Saturday, September 24, 2005

The story of First Presbyterian of Gulfport

At the "old normal" get-together at a page designer's house in Gulfport today, I sat down next to one of the host's neighbors, Sandy.

Ends up Sandy is the administrative assistant for First Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Gulfport, the next-door city to Biloxi.

According to the U.S. Census, Biloxi's population is about 50,000. Gulfport is immediately to the west with a population of about 71,000, making Gulfport the second-largest city in Mississippi after Jackson.

And, for your information, there are also several other smaller towns to the east and west of Gulfport and Biloxi.

Unlike the PCA church in Biloxi, the Gulfport church did not fare so well. The building was supposedly well-built. It was made of reinforced concrete and was a designated civil defense shelter. The photo is a pre-Katrina shot of its sanctuary.

Now, the building's just a shell. The windows had shutters on the outside and inside, but Katrina blew them out. A lot of the church's possessions were swept to sea, even church pews.

Plus, 35 families in the church lost their homes. And an additional 20 to 30 homes not in the flood zone were flooded. But that's thanks to Katrina's 30-foot storm surge.

Other churches across the region have been quick to help, and not only with the necessities of life. A church had a hundred Trinity Hymnals sent down. Another has 150 ESV Bibles on the way. Another is working with Great Commission Publishers to get free Sunday School materials. Someone heard the Gulfport church needed office equipment, so he walked into Staples and bought a computer, printer, fax machine and plenty of toner -- and drove it down here himself.

Sandy has been in charge of filling out the paperwork for insurance. She finds it amazing what all a church owns. They need baptismal certificates, communion service, offering plates, everything.

The church is waiting for some trailers from Samaritan's Purse in which volunteers and others could be housed.

Can you help the church in Gulfport? Do you have any kind of building or other kinds of skills that you can lend? Do you have extra time off work, extra supplies on hand or extra cash looking for a home?

Call Sandy at the "mobile" church office at (228) 863-2664 and she'll be happy to tell you about the church's needs.

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