recommendation to sell the property, with the stipulation that the new owners would not build a casino or any gambling-related businesses on the property.

Johnson stressed in a meeting with the MBCB Executive Committee prior to the Board’s vote that he agreed with the no-gambling stipulation and said he planned to preserve the history of the property in special ways, including construction of a chapel to commemorate its time as Gulfshore Assembly.

“We want to build a wholesome, family-friendly development. We have no intention of building a casino on the property,” he said.

“Following the decision of the Convention that we sell the Henderson Point property, it has been a long and tedious process. At times it looked like nothing was happening and all of the time good things were happening from the hand of God,” said Jim Futral, MBCB executive director-treasurer.

“The Lord is leading, and Mississippi Baptists, the Convention Board, and the Executive Committee have consistently desired to be sensitive to following where He is leading us. The events of the last few weeks are a few more steps in walking with God to accomplish His purposes among us.

“We will continue to seek Him and seek to follow as He guides us,” Futral said.

Henderson Point, on the eastern shoreline of the Bay of St. Louis, was settled in the mid-1800s by local attorney John Henderson, who served in both the Mississippi Senate and the U.S. Senate and whose name was eventually attached to the property. By the turn of the 20th century, a resort named The Inn by the Sea had been opened there.

A few years prior to World War II, the federal government purchased the property from the resort owners and built the U.S. Merchant Marine Cadet Basic School. The training facility was closed shortly after World War II ended. Mississippi Baptists purchased the property from the federal government in 1958 and named it Gulfshore Baptist Assembly.

Mississippi Baptists utilized the Merchant Marine barracks and other buildings for the Assembly until Hurricane Camille wiped it out in 1969. A state-of–the-art facility with hurricane-resistant features was rebuilt on the property, but Hurricane Katrina’s massive winds and waves destroyed everything except the main building’s superstructure.

At the 2007 annual meeting of the Mississippi Baptist Convention in October, then-President Clarence Cooper appointed a special committee to make recommendations on the location of a new conference ministry facility. Lloyd Sweatt, pastor of Meadowood Church, Amory, will serve as chairman of that committee.

Lead Story from the September 27, 2007, Baptist Record

“Bethel Church rebounds from Katrina”

New Sanctuary photo

NEW SANCTUARY — Carl Myers (left) missions director for Pearl River Association, talks with Floyd Davis (center), pastor of Bethel Church, and Dena Baltimore, church secretary, in the church’s restored sanctuary. Hurricane Katrina nearly destroyed the main church building, fellowship hall, and Sunday School space so new that it had not yet been occupied. (Photo by William H. Perkins Jr.)

By William H. Perkins Jr.

More than 60 people were sheltering in the fellowship hall of Bethel Church in Pearl River Association when Hurricane Katrina passed over in late August 2005 and surgically removed the roof.

“What was left of the roof was found later in Buck Branch Creek, 50 yards away,” said Pastor Floyd Davis.

Needless to say, it’s a day those 60 people won’t soon forget. The story had a happy ending as everyone scurried to the Family Life Center next door, which miraculously escaped serious damage and played a crucial response and relief role in the surrounding community for many months after the hurricane.

The Family Life Center served as a Red Cross shelter, and members utilized it as a distribution point for food, clothing, and other essential items. At peak, the church was providing more than 350 meals per day to the surrounding couumnity.

“It was the only useable building in a wide area,” said Dena Baltimore, the church’s secretary. “We cleaned it up after the storm and used it for the next 18 months. We held church services in there until we moved back into the Sanctuary on June 17 of this year.

“God provided. We hardly ran out of anything before it was replaced. You could see God’s hand in all that was happening.”

Most of the main church building had to be torn out to the studs after Katrina, Davis said. “Before the storm, there was a two-story education addition that wasn’t even finished. Katrina ruined it, but now we have a full nursery, space for toddlers and preschoolers, and so much more.

“It’s like we’re pre-positioned to reach out to the community.”

Davis and Baltimore praised the volunteers who came from across the U.S. to help restore Bethel Church. Steve Howard, the church’s bivocational music minister, took on the task of supervising the reconstruction.

“Steve was phenomenal. He has a full-time job, serves as music minister, and oversaw all the building that was going on. We wouldn’t be where we are without him,” Davis said.

Volunteers, donated construction materials and labor, and financial gifts — including more than $250,000 from the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board — helped the church to restore itself, provided a sense of normalcy around the devastated area, and served as a beacon for the community.

Baltimore said pre-Katrina worship services usually ran about 160 people. Worship attendance currently stands at about 130, she said.

“There are about 186 seats in the Sanctuary, and it’s been full on several occasions,” Davis said. “There are a tremendous number of people moving into our area from farther south and from Louisiana. We’re excited about that. We want to reach out to them.”

“The church did what the church should so,” said Carl Myers, missions director for Pearl River Association. “It sent a powerful message about Jesus to the community, through its actions.”

Pearl River Association opened its conference facility at McNeil to volunteers, Myers said, housing more than 3,700 people in the first year after Katrina. “A majority worked in the association, but there were others who spread out all across the Gulf Coast,” he said.

“Immediately after the storm, the church had no idea how we could return to normal, or how to pay for all that had to be done,” Davis said. “The church has learned patience, and to wait on the Lord. He is in control, and the church learned to be totally dependent on Him to provide what we needed.”

“Since Katrina, there has been so much tension and disarray in the lives of families. God and His people have given us the ability to reach out to those hurting families, help put them back together, and get them into church,” Davis said.

“We’re excited about that. We’re asking the Lord to show us the way.”

