MDS ends historic 7-year recovery effort in New Orleans
Last Gulf Coast project closes with gratitude: ‘You have blessed us’By Sheldon C. Good Mennonite World Review
NEW ORLEANS — After spending seven years and $8 million responding along the Gulf Coast to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Mennonite Disaster Service has formally closed its last project here. About 70 MDS personnel, Mennonite leaders and local pastors, disaster response workers and community members gathered May 16 at MDS headquarters in New Orleans for a commemoration ceremony.
The “Passing the Torch” event celebrated MDS’s work along the Gulf Coast, the longest continuous effort in its 62-year history.
Hurricane Katrina — the costliest and one of the five deadliest hurricanes ever to strike the United States — ravaged the Gulf Coast in late August 2005. Days later, MDS volunteers began cleanup work. Less than a month after that, Hurricane Rita — the fourth-most intense Atlantic hurricane on record — struck much of the same area.
At the May 16 event, Pastor Charles Duplessis — who lost not only his house but also the meeting place of his church, Mount Nebo Bible Baptist — thanked MDS for its work.
“Individually and collectively you have blessed us,” he said. “I want to thank you for loving God and for loving people, whether they know God or not. God has been good to you because of your service. God has been good to us because of your service.”
MDS volunteers built Duplessis a new home, which currently doubles as the congregation’s meeting place. His former house was swept away when a wall of water broke through a levee and surged through New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward.
After constructing the house, MDS learned the drywall from China that was used emitted sulfurous gases. The drywall may have been used in more than 100,000 homes across the South, reports said.
As a result, Duplessis’ wife and fellow family members, as well as thousands of other people, suffered respiratory problems.
MDS gutted the entire home and rebuilt it.
“My family wants to thank you for doing it twice,” he said. “You made it right, again. You’ve touched people in the name of Christ.”
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