NOBTS shares stories about God’s work after Ida

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Every hurricane holds surprises, but the arrival of Hurricane Ida on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina was just the beginning of the unexpected. Its rapid passage across the Gulf of Mexico to Louisiana resulted in record-breaking power outages and unexpected damage. Despite the losses, the storm also provided opportunities for some in the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary family to share the Gospel and to live their faith.

Here are three stories of the storm that show God was at work:

“For His Glory” – Matt Middlecamp

Matt Middlecamp, director of the Baptist campus ministry at University of Southeast Louisiana (SLU) in Hammond, stayed behind while his wife Jacque (MACE ’13) and two sons evacuated before the storm. While the forecast predicted heavy damage in Baton Rouge and along the I-12 corridor – home to many SLU students – Middlecamp remained in order to mobilize its students into rescue teams to help those who would suffer the brunt of the storm.

“That’s the only reason I stayed because most of my students live in Baton Rouge or Denham Springs,” Middlecamp said. “This [area] flooded in 2016, and I knew they would have a lot of work to do.

But when the storm moved east, Middlecamp found itself in the way of the hurricane’s eyewall. With terrifying winds howling outside, Middlecamp pulled out a mattress from her young son’s bedroom and prepared to crouch down in the hallway. Before he could, a tree came through the roof and entered the hallway. In total darkness with the raging storm, Middlecamp ran to a neighbor’s house for cover.

By daylight, Middlecamp realized that not one tree, but two, had fallen on her house, crisscrossing over the hallway and her son’s bedroom.

Middlecamp had planned to get his students to help others, but his students came to help him instead. “It was humbling for me to see, but also very gratifying, to see that they loved us and helped us through this,” he said.

Opportunities to share the gospel arose as disbelieving neighbors watched Middlecamp deal with her situation and other believers came in to help her. A neighbor asked Middlecamp to help him understand the Bible. Another posted on social networks his astonishment at the “army of students” serving the neighborhood simply because of their “faith in God”.

As Matt and Jacque Middlecamp face the rebuilding, they do it wholeheartedly.

“If we had to go through there to [our neighbors] to clearly hear the gospel and see the gospel lived, then Jacque and I have come to the conclusion that we are ready to go through this, ”said Middlecamp. “We want to share the gospel with them and we want them to have a relationship with God and if we have to go through that to make it happen then it’s worth it.”

Matt holds a Masters of Divinity from NOBTS. He finished in 2007. His wife has a Masters of Arts in Christian Education.

As students of NOBTS in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated the city, the couple know it is difficult to rebuild their lives. Yet Middlecamp sees it as a lesson that applies to all difficult circumstances in life.

“It’s tough and emotional, and it’s tiring and taxing,” Middlecamp said. “But at the end of the day, we know it’s for our good and his glory.”

‘Incredible’ – Daniel Collins

An eight week old groom and acting pastor at First Baptist Church of Norco, Louisiana, for less than three weeks, Daniel Collins – a master of divinity student eagerly awaiting graduation in December – marks another ‘first’ for 2021 as he walks with the Norco community through Hurricane Ida.

Sustained winds of up to 130 miles per hour have left the church building with minor damage, but the community as a whole faces a more serious task. Reports show that almost every structure in the area has suffered damage, Collins explained.

With the help of New Orleans Baptist Association, Relief for Southern Baptists in the event of a disaster, and with the help of several churches in the North and Southeastern Mississippi areas, FBC Norco is reaching out to a community in need.

“We are trying to function as a hub for the community for disaster relief,” said Collins, who is also the church’s worship director.

After the storm, Collins slept in church without power to help distribute water, cleaning supplies, canned goods and paper items to neighbors. As the city continues to wait for power to be restored, disaster relief teams are removing fallen trees, cleaning up mud and gutting homes.

As volunteers work, doors open for the gospel in the strongly Catholic community.

“Many grew up in the Catholic Church who told them it was a sin to enter a Baptist church,” Collins explained. “So the sheer ability to serve some of the families of our church members who are deeply and culturally Catholic, and to have these conversations and to build these relationships, has been amazing.”

Norco, a community of less than 4,000 residents, is located on the banks of the Mississippi River in St. Charles Parish, approximately 25 miles west of the NOBTS campus.

“I have had many conversations about the gospel,” said Collins. “It was a blessing to interact with people because they would never come to Baptist church for anything else before.”

“There he is” – Ken Taylor

Electricity remained on the NOBTS and Leavell College campus for eight days, but classes moved easily online, resuming September 7. When Ken Taylor, Missions Professor, encountered his first online course, all the students were in attendance.

“We just shared,” Taylor said. “Where they were, what they had been through – it was a really special time.”

Taylor said the students’ resilience and their stories of how others helped them during the evacuation were in motion.

“The hospitality of so many different people in so many different states who opened their homes and other places to stay for students – it was very encouraging,” Taylor said.

At his evacuation site in Alabama, a next door neighbor Taylor did not know well approached him and gave Taylor a large check to help others.

“It’s amazing how people react and reach out because they know people are in so much pain,” Taylor said.

A pastor in New Orleans for over 30 years, Taylor has cared for people in many different and difficult situations. He finds that he returns often to Psalm 46: 1-3 as he comforts and cares for those in need.

“I have personally seen that God is a refuge and a strength,” Taylor said. “Even when it looks like the mountains are falling into the sea, he’s there for us. “


EDITOR’S NOTE – Marilyn Stewart is Assistant Director of Communications for the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where this item was originally published. Read more stories about Hurricane Ida disaster relief efforts at Baptist paper.


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