Lead Story from the September 20, 2007, Baptist Record

“Long Beach church rises from destruction”

Making Progress photo

MAKING PROGRESS — LaRue Stephens (right), pastor of First Church, Long Beach, checks in with Superintendent Martis Wyatt (left) and Project Manager Russ Stone of Gary C. Wyatt General Contractor LLC of Birmingham, on the progress of construction at the church’s new site on North Cleveland Avenue in Long Beach. The church’s congregation voted to relocate from their longtime location on the beach after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the church complex. (Photo by William H. Perkins Jr.)

By William H. Perkins Jr.

Not so long ago, Pastor LaRue Stephens was walking the ruins of First Church, Long Beach, counting up the costs of taking a direct hit from Hurricane Katrina. These days, he’s counting down the days until the church occupies their new facility.

The church’s congregation voted to relocate from their longtime location on the beach of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, after Katrina dealt a devastating blow to the facilities there. They decided to move inland and purchased 17 acres along North Cleveland Avenue that previously served as a family-run flower nursery for gladiolas and irises.

Completion of Phase 1 construction, a 60,000 square-feet complex that will include a two-level multipurpose building to house a temporary sanctuary as well as modern facilities for weekday ministries, preschool, children, youth, adults, and office staff, is scheduled for the summer of 2008 at a cost of about $16 million. That includes full furnishings and outfitting the new kitchen.

The multipurpose area of Phase 1 will initially house the sanctuary until the permanent sanctuary can be built during the next stage of construction. “The church’s vision is to go right into Phase 2, which will include the new sanctuary and fellowship hall,” Stephens said.

Going Up photo

GOING UP — The first of many concrete walls at the relocated site of First Church, Long Beach, is erected as construction continues on the 60,000 square-feet Phase 1 of the church’s master rebuilding plan. (Special photo courtesy of Monnie Shirley)

God has been faithful to raise up leadership and financial resources for the relocation and initial construction, while the church has maintained their faithful giving to the Cooperative Program and missions offerings, Stephens pointed out.

“The church was well-insured,” he said, “but even with the insurance, only about half of the pre-Katrina building costs will be covered. We know God will open doors to provide what we need.”

The construction is being handled by Gary C. Wyatt General Contractor LLC, of Birmingham. The company has an extensive background in church construction, having served as general contractor for Harrisburg Church, Tupelo, and for a number of large churches in Alabama.

Alabamian Martis Wyatt (no relation to the company’s owner) is serving as construction superintendent for the First Church, Long Beach, project, while fellow Alabamian Russ Stone is serving as project manager.

Stephens said the church believes the North Cleveland Avenue area is ideal for future ministries. The area is booming with post-Katrina construction, and the church property is just across an adjacent street from a large public school academic and athletic complex. Plans are already underway to expand North Cleveland Avenue into a major north-south artery to handle the traffic.

“St. Patrick Episcopal Church has bought the lot next door to the church,” Stephens added.

Stephens, who is in his 11th year as pastor, said the church lost about 200 of their regularly-attending families after Katrina – but people are beginning to come back.

“In the midst of it all, God has been so faithful,” he said.

Lead Story from the September 13, 2007, Baptist Record

“Coast rebuilding shifts to long-range”

Hurricane Katrina
Two years later…

Satellite image of Katrina

Through the cooperative efforts of Gulf Coast Association in Gulfport, the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board in Jackson, the North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Ga., and the Baptist state conventions of North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee, many homes along the Gulf Coast have been made livable again. There are still thousands of homes from Biloxi/D’Iberville in the east to Pearlington in the west that still need attention. This rebuild will last for at least three years.

The recovery of the Gulf Coast has been ongoing since the day the hurricane hit. Most of the churches damaged or destroyed have either been repaired and rebuilt so services can be held or arrangements have been made for an alternate location for meeting. Gulf Coast Association has now turned her efforts to continuing the repair and rebuild the homes of Gulf Coast residents.

Volunteer teams of skilled and unskilled laborers are still needed. Interested churches may contact David Baldwin at the Gulf Coast Association office at (228) 832-4311, to make plans to come to the Gulf Coast to help.

Please note that Gulf Coast Association is presently not taking youth teams.

By William H. Perkins Jr.

Anyone who travels the Mississippi Gulf Coast these days hears one message above all others: the work has just begun.

Two years after Hurricane Katrina stormed ashore and wiped out much of the area, the mountains of debris have been taken away — but the effort to rebuild and restore the Coast will take much longer, according to Steve Mooneyham, missions director for Gulf Coast Association in Gulfport.

“We have to replace housing that took five to eight generations to build, and we have to do it in five years,” Mooneyham said.

Jim Didlake, men’s ministry director for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board and Mississippi Baptist’s disaster relief coordinator, estimates that more than 100,000 volunteers have come to the Coast since Katrina, including the feeding effort that resulted in more than four million meals served to storm victims.

“We’ve had a tremendous outpouring from Southern Baptists. We need to keep up those volunteer numbers in the future for the volume of work that still needs to be done,” Mooneyham said.

David Baldwin, a retired paper company employee, and his wife Patti, a retired teacher, of Vicksburg, have taken on the task of coordinating the volunteers for Gulf Coast Association.

“We continue to need both skilled and unskilled construction workers. We need construction foremen. By the second week of August every year, the labor pool drops off dramatically as school starts and we lose students and teachers,” David Baldwin said. “We have several houses under construction right now that may be in danger of not getting finished.”

Mooneyham also stressed the need for financial gifts as well as volunteer manpower. Baldwin estimated the cost of one replacement home to be in the range of $45,000, not including labor.

Mooneyham said the Coast “definitely” needs new churches started as the population shifts to other areas of the association. People are moving inland to get away from the hardest-hit areas on or near the water, he said.

