Prayer for Pearlington

September 1, 2008

The 29th of August is a day that many will never forget but many will try.  It is the day that the unimaginable happened – the eye of Hurricane Katrina hit land from a small town called Pearlington on the west and Biloxi on the east.  Everything in it path was destroyed, either by the winds and rains of the hurricane or the storm surge that followed.  The devastation was complete.

Some of the residents of Pearlington rode out the storm at Stennis Space Center, about 15-20 miles north of Pearlington.  After having done that, the consensus of all those who did  “Never again.  If I am told to evacuate, I will.”  Many in this community had ridden out other hurricanes, but this one was the mother of all hurricanes and experience took its toll.

Now three years later, they are bracing for yet another hurricane.  Many are scared.  Many are still in the process of rebuilding.  Some are still in FEMA trailers or cottages.  The mere thought of another hurricane brings backs the memories of the total devastation by Katrina.  Most will not rebuild a second time.

I have made 5 trips to Pearlington – the first one with fear and trembling, not having a clue how to minister to people who had lost everything.  That first trip was life changing.  All I had to do was to just love these people and listen to their stories.  God was gracious and began some great friendships.  Each time I have been back, I get to know more and more of the community.  It feels like home.

I have gotten to know some wonderful people.  This town and these people are not just a place to go and serve.  They are my friends and feel like extended family.  They look forward to our coming.  When I arrived in July, after having been delayed for a month, I was greeted with, “I thought you should be getting here soon.  Welcome home.”  I heard about the weddings, the funerals, the births and upcoming graduations.  

This week as the approach of Hurricane Gustav crept closer, the children and teenagers of the community that I know have been emailing me.  I have taught them about the bigness of God and that God always wins through the Backyard Bible Clubs that I have done in partnership with the local churches.  As they have written, terror is the word that comes to mind as I read their emails.  It comes across loud and clear.  They have spent 3 years rebuilding, watching family members rebuild.  It has been a hard 3 years.  They are not ready to face another hurricane and its destruction.  They have been comforted by the fact that there are many here in Minnesota and other places in the US, praying for them, praying that God will give them what they need for this new storm that is looming.  I have just recently found out that all of the ones I know the best have left and are with family in places like Jackson, Georgia or Florida. 

Not only do they have to watch the progress of Hurricane Gustav, but Tropical Storm Hanna is right on Gustav’s heels.  Tropical Storm Hanna, at least at this point, is not predicted to hit the gulf coast, but storms can change their paths.  I have heard from some down there that there is just as much concern with Hanna and its path. 

Some of the things that come hand in hand with Hurricanes are tornados.  Sunday night a tornado warning was issued for the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.  Due to the rain wall, residents most likely not have any warning; the tornados will just drop out of the sky.  The amount of rain that is predicted with the storm is anywhere from 15 – 29 inches of rain.  Even once Gustav passes, there is not guarantee that they will be able to go back home soon.  They could be kept out until after Tropical Storm passes through the area. 

And so they wait. 

  

 

Waiting is one of the hardest parts – waiting to see if the storm will follow the predicted path.  Waiting to see if it will grow or lessen in intensity.  Packing to flee on short notice.  Waiting for the evacuation notice to come.  Waiting to see what damage will be done to their new homes.

As of Sunday morning, Pearlington as well as all of Hancock County and parts of Louisiana were under a mandatory evacuation notice.  Many have already left.  Many, like the pastors we know were still there late into Sunday afternoon – checking on the members of their churches, praying for them.  I think Pastor Fields summed it up well – “This is the last msg that I will be sending out before my departure to evacuation. I just spoke with some of the folks and they are afraid. Pls keep us in your prayers.”

And so we wait and pray for our dear friends in Pearlington.  And as we pray, we ask God what he has for us, what we might do if the storm hits as hard as predicted.  How we might serve this community as unto Christ, walking alongside to listen, to comfort and to be a helping hand.  Please pray that God would lay this community on the hearts of others to reach out and help, if needed. 

Waiting on the Lord who is the rock and shelter of all those who come to him – waiting for Him to reveal the next piece of the Tapestry we now call Pearlington. 

 

 

Update at 5:30 PM  
The Good News:   The Storm was downgraded from a Category 3 to a Category 2 storm before hitting land.  The eye of the storm hit 70 miles south west of New Orleans. 

 

 

NOT SO GOOD NEWS FOR PEARLINGTON: The water level, the surge, is rising in Pearlington. There are currently 7.5 feet of water in the Turtle Landing bar and Hwy. 90 is now under 3 feet of water. As far up Hwy. 604 as the Fire Department and the PDA Camp, water is moving on the road. As you know, it is not the wind or rain that will lay Pearlington low yet again, it is the water.

Update 6:30 PM –
Reports from the Coastal area around Pearlington indicate that the storm surge, while much tamer than Katrina’s, has fully breached Hwy. 90 and in the Gulfport/Biloxi area has water flowing right up and into the doors of the casinos there.

In Pearlington, the tide is on its way out and hopefully that will bring some relief. Many of the P’ton folk hunkered down in Picayune, Kiln, Diamondhead and other more northern towns are considering returning to Pearlington tomorrow. Power is off all over the coast and First Responders will be heading into the affected areas tomorrow.

Tonight, we must hold the light against tornadoes and further flooding and pray that Pearlington can begin to breathe again in the morning. (Taken from Pearlington Recovery and Resource Center Blog)