July 24, 2023
In Louisiana, hurricane response brings church unity
Two churches have happily become one in Jennings, Louisiana. And one of the bridges between them took the form of more than 2,000 MDS volunteers who have helped the community recover from hurricanes Laura and Delta, which struck in 2020.
Pastor Roy Platt and the Jennings Church of Christ have been staples in the MDS response, feeding and housing volunteers, and encouraging them to express themselves on a now well-known wall of artwork and signatures that creatively documents the volunteer efforts.
Hurricane Laura was Platt’s first hurricane, followed by Delta the same year. “The morning after Laura ran through our area, I went to my office with no power, trees down, and debris everywhere—and I felt a real need to do something… but with so much needing rescue all I could do was pray.”
An organization called Hope Force offered immediate relief efforts—then told Platt to contact MDS.
MDS made the happy discovery that Jennings Church of Christ was the facility that best matched up with the need for housing volunteers.
“That news, prayed for by many in our church, was like winning the Super Bowl,” Platt recalled. “We were so excited and thankful.”
In the years since, Jennings Church of Christ has opened its doors and kitchens to crew after crew of MDS volunteers—and they asked the First Church of Christ across town to help with the food.
“That invitation to bring a vegetable, a dessert, even water, brought ladies together in the kitchen that, over time, blossomed into more than a fellowship… but companionship… and also talk,” said Platt.
Together, members of the two churches began asking questions: “Why don’t our churches get together more?” “What do you think Christ would say seeing churches separated when we could just as well be together?” “There’s no good reason why we can’t get together!”
“I guess you could say God used the chaos of two hurricanes to bring MDS to serve—and that brought two churches together. Out of chaos, came opportunity.”
— Roy Platt
As Platt says: “What stays in the kitchen could not stay in the kitchen.”
The First Church of Christ began giving monthly support for the Cajun meals that were being provided. “Then MDS needed extra drivers to move volunteers around,” said Platt. “One phone call to First Church netted four men who volunteered to be drivers with the four that we had.”
The drivers also developed a heart for each other’s churches.
The leaders of both congregations met, and within 15 minutes, decided unanimously—“with joy and some tears,” Platt said—to not just merge but unite.
Four weeks later the congregations voted: Jennings Church of Christ 96% approval, First Church of Christ 98% approval.
“Our first Sunday together saw 179 excited people meeting together in Jesus’ name,” said Platt. “We had to meet in Jesus’ name because we didn’t even know what our new church name would be.
“Yep… those people voted to unite without even knowing what the new church would be called,” he said.
Six weeks later, they agreed to unite under the name Christ’s Church of Jennings.
Platt believes the events of the two hurricanes brought MDS to the community—and drew together fellow workers in Christ.
“Not just working with each other locally but working with others from all across the nation in the Lord’s name,” he said. “I guess you could say God used the chaos of two hurricanes to bring MDS to serve—and that brought two churches together. Out of chaos, came opportunity.”
Susan Kim, MDS Writer