“Economic issues are driving people north, more so than anything else,” said Dionne Williams, church development strategist for Gulf Coast Association. “The availability and cost of rental property, as well as insurance issues, are forcing people to move as far north as Stone County. I was told officials there are making plans for 20,000 new water meters in the coming years to accommodate the expected growth.”

In addition to the need for construction workers and financial aid, there is a great need for survey teams to canvass the Coast and pinpoint where people are moving and what needs to be done to help them, Williams said.

“We can use survey teams every weekend,” he pointed out.

Mendy King, church growth specialist for Gulf Coast Association, echoed Williams’ observations on the changing nature of the population in the association.

“We don’t have accurate demographics because all that has changed so radically since the storm,” King said. “It’s like trying to hit a moving target; the demographics are constantly shifting.”

For more information on Gulf Coast Association’s long-range rebuilding effort, contact the association at P.O. Box 2369, Gulfport, MS 39505. Telephone: (228) 832-4311. E-mail:

Lead Story from the September 6, 2007, Baptist Record

“Miss. Baptists thank those who helped”

Special Thanks photo

SPECIAL THANKS — Georgia Baptists attending a special thank-you dinner August 30 in Gulfport and surveying a plaque of appreciation from Mississippi Baptists include (from left) J. Robert White, executive director and chief executive officer of the Georgia Baptist Convention; Shelia Cowart; Doug Todd; Wayne Bruce; and Rhett Speies. The five Georgia Baptists are among the hundreds who have been active in that state convention’s two-year relief, response, and recovery effort to the devastation caused in Mississippi by Hurricane Katrina. (Photo by William H. Perkins Jr.)

By William H. Perkins Jr.

Mississippi Baptist pastors gathered in Gulfport on the evening of August 30 to celebrate the Cooperative Program, remember Hurricane Katrina two years after the killer storm devastated the Gulf Coast, and bid an appreciative farewell to two Baptist state conventions that have managed major response, relief, and recovery programs since shortly after the storm.

The Georgia Baptist Convention and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina were recognized for their commitment to remain on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for the two years since the storm, coordinating volunteers and supplies as well as pouring money into the response and relief effort.

J. Robert White, executive director and chief executive officer of the Georgia Baptist Convention, was on hand at the annual Cooperative Program dinner, held this year at the Great Southern Club in the Hancock Bank tower in Gulfport.

“Georgia Baptists love Mississippi Baptists. We really do,” White said.

As the hurricane cleanup began, Georgia Baptists established a headquarters at First Church, Bay St. Louis, and worked from there across the Coast for the next two years.

“Great spiritual growth occurs in the storms of life,” White said. “You tell me how much we have meant to you, but I cannot describe what this has meant to us — how we have been deepened by you and by how our lives have been impacted by your faithfulness to the Lord, your straightforward devotion to sharing Christ with everybody, and your recognizing Christ in the midst of the storm.

“We have been so blessed by the experience we will never be the same again.”

White described how he composed a letter immediately after the storm that was sent to the 3600-plus churches of the Georgia Baptist Convention, asking them to conduct a special, one-Sunday offering for the hurricane relief effort.

“Many of them did so not only that Sunday, but also the next three Sundays,” White said, recounting that Georgia Baptist churches gave over five million dollars to the special offering. “I was overwhelmed. They did that because they care about you, our other brothers and sisters in Christ along the Coast, and those people we love who don’t know Jesus.”

Because of that generosity, White said, the state convention was able to help fund every Georgia Baptist church group that asked for assistance to get to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and aid in the relief, response, and recovery effort.

He also pointed out that only three-fifths of that five million dollars has been spent thus far and even though Georgia Baptists folded their formal presence on the Coast at end of August, the remainder of the special offering proceeds would continue to be spent on the recovery from Katrina.

“We’re going to be sending people over here for a long time yet,” he pointed out.

White also recited testimonies from Georgia Baptists who have been involved in the Katrina relief and recovery effort.

One unnamed University of Georgia student, he said, was given a set amount of money by her parents to ride the university’s bus system to her classes on the sprawling campus. White described how she gave that money to the special offering, knowing she would have to walk everywhere she went for a whole semester.

“Her ‘trip fee’ was all she had, and she freely gave it to go and to serve. That’s kind of what it is to be a Christian, isn’t it?” White asked. The student also volunteered to come to the Mississippi Gulf Coast as part of the Georgia Baptist effort, he added.

Jim Futral, executive director-treasurer of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, presented White with a large plaque of appreciation for Georgia Baptists on behalf of Mississippi Baptists. The plaque, a collection of photos of the Georgia Baptist effort, contains the wording, With Deepest Gratitude to the Baptists of Georgia for their Christ-centered partnership with the State of Mississippi.

Futral also unveiled a similar plaque for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, expressing thanks to the people of that state convention for their two-year effort along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Milton A. Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, was scheduled to attend the dinner along with White but was unable to get there in time when his airplane flight to Gulfport was diverted to Pensacola, Fl., due to a large electrical storm that plagued Gulfport most of the afternoon of August 30.

“Had it not been for God’s people on the Coast and God’s people all across the nation, there’s no telling what kind of condition we would be in,” Futral said. “Every disaster relief unit in the Southern Baptist Convention came. They have come from everywhere, to help us and serve us and love us.”

Futral also thanked the Mississippi Baptist Convention’s Gulf Coast churches for their faithfulness to the Cooperative Program, noting that Coast churches actually gave more to the Cooperative Program after the hurricane than the year before the hurricane.

“I want you to know, from the bottom of our hearts, you are our heroes over and over and over again,” Futral said.

