Relocation creates opportunity to aid coast friends


By Karin Bogue
Guest Columnist

Two weeks after I moved into my home in Ocean Springs, I purchased hurricane supplies, learned how to put up plywood and filled sandbags as Hurricane Ivan threatened the coast. Three weeks before my scheduled move back to Memphis, hurricanes Cindy and Dennis prompted me to load up the biggest U-Haul I could find and move my stuff before something worse happened. Something worse — Hurricane Katrina — happened four weeks after my official move back to Memphis. 

Since Hurricane Katrina, many of my friends tell me how lucky I was to have moved when I did; however, it wasn’t all luck. It was God and hard work on my part that led me back to Memphis. I was unhappy with my work in Mississippi; however, I thought there must be some reason for my having made this move. What was I supposed to learn from this adventure? There were people who benefited from my move, but what was I supposed to get out of it? Little did I know at the time that was exactly what I was supposed learn — it’s not all about me.  

In Ocean Springs many churches were within 10 to 15 minutes of my home. I visited every Methodist church in the area along with some non-denominational churches, yet I just didn’t feel I’d found my home. While listening to the radio, I heard about the new contemporary service that First United Methodist in Biloxi was starting. I was looking for a contemporary service like the one I was used to at St. Paul Church in Lakeland, Tenn. Hurricane Ivan and getting settled slowed me up some, but I finally visited Biloxi First UMC. I was comfortable and felt sense of peace. In the following weeks, I received calls from the minister and several members of the church. I started attending on a regular basis even though the church was 30 minutes from my home. I felt I’d found my family at Biloxi First UMC.   

During the hurricane and the weeks that followed, from my Tennessee home I did my best to locate friends, coworkers, church members and others, often putting them in touch with each other and providing updates from the “outside” world. I followed the news on WLOX and various Web sites, including Biloxi First UMC. As things began to settle down and relief efforts were organized, the Biloxi First UMC’s Web site posted a request for supplies, and that they were putting together a program to host teams of workers at the church. Our mission team at St. Paul UMC in Lakeland had planned a trip to Alabama to do repair work left from Ivan. I hoped that St. Paul would consider “adopting” Biloxi First UMC. The members of St. Paul were very receptive to the idea, and our mission leader contacted the disaster coordinator at Biloxi First UMC for information.  

We made our first trip in November. Our team consisted of a group of men and women with diverse experiences. However, we all had our love and desire to serve in common. We worked hard, but our brief trip didn’t allow us to fulfill our mission. We wanted to do more. The people we met were so grateful, even though we felt like we hadn’t done enough for them.  

While on a tour of the area, some our team members commented that the area looked worse than areas they’d seen in wars. Everyone had seen the pictures on television, but nothing could compare with seeing the devastation in real life. I was a great tour guide because I’d seen the area in its original condition just four months earlier. However, the losses tugged more deeply at my heart. Everyone came away with a new perspective.  

One thing we noticed was the friendliness of the people. People who volunteer for mission work are genuinely nice people. Mean people don’t volunteer to muck out houses, work long days in hot and unsanitary conditions and sleep on the floor.

Our group was very blessed to have partnered with BFUMC. Biloxi First UMC provided shelter inside the church by turning Sunday school rooms into sleeping rooms, and provided meals, showers and more. The church was alive and filled with people doing God’s work through helping others. 

 I talk to people from time to time and they make comments such as “aren’t they back to normal now?” When I hear these comments a part of me is shocked, but then I realize that most of these people have not been to the coast since Hurricane Katrina. On my last visit I took some pictures and made sure they were date stamped. Normal is not having a small FEMA trailer in front of your home, while the lot next door only has a concrete slab, the remains of the home next to it are abandoned and the one next to it is in perfect condition.  

You can’t replace in one year what took hundreds of years to build. No, they are not back to normal, but there are still people coming in from all over the world helping restore some sense of life to the area residents. Thank God for the people who still remember and appreciate the needs of their fellow man almost one year after the disaster.  

People from all over the country have come together for the good of mankind through helping each other in whatever ways they can. Teams of people from St. Paul made several trips to Biloxi and continue to provide support to the relief efforts. I’ve made several trips to the area to do work for my former employer and for volunteer work over the last year. I can’t really explain the feelings I continue to have and those that touch me at an even deeper level as I visit the area.  

One of the Biloxi First UMC members probably expressed it best. The comment was made that I’d come to BFUMC for a reason and that reason was to bring others. Perhaps that is what I was supposed to have learned from my move to Ocean Springs. It wasn’t about the job or living on the coast. It wasn’t about me at all. The move was about faith, service, love and growth in a deeper relationship with God and others of His family. Through devastation and destruction have come the rebuilding and renewal of homes, lives, friendships, hope and faith. God is at work rebuilding lives on the Gulf Coast through the hearts, spirits, prayer, labor and gifts of people from all over the world.  

Bogue is a former member of Biloxi First United Methodist Church.