Phoenix (LA) Rebuilding to Resume After August Break

Post a Comment » Written on August 3rd, 2007     
Filed under: News
By Stan Friedman

PHOENIX, LA (August 3, 2007) – When Melvin Dillard traveled to this community ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, he had a better idea than many volunteers of how the residents had suffered.

In 1992, he was pastor of Palmetto Community Covenant Church, which was nearly destroyed when Hurricane Andrew struck Florida. People came from across the country to help rebuild the church, which has since moved to Miami and is now Kingdom Covenant Church.

“To be given the opportunity to do what people have done for me was wonderful,” says Dillard, who speaks with continual excitement as he discusses the trip. “It was one of the greatest trips I’ve ever taken. I will never forget the experience I had in Phoenix.”

To read more of the history of Phoenix, see a previously published online story, “A Witness to God’s Goodness,” or “Out of the Ashes” that appeared in The Covenant Companion.

Dillard, an associate pastor at Oakdale Covenant Church, traveled with 13 other members of the Chicago congregation. Covenanters across the country have been having similar experiences as they help Phoenix – which Katrina nearly wiped off the map – to rebuild. Church groups have come from as far as Portland, Oregon, and Easton, Connecticut.

Work will stop this month (during August), but resume in September, says Michael Gromer, the contractor from Hillcrest Covenant Church in Prairie Village, who now coordinates all reconstruction efforts for Phoenix. Some of the Covenant congregations that have volunteered already are making plans to return.

Oakdale member Savona Giles says she hopes other Covenanters will consider making the trip even, if like her, they have no construction experience. “The foreman took us through the work step by step. All we needed was a willingness to learn.”

Dillard says Oakdale’s trip in April and May was especially meaningful for the group who participated because they were part of an African-American congregation helping a historic African-American community that had suffered through a long history of racism as much as the occasional hurricanes. Leander Perez, one of the nation’s most outspoken segregationists and opponents of civil rights legislation, ruled the parish almost autonomously for decades.

Pastor Darrell Griffin wept as he surveyed the community and the New Orleans area. “The people were sort of drowning before Katrina ever arrived,” he says. He adds that the lack of progress in the region was troubling. “I couldn’t believe the country in which we live would still have people living in that manner two years later.”

Churches are helping the residents of Phoenix, many of whom have lived in FEMA trailers since the storm, move back into houses. Several homes have been built or rehabbed, Gromer says. Seven other houses currently are in various stages of construction.

“It takes a while, but we’re making good headway,” Gromer says.

Covenant World Relief is contributing funding to help pay for the work.

Other religious and secular organizations have helped in the community, but Dillard says the people are especially grateful for the large amount of work done by Covenanters. “The people there think very highly of the Covenant,” Dillard says. “It’s a powerful witness.”

For more information or to arrange a mission trip to help in Rebuilding Phoenix, email Hillcrest church or call 913-901-2312.

To read stories of visits by other church groups to help in the rebuilding, enter “Phoenix” in the search window on the home page of the Covenant website.

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