Lead Story from the August 30, 2007, Baptist Record

“Coast pastor: years of work to be done”

Cleanup photo

CLEANUP — Volunteers from Georgia and South Dakota survey the hole left by the demolition of the sanctuary of First Church, Bay St. Louis, after Hurricane Katrina destroyed that part of the church in August 2005. The church’s pastor, Al Green Jr. (second from left), said much work remains to be done at the church and in the Bay St. Louis community. (Photo by William H. Perkins Jr.)

By William H. Perkins Jr.

When the malevolent winds and unrelenting surge of Hurricane Katrina finally subsided two years ago this week, the sanctuary of First Church, Bay St. Louis, was no more. The venerable structure — or at least what was left of it — was buckled and warped beyond repair.

It was an especially difficult loss among the many losses caused by Katrina. The venerable sanctuary had originally served as the chapel of a U.S. Army camp near Centreville. When the chapel was declared surplus property shortly after World War II, church members bought it and carefully numbered each board as it was disassembled, trucked to Bay St. Louis, and reassembled on the church’s property within sight of the Gulf of Mexico’s surf.

The building had endured many of the large storms that frequently blew in from the Gulf every year during the hot, humid days of late summer, but the direct hit from Katrina was a death blow. The remains of the sanctuary were brought down after a special commemoration service was held.

Now all that is still standing of the sanctuary is the front portion, poignantly spray-painted with times and instructions on how to find the worship services currently being held in other parts of the church that were damaged but not destroyed by Katrina. Grass and watermelon vines now populate the hole where the sanctuary once stood.

“We’re waiting on the architectural plans” for a new sanctuary, said Pastor Al Green Jr. “The storm isn’t over. There’s still years of work to be done.”

With the realization of all the work that remains to be done along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, First Church, Bay St. Louis, has opened its doors to relief and recovery volunteers from all across the country since shortly after the storm.

“We feel our first obligation is to the community. The church has voted to continue housing volunteers at least through 2008,” Green said.

The church can house and feed up to 150 volunteers each week. Work crews from Georgia, South Dakota, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, and Mississippi have billeted at the church. A Baptist church from Murfreesboro, Tn., brings a work crew once every month and stays at the church. A German Baptist Convention volunteer group from Ohio has spent time at the church.

The Georgia Baptist Convention has used the church as its headquarters, after making a two-year commitment that has brought hundreds of Baptist volunteers from that state to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The work crews are helping rebuild homes in Hancock County, where Bay St. Louis is situated, as well as next door in Harrison County. Government studies and secular news reports have indicated that the Gulf Coast is in critical need of affordable housing.

According to The Clarion-Ledger newspaper in Jackson, Hurricane Katrina destroyed thousands of public housing units and rental properties in the three Mississippi coastal counties.

“Most observers agree the availability of affordable housing remains the greatest hurdle for the Gulf Coast to overcome,” wrote reporter Chris Joyner in the August 27 issue of the newspaper.

The members of First Church, Bay St. Louis, are intent on making a difference in its community. As affordable housing is rebuilt by the volunteers with financial and materials assistance from the Mississippi Baptist Convention and many other groups, Green is seeing the fruits of that ministry.

In an area of the Mississippi Gulf Coast with a large unchurched population, the efforts of Baptists to help people who can’t help themselves have given residents a new way to look at Baptists, Green observed. “We’re seeing a lot more openness to the church.”

Lives are being changed, Green said, and not just among the Mississippians who need to know the Lord. “The work has had an impact on the volunteers who come here, too.”

Groups that have come to the Coast to minister have seen their own people develop a deeper relationship with God, he said. There have been several professions of faith among the volunteer groups.

While the rest of the country has moved on to other headline-grabbing disasters and the focus on the Gulf Coast fades from the national memory, much ministry work remains to be done. “We’re in uncharted waters,” Green said. “There are still a lot of questions being asked.”

Volunteers, financial assistance, and construction materials continue to be needed along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, two years after the storm. Ministry opportunities continue to be developed to meet the needs of the storm victims. Construction teams are needed to help build affordable housing from the ground up, as well as finish carpenters, electricians, and plumbers.

For more information on the continuing Baptist relief effort on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, contact Deanna Vail in the Men’s Ministry Department of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, P.O. Box 530, Jackson, MS 39205-0530. Telephone (601) 292-3335 or toll-free outside Jackson (800) 748-1651, ext. 335. E-mail: Web site:

Lead Story from the August 23, 2007, Baptist Record

“After 2 years, Katrina needs still great”

Helping Out photo

HELPING OUT — Ed Murphy, pastor of Shoreline Park Church in Bay St. Louis, and his wife Karen pose for a photo to be taken by Donald Wagner, a retired pastor from McLeanville, N.C., who was delivering a truckload of hurricane relief supplies collected by the adult Sunday School classes of McLeanville Church. Wagner, chairman of missions at McLeanville Church, is one of hundreds of North Carolina Baptist volunteers who have committed to Hurricane Katrina relief and recovery for the two years since the killer storm ravaged the Mississippi Gulf Coast in August 2005. (Photo by William H. Perkins Jr.)

By William H. Perkins Jr.

Ed Murphy’s memories come strong and hard about this time of year. For the next few days, the pastor of Shoreline Park Church in Bay St. Louis will be thinking back to 2005 when Hurricane Katrina — one of the largest, deadliest, and most costly storms in U.S. history — hit his church almost dead center.

The damage was massive, nearly destroying the venerable house of worship and displacing the congregation that numbered about 75 people in worship service before the storm. However, the church has sprung back to life over the past two years with a repaired, refurbished worship center and the acquisition of adjoining property that came up for sale after the hurricane.

Shoreline Park Church is on the road to recovery, but there’s a larger story at work there of commitment to their community and the spiritual fruit that has grown by meeting the needs of helpless and desperate people in the name of Jesus Christ.

