Modern-day psalms offer hope after Katrina

1/3/2007

By Woody Woodrick
Advocate Editor

Elizabeth Cumbest says the seven songs she has written about Hurricane Katrina are prayers set to music.

Those involved with the Seashore Mission Church in Biloxi hope they’re part of an answer to prayer.

Cumbest, 15, will release an eight-song CD at a special service at 3 p.m. Jan. 14 at Heritage United Methodist Church in D’Iberville. All proceeds from the CD will help Seashore Mission Church recover from Hurricane Katrina. 

When Katrina roared ashore on Aug. 29, 2005, a dozen people sought shelter in Seashore Mission, a church that serves the poor and homeless in Biloxi. Only six of those people survived. All that’s left of the building is a concrete slab. 

Cumbest became involved with the mission as a child working with her parents, the Revs. Chris and Sheila Cumbest. 

From the day of the storm through last July, the teenager wrote seven songs praising God but also expressing her fears and heartache and those of her friends and family. 

“I’m broken inside
“And this pain in my heart I can’t hide.
“When it seems that everything I love is gone,
“And everything that could went wrong
“When there’s nothing else, I need you.”
“Cause I’m crying and I’m torn
“My spirit is broken, my heart is worn
“And when it seems there’s nothing left to do
“That’s when I need you.”

- from “I Need You” 

Cumbest hadn’t planned to do much with her songs. In early summer, she traveled to California with her parents where they made a presentation to the California-Pacific Conference of The United Methodist Church. The Rev. Chris Cumbest is coordinating church recovery following the storm, and the Rev. Sheila Cumbest works in Ministerial Services for the conference, including directing affected clergy families to counseling.

During the trip, someone suggested Elizabeth Cumbest put her song The Storm on a CD. 

“I started thinking that I had written several songs and wondered how I could use them to help the ministry of the Gulf Coast,” she said. “The Seashore Mission Church came to mind when thinking about all of that.  

“I think it was a God thing that he told me to do this.” 

Still, she didn’t rush into the recording studio. She talked it over with her parents, mentioning that she wanted to help the Seashore Mission Church. Then one day after discussing her desire to help, she was getting into a car when she sat on a DVD about the church and its Katrina experience. That convinced her. 

The Rev. Elijah Mitchell, pastor at the Seashore Mission Church, said its council and members are pleased Cumbest has chosen to help them. 

“I think it’s a great idea that will help the church,” Mitchell said. “I attended a council meeting when she presented her plan and we’re excited about it. 

“She’s been telling the story of what happened at the Mission Church in several different locations.” 

Cumbest recalled that meeting, and said it was emotional. “We were all in tears together. They laid hands on me and prayed for their mission as I do my mission for their mission,” she said. 

The Cumbests began asking around about producers and recording studios and were referred to Jim Barnes in Hattiesburg. Barnes agreed to produce the recording. Work began the afternoon of Aug. 26 and was completed Dec. 28. 

Cumbest said the recording process “was really cool.” 

“It was very neat to have to learn how to do all that,” she said. “I had to play the guitar and sing about 20 times for each song it felt like. I think I did each song about five times. 

“We had to record the guitar, vocals and mix it, then go back and put in all the other instruments I wanted to put in.” 

While the recording experience was fun, Cumbest doesn’t see herself pursuing a music career.  

“I really want to go to law school first. My dream is to be in politics and law. This is the kind of thing where if God leads you go. I haven’t dreamed of being a singer,” she said.

Besides helping provide some needed funds for the Seashore Mission, Cumbest said she hopes the songs encourage all who hear them. 

“I hope those who live on the Gulf Coast will get hope to rebuild their lives, homes and communities,” she said. “I hope these songs help people not associated with Katrina to keep the Mississippi Gulf Coast in their prayers.” 

How to Order

All Things New – Songs of Hope after Hurricane Katrina CD’s are $10 each. To order by mail call 228-588-9222 or send $12.50 ($10 plus $2.50 shipping and handling) to P.O. Box 849, Hurley, MS 39555. Make checks payable to Seashore District UMC/Mission Church.