By Monica Hernandez
During Hurricane Katrina, faith-based organizations played a huge role in helping those in need. Days before Gustav is expected to take aim at states along the gulf coast, many local churches are using what they learned from Katrina to gear up for Gustav.
Edward O'Connor remembers well the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. Before becoming Dean of St. Andrew's Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Jackson, he was the rector of a church in Gulfport that was destroyed by Katrina.
"So many powerful moments post-Katrina on the gulf coast," said O'Connor. "From worshipping the Sunday after the storm on a concrete slab that used to be our church home to gathering with all manner of people who were devastated by the destruction."
Now, St. Andrew's, like many other churches in the Jackson metro area, is using past experience to prepare for Gustav.
"Everyone recognizes that faith groups were perhaps the backbone of recovery, both on the coast and in Jackson," said O'Connor. "After Katrina, a lot of different people ran off in a lot of different directions, so the goal this time around and with each coming disaster is to be that much more organized."
As they wait to see where Gustav will hit, volunteers are getting ready. They're calling some 400 families that attend the church, creating a phone tree so families can check on each other. And they're asking how church members would be willing help the community, from cooking for shelters to housing those in need.
"We'll be able to play our part in a much larger community-wide effort to be proactive in helping," said Bryan Owen, St. Andrew's Canon for Parish Ministries.
St. Andrew's is working with the Lutheran Episcopal Services of Mississippi. It's a collaboration between the two denominations, and the group says it's getting ready to respond if disaster strikes.
"It feels kind of anxious as we're preparing for-- we don't know quite what yet," said Karen Quay, policy director for Lutheran Episcopal Services of Mississippi.
"Ultimately, the churches role, in the midst of devastation and destruction, is to proclaim hope," added O'Connor.
If you need assistance during Gustav, you can call the Lutheran Episcopal Services of Mississippi at (601) 352-7125.