“We continue to remodel the buildings at the church, but our first priority has always been to the needs of the community,” said Murphy, who has pastored the church for nine years.

Hurricane debris had hardly been pushed aside before Shoreline Park Church, with the invaluable assistance of Baptist volunteers from other parts of Mississippi and around the country, had opened a “camp” in the shattered church buildings for the scores of volunteers who would arrive on the Mississippi Gulf Coast over the next two years.

The camp can feed and house over 100 volunteers each week.

“The volunteers who have come have taken every opportunity to share the Gospel with members of our community. Together with the volunteers and churches who have sent money, we are building 11 homes for members of the community. We want the community to know that they come first,” Murphy said.

The results have been tremendous, he said. “A lot of people have said, ‘If it weren’t for the churches, we wouldn’t have made it. The relief effort Baptists have made here in Bay St. Louis has made the difference.’”

At Shoreline Park Church, there have been three baptisms and five others have joined the church in just the past two weeks. Worship service attendance is up to about 110 people each week.

“We always emphasize to the volunteers, ‘You’re the hands and feet of Jesus.’ They take that seriously. It’s not unusual to visit a work site and see the volunteers praying over the site and the work they are doing, that Jesus would receive all the honor and glory.”

Murphy said he sometimes wondered why God called him to pastor a coastal church. “I don’t particularly like the beach,” he pointed out.

The picture came into clear focus after the hurricane, however, as God opened opportunities for him and his church to minister through the disaster to a surrounding community that was largely unchurched or only marginally involved in practicing their faith.

Murphy, a construction worker before entering the ministry, has joined the knowledge and skills he acquired in his former job with his passion for winning people to Jesus. The result has been one of the largest volunteer relief and response operations on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

“There is still so much work to be done. We’re committed to keeping the camp open through 2008. As long as people are willing to come, we’re going to have a place for them to stay,” Murphy said. “We’re proud of the number of churches that have consistently provided support for us.”

Jim Didlake, men’s ministry director at the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board and Mississippi Baptists’ disaster relief coordinator, said Murphy and Shoreline Park Church have played a pivotal role in the Katrina relief effort in the Bay St. Louis area.

“They have done one of the best jobs of taking a willing church and accomplishing a complete ministry model for a disaster relief project of this magnitude,” Didlake said.

“This has been a tremendous trust experience for me,” Murphy said. “My spiritual growth has been as great an anyone’s.”

Murphy stressed that the need for volunteers is as great as ever, even as Katrina’s second anniversary looms and the country, for the most part, has turned its attention to other disasters and emergencies. “We are in dire need of plumbers, for example,” he said.

“We especially need volunteers skilled in the construction trades, and we need building materials,” he said.

For more information on the continuing Baptist relief effort on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, contact Deanna Vail in the Men’s Ministry Department of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, P.O. Box 530, Jackson, MS 39205-0530. Telephone (601) 292-3335 or toll-free outside Jackson (800) 748-1651, ext. 335. E-mail: Web site:

Guest Opinion from the October 4, 2007, Baptist Record

“Still a long way to go”

By John Landrum, pastor
Brodie Road Church, D’Iberville

I recently returned from a 7,000 mile, three-and-a-half week camping trip, my first since Katrina. I spent every night in a campground and engaged many people in conversation. During the entire trip, only one person asked how things are on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, although most had learned I was from there.

Hurricane Katrina is now far from the forefront of their minds, a distant second to today’s news.

Thank God for Southern Baptists and other Christians who came to our aid — and continue to come — with financial help and volunteers!

My first hot meal following Katrina was cooked by North Carolina Baptist disaster relief volunteers. They served many thousands of meals in the weeks that followed. North Carolina Baptists and others made long-term commitments to our people on the Coast.

Several weeks ago, our church dedicated Phase III, the final stage in major rebuilding, to the glory of God! We had volunteer groups from 15 states stay on our property to help us and the community in the recovery process.

One of the first groups was from Nebraska. They brought their supplies in their cattle trailers, including a full-size propane stove and a generator to run their freezer which was full of food so they could provide meals for their hard-working team.

Another early team came from Oklahoma. They brought a load of safety equipment from a local provider which included everything they (and we) would need to do “mud-outs” in flooded houses. They brought so much that we were able to share the supplies with two sheriff’s departments.

The president of the company that makes OdoBan odor eliminator and disinfectant found out we were successfully using his company’s product and sent 600 gallons for our use and to distribute to others. We were told our church had the only odor ministry in the Southern Baptist Convention.

One team brought temporary showers, made from PVC pipe and tarps, that could be hooked up to garden hoses. The cool water felt mighty good after a long day’s work in the 95 degrees-plus weather! By Thanksgiving, a church in North Carolina had built us a self-contained, 45-foot shower trailer with six showers plus three vanities each for men and women.

Volunteers came — from California to Nantucket, from Minnesota to Alabama, and points in between. Others helped financially. It has taken two years, but by the grace of God and the help of fellow Christians, our facilities had never looked or been better!

I agree with the statement in a recent issue of The Baptist Record by Jim Futral, executive director-treasurer of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, that we still have a long way to go on the Coast. It will be years before some people are back in their homes and some churches are rebuilt. Literally thousands of people are falling through the cracks and still need our help. Wouldn’t it be great if every town in Mississippi would rebuild one house for one family?

Thank you, Southern Baptists — and especially Jim Futral and our Mississippi Baptist Convention staff — for your invaluable help! It is wonderful to be part of such a great family. We are looking forward to returning some of the blessings through our participation in the Margaret Lackey State Missions Offering.

