Soft seats help cushion Mississippi church's recovery

4/18/2006

(UMNS) - Nobody’s complaining, but it sure will be nice to sit down on soft pews again instead of those cold metal folding chairs.

Summerville United Methodist Church in Escatawpa, Miss., has been using the metal chairs since February. The church was damaged when Hurricane Katrina roared through Mississippi in late August.

The soft seats are a donation from Crossroads United Methodist Church in Ashburn, Va., and are just one more step in a long recovery process.

When the Rev. Willie Hill heard the pews were coming, he told his 100-member congregation, “You remember the way it used to be? That’s the way it’s going to be again.”

The church was “messed up from the roof to the interior,” Hill said. His congregation was also messed up. Hill estimates about 90 percent of his members lost their homes and possessions as a result of the hurricane. 

“We were kind of hurting there for a while, but the message is we are not alone,” he said. “We are all in this together, and we will come back.”

A Volunteer in Mission team of 10 from Crossroads went to Moss Point, Miss., in January and saw the storm’s destruction. They went back to Virginia and shared the story with their congregation.

“Our church is very missional,” said Steve Freeman, director of communications at Crossroads. It just so happened that the Virginia church was considering renovating and wanted the pews and other items to go to a church that needed them in Mississippi.

On April 4, the “church in a truck” completed its 900-mile trek and arrived in Escatawpa.

“Not only did they send pews but many other items we didn’t even know were coming,” Hill said. “They sent chairs, Bibles, hymnals, choir robes — basically they just fitted our sanctuary.”

The pews had to be taken apart for shipping. Freeman said the congregation sent along a videotape of the dismantling of the pews so the people in Mississippi would know how to reassemble them.

“Many people have responded to helping individual families recover from the loss,” said the Rev. Dave Norman, pastor of Crossroads United Methodist Church. “We wanted to help a couple of churches recover as well. Churches are where people come together in community to pray and find the strength to keep working hard at putting the pieces together on a day-by-day basis. By helping the churches, we are helping hundreds of people all at once.”

“We feel blessed to help them,” Freeman said.

“It shows us that we are a connectional church,” Hill said. “We have brothers and sisters around the world who feel our pain and our hurt and want to help us. We are blessed by such God-given people.”

Both churches were hoping the pews would arrive in time to be used for Easter services, and Hill has representatives from a couple of companies coming by to tell him how soon the pews can be reinstalled.

“The way God has been moving, they just might be ready in time for Easter,” he said. “What is impossible for me is always possible for God.”