Landrum may be contacted at P.O. Box 6006, D’Iberville, MS 39540. E-mail:

Second Session Report from the 2006 Mississippi Baptist Convention

“Messengers close Gulfshore Assembly”

By William H. Perkins Jr.
Editor, The Baptist Record

Messengers to the 2006 annual session of the Mississippi Baptist Convention (MBC) voted October 31 to accept the recommendation of a special study committee and permanently close Gulfshore Assembly near Pass Christian, which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. The vote was 587 yeas and 25 nays to accept the recommendation.

The Conference Ministries Study Committee was formed in late 2005 by then-MBC President Gene Henderson to examine the future of Mississippi Baptists’ conference ministry program, in the wake of Katrina. The committee, chaired by former Tupelo Mayor Larry Otis, a member of Calvary Church, Tupelo, investigated building code requirements, replacement costs, and insurance pricing before reaching its consensus recommendation.

Conference Ministries Study Committee chairman Larry Otis and other members report

COMMITTEE REPORT – Larry Otis (at podium), chairman of the Conference Ministries Study Committee, is accompanied by committee members as he delivers their report on the status of Gulfshore Assembly near Pass Christian. (Photo by William H. Perkins Jr.)

Messengers also accepted the committee’s recommendation to entrust the sale of the property to the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board. Otis said the committee believed the Board is best suited to protect the interests of Mississippi Baptists, including that the property not be sold to a casino or other objectionable businesses.

Messengers completed the slate of convention officers, reelecting without opposition Joel Medina as first vice-president. Medina is pastor of Iglesia Internacional las Américas in Carthage. David Hamilton, pastor of West Heights Church, Pontotoc, was elected without opposition to his first term as second vice-president.

Clarence Cooper, pastor of Emmanuel Church, Grenada, was reelected to his second term as president earlier in the day.

In other matters, messengers heard a report from the 2007 Budget Committee, which has proposed a record $33,188,934 Mississippi Cooperative Program budget; and reports from the Constitution and Bylaws Committee, the Board of Ministerial Education, and the Mississippi Baptist Foundation.

Chuck Register, pastor of First Baptist Church, Gulfport, closed the second session with the Convention Sermon, based on Acts 1 and entitled, Your Jerusalem Needs You. Music was provided by the Devotion Ensemble of First Church, Gulfport, and Ken Nuss, the church’s minister of music.

Excerpted from page one, The Baptist Record, September 14, 2006

“Conference Ministries Study Committee Report to Mississippi Baptist Convention Board”
August 29, 2006

By William H. Perkins Jr.

Larry Otis, chairman of the Conference Ministries Study Committee which is charged with studying the condition of Gulfshore Assembly near Pass Christian and to explore all possibilities related to Mississippi Baptist conference ministries, presented a preliminary report on the work of the committee to the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board (MBCB) on August 29.

Gulfshore Assembly, owned by MBCB and destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in late August 2005, is one of three Mississippi Baptist camping/conference facilities. The committee is charged with positioning the state’s Baptist conference ministries for the 21st century.

“The committee has met several times with numerous public officials, engineers, and architects to determine the extent of damage to Gulfshore,” said Otis, a member of Calvary Church, Tupelo, and former mayor of Tupelo.

“The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has established a ‘cumulative damage level’ of 50% on structures in the flood zone where Gulfshore is located. That means if a structure sustains more than 50% damage, FEMA requires that it be completely demolished and rebuilt to the new standards in order to qualify for flood insurance,” he explained.

“Kelly Auditorium and the staff housing were destroyed, and have been torn down. They’re gone. Gulfshore’s main building sustained 48.9% damage, meaning any future small damage would require that entire structure to also be torn down and rebuilt, just to qualify for flood insurance,” he said.

That’s not all, Otis pointed out.

“The proposed FEMA guidelines, which set ‘storm surge levels’ at 24 feet above mean sea level at Gulfshore’s location, would render the first and second floors of the Gulfshore main building unusable for any enclosed purpose such as guest rooms, office space, class rooms, etc,” he said. (See diagram at bottom of this article.)

Otis stressed that the nine-member committee is still collecting information and is not prepared at present to offer any predictions on how the committee’s final report will turn out.

“It has been affirmed to the Conference Ministries Study Committee that Mississippi Baptists need and will use a conference facility to equip and train laypeople to serve the Lord,” he said.

For more information on the committee and to submit input for the committee’s consideration, visit and click on the Conference Ministries Study Committee icon on the left side of the page.

Fema Surge Level rendering

FEMA SURGE LEVEL — An architectural rendering illustrates the point on the Gulfshore Assembly main building where the proposed FEMA storm surge level of 24 feet would be drawn, rendering unusable the first and second floors of Mississippi Baptists’ beachside building complex located just outside the city limits of Pass Christian.

Lead Story from the March 16, 2006, Baptist Record

“Committee tours Gulfshore Assembly”

By William H. Perkins Jr.

In Prayer photo

IN PRAYER — Members of the Conference Ministries Study Committee pause to pray on March 7 in front of the destroyed Kelly Auditorium on the campus of Gulfshore Assembly near Pass Christian. The committee was on a fact finding tour of the facility, which is owned by the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board and was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in late August 2005. The committee has been appointed the task of formulating a proposal that will position Mississippi Baptists’ conference ministries for the 21st century. (Photo by William H. Perkins Jr.)

Members of the Conference Ministries Study Committee toured Gulfshore Assembly near Pass Christian on March 7, for a first-hand look at the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina to the beachfront facility owned by the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board.

The assembly bore the brunt of Katrina’s powerful winds and 32-foot surge as the storm made landfall on August 29, 2005. The assembly’s buildings were reduced either to rubble or stripped down to metal and concrete frameworks.

The Conference Ministries Study Committee has been appointed to study the condition of Gulfshore Assembly and to explore all possibilities related to conference ministries in Mississippi.

“The committee’s visit to Gulfshore was emotional for all of us. Pictures do not do justice to the impact of the storm on Gulfshore, and the damage sustained there,” said Larry Otis, committee chairman and former mayor of Tupelo. Otis is a member of Calvary Church, Tupelo.

Otis and committee members closely inspected the main complex, which lost the walls and contents of the bottom two floors and suffered significant damage to the third/top floor.

Kelly Auditorium and the adjacent swimming pool sustained major damage, and the staff housing complex has been torn down due to structural damage. All other buildings owned by the convention were completely destroyed.

Among the committee members who joined Otis on the trip to Gulfshore were:

Other Conference Ministries Study Committee members are:

“The committee continues to gather information regarding new building code requirements, FEMA rules on flood levels, and options open to the needs of Mississippi Baptists,” Otis said.

Otis stressed that the committee has urged interested persons to go to the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board web site (, click on Conference Ministries Study Committee, and provide input on the mission of the committee.

“We continue to seek input from Mississippi Baptists about their experiences at Gulfshore and other conference settings, through e-mails from the convention board website or by writing to: Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, Attn: Conference Ministries Study Committee, P.O. Box 530, Jackson, MS 39205-0530.”

At the end of their Gulfshore tour, committee members gathered in front of the ruined Kelly Auditorium and joined hands for prayer.

“In our prayer at Gulfshore, we asked God to guide us and give us a vision for the task assigned to our committee,” Otis said.

Lead Story from the October 20, 2005, Baptist Record

“Comm. to study conference ministries”

By William H. Perkins Jr.

Former Tupelo Mayor Larry Otis will lead a special Conference Ministries Study Committee appointed by Mississippi Baptist Convention President Gene Henderson to chart the course of the convention’s conference ministries in the 21st century, after Hurricane Katrina nearly destroyed Gulfshore Assembly in Pass Christian on August 29.

Donations to hurricane relief effort

The Mississippi Baptist Convention Board (MBCB) is currently accepting donations to fund the Mississippi Baptist disaster relief effort along the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on August 29. Checks should be made payable to MBCB, with “Hurricane Relief” noted on the memo line, and mailed to MBCB Business Office, P.O. Box 530, Jackson, MS 39205-0530. Fully 100% of the donations will be used for hurricane relief. More information on how to contribute can be obtained by calling (601) 292-3206, or e-mailing

“South Mississippi has been devastated by Hurricane Katrina. In addition to the devastation of most of our churches on the Gulf Coast, our Gulfshore Assembly in Pass Christian has sustained significant destruction.

“Therefore, with the encouragement of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board’s Executive Committee and Jim Futral, executive director/treasurer of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, I am appointing a committee to study the condition of Gulfshore Assembly and to explore all possibilities related to our conference ministries in Mississippi and to bring a report and recommendations to the Executive Committee, the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, and the 2006 Mississippi Baptist Convention.

“The committee is composed of nine members, representative of all Mississippi Baptists,” said Henderson, pastor of First Church, Brandon.

In addition to Otis, who is a member of Calvary Church, Tupelo, Conference Ministries Study Committee members include:

“Pray for these leaders who have accepted this strategic work and heavy responsibility,” Henderson said.

Gulfshore Assembly was gutted during Hurricane Katrina’s landfall. The superstructure of the main building, designed with hurricane resistant features, withstood the brunt of the storm but everything on the first two floors was washed away. Kelly Auditorium, the staff housing complex, and other buildings were destroyed.

The Gulfshore site is also known as Henderson Point and was once home to a popular local resort, Inn-by-the-Sea. Prior to World War II, the federal government bought the property from the resort owners and converted it into the national Merchant Marine Cadet Basic School. The first classes were held in 1939 and continued until about 1947.

Mississippi Baptists purchased the property in a 1958 government auction and began using the facility as a conference center.

In August 1969, Hurricane Camille destroyed Gulfshore Assembly and Camp Kittiwake, the nearby Royal Ambassadors beachfront encampment. A study committee was appointed and recommended rebuilding Gulfshore Assembly with the hurricane resistant features. Camp Kittiwake was not rebuilt, and the Royal Ambassadors encampment near Kosciusko named Central Hills Retreat was developed in its place.

Gulfshore Assembly and Central Hills Retreat are owned by the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, while Camp Garaywa, the Girls in Action encampment in Clinton, is owned by the Mississippi Woman’s Missionary Union.

For more information and photographs describing the condition of Gulfshore Assembly, visit and click on the Hurricane Katrina crawl.

Special Report

Miss. Baptist facilities face Katrina’s wrath

By Tony Martin
Associate Editor

Mississippi Baptist’s three encampments — Gulfshore Assembly in Pass Christian, Central Hills Retreat near Kosciusko, and Camp Garaywa in Clinton — experienced varying degrees of damage during Hurricane Katrina’s landfall on August 29.

Gulfshore Assembly (GBA), closest to the devastating hurricane eyewall and storm surge, experienced the most damage. Photographs from the site show the facility intact on its pilings, but with the first two floors suffering significant damage. Kelly Auditorium was reduced to its metal framework.

All GBA conferences and events have been postponed and will be considered for rescheduling at other locations.

The site Henderson Point site of GBA has a rich history. Admiral Pierre le Moyne d’Iberville landed on the shores of this area in 1699, and legend has it that Christian L’Adnier, dispatched by d’Iberville to explore the waters around what is now called Cat Island, found the pass and the point was named Pass Christian in his honor.

In the two decades before World War II, Henderson Point was home to the beautiful old hotel called Inn-by-the-Sea. The U. S. government bought the land on the point from the hotel owners and converted it into a Merchant Marine Cadet Basic School in 1939-40. The cadet school was discontinued about 1947, and Mississippi Baptists purchased the property at auction from the government in 1958.

On September 9, 1965, GBA was struck by Hurricane Betsy. All buildings nearest the beach were flooded with five to six feet of water and the camp sustained substantial damage.

Gulfshore Baptist Assembly after Katrina photo

Gulfshore Baptist Assembly

GBA was destroyed by Hurricane Camille in 1969 and rebuilt in the early 1970s with hurricane-resistant features.

Jim Ray, manager of Central Hills Retreat, said, “We weathered the storm fine. We do have over a hundred trees down, and we have some pasture fences destroyed. We were without power three or four days, but we had several generators and were able to keep things going.”

Ray said there was virtually no structural damage to any major buildings at the retreat.

“One thing we were proud of is that we were able to keep an ice machine going,” said Ray. “We were able to supply our neighbors with ice.

“Next week (the week of September 12), we’ll go back to our day-to-day activities as planned,” Ray continued. “We’re fine.”

“We didn’t have a lot of damage,” said Camp Garaywa Manager Roddy Reed. “We had some trees down, and one went down on a power line. We had some shingles blown off the dining hall roof and some leakage.

“We are the staging area for between 192-200 linemen from the power company,” Reed said. “We have them staying in the cabins, but we have several volunteers from First Church, Clinton, to help keep things in order. The mayor of Clinton even came in with several volunteers to help us clean up.”

Additionally, Garaywa is the site for the Kentucky Baptist disaster relief team, with approximately 35 volunteers. The North American Mission Board has an incident command center there, with approximately ten workers in Patterson Place. Concerning events planned at Garaywa, Reed said, “We are trying to keep all our open dates open. We’ll be contacting the proper leaders of the upcoming events, and for Mississippi Baptist Convention Board-sponsored events, I’d encourage the leaders bringing groups to those events to contact directors of the sponsoring departments for information.

“We’ll work together to get the word out, and we’ll contact individual church groups planning events ASAP.”

Special Report

Churches should exercise caution in rebuilding

By Tony Martin
Associate Editor

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, hundreds of churches in Mississippi are faced with the prospect of repair — some repairs being minor, others being a total rebuild. With the pressing need of providing places to worship, many congregations might rush into making unwise decisions. GuideOne Insurance, which provides insurance for many churches in Mississippi, counsels pastors and congregations in what to do before and after a loss. The following is gathered from information provided by GuideOne, and is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any action plans intended to include or address all insurance or construction solutions.

Prior to any catastrophe, the church should have identified who has the authority to sign work authorizations on-site so that work can begin without delay in case of a disaster. Designate a person or committee from the church with the power to make quick project decisions. If this is not done, the building process can slow down and cost more.

The church should have on file building statistics, including year constructed, year of latest structural renovation, appropriate blueprints, plumbing information, any hazardous materials on site, electrical information, documentation on furniture, fixtures, electronics, valuable documents/ books/records, and other valuable contents.

Though many churches rely heavily on volunteers, when considering major reconstruction leave the work to professionals. Many times volunteers work beyond their expertise and improper workmanship is often the cause of construction failure and fires. In addition, if a building is destroyed because of poor workmanship, the organization or insurance company wouldn’t be able to collect from a reputable construction company if the work was done by volunteers.

When disaster strikes, it is appropriate to make temporary repairs to prevent further damage. Keep any damaged property for the insurance adjuster to review or examine. If the facility is not useable, make temporary arrangements at another facility. Keep receipts for all expenses incurred.

Be sure the church and anyone making repairs are clear on state and local codes. Every municipality has variations that if not met can lead to significant future issues and costs.

Protect the church financially. Make sure those making repairs show proof of insurance with limits equal to or greater than the current policy, and have sufficient errors and omissions coverage. An organization also should ask for a certificate of insurance naming them as an additional insured.

Preplanning is essential for successfully minimizing any adverse effects of an emergency or disaster on a church and its operations. Emergencies and disasters can take many forms, including physical perils, work accidents, or deliberate acts of terrorism or sabotage. Potential emergencies also include medical emergencies, fires, menacing persons or weapons threats, and even bomb threats. Immediate response in a crisis can save thousands of dollars in reducing damage. It may also allow a church to resume normal activities sooner. Emergencies strike without warning, and churches are encouraged to compile a comprehensive information source to use in the case of disaster.

Repairing or rebuilding a church is an act of stewardship. Cutting corners that compromise the safety of the people and the facility does not bring glory to God. Finances are important, but the wellbeing of those who enter the facility is paramount as a church recovers from disaster.


2006 Mississippi Baptist Convention Messengers close Gulfshore Baptist Assembly

Following the recommendation of the Conference Ministries Study Committee, a committee appointed by former MBC President Gene Henderson to study the condition of Katrina-ravaged Gulfshore Assembly and to make recommendations for the future of all Mississippi Baptist conference ministries in the state, messengers to the 2006 Mississippi Baptist Convention voted to close Gulfshore Assembly. To learn more, read this report of the Second Session of the 2006 Mississippi Baptist Convention.

Unemployment assistance available

Unemployment assistance from the government may be available to pastors and church staffers whose employment status has been adversely affected by Hurricane Katrina. For more information, click here.

Insurance Information

Churches should take care to follow proper procedure when filing insurance claims or beginning reconstruction. Click here for an article from The Baptist Record on this subject.

GuideOne insures many of our churches throughout the state. For your convenience, the following numbers may be used to file a claim: