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Canadian Opens Volunteer Ministry Centre in New Orleans

A comfortable, cost-free, Canadian-managed oasis awaits volunteers helping to rebuild New Orleans.


A comfortable, cost-free, Canadian-managed oasis awaits volunteers helping to rebuild New Orleans. It's at First Baptist Church of Norco, where Ontario church starter Rudy French is pastor.

Rudy French looks over the worship centre at First Baptist Church, Norco, Louisiana.

Photo by David Rhymes

"I wasn't at all thinking of leaving Canada; I was simply watching the news about Hurricane Katrina on television and started sobbing uncontrollably," French said. "These people need help," I told my wife. "I can't just sit up here and say I'm going to pray for them."

Within days they were in New Orleans. Within weeks French was asked to pastor a church not 30 minutes from New Orleans' famous French Quarter—but out of the hurricane-damage zone.

A member of the church had left money specifically for the church's building needs. French led the church to renovate some of the space into two sleeping areas, two showers, laundry facilities, and an upgraded kitchen. "This is a drop-in-the-bucket ministry," French said. "We're only accommodating 20 folks at a time, but at least we're doing that. … No charge. We furnish linens. They do their own cooking. In our situation, we see the necessity for this type of ministry," French continued. "If people stay in the disaster zone, they start becoming victims themselves after three or four days; they become depressed."

The First Norco ministry includes a day of sightseeing. "They might want to see the French Quarter or whatever," French said. "We want them to fall in love with the New Orleans area. That's the secret to them coming back."

The Frenches learned the secrets of hospitality in Ontario, where they had a fishing/guiding business at Off Lake. But their story starts a bit earlier, when a new Christian led Rudy French to invite Jesus into his heart and take over his life. Six weeks later, Rose French made the same decision.

Then they were hit with a major financial reversal. "Rudy started a tourist-guiding service and God sent us Christians to nurture us and help us grow," Rose French said. "We started having Bible studies at the house; people started getting saved there, and we added to things so people had a place to stay."

A volunteer paints the church building.

Photo by David Rhymes

They started attending Northwoods Baptist in Barwick, where they were discipled by Pastor Ed Hovis, who has since died. The next 25 years included preaching, seminary training, teaching in Christian schools, helping churches and running their fishing camp business. In 2001, they determined they were to start a church in Fort Francis, about 65 kilometers away.

"We were still involved with the church plant when Katrina hit and God led us here," Rose French said. "It was the kind of thing that happens: God sends people to certain areas in Canada—like He did with us. They get saved and baptized, and move on. The people [we worked with] have all moved out of the area and are in leadership positions in other churches."

"We just really want to be a facilitator for ministry that takes place all over this area," Rudy French said. "There is so much that needs to be done—mud-out, chain saw, construction, door-to-door evangelism and just talking to people, letting them know God loves them and cares that they're hurting. Long-term these volunteers are going to need to come back again and again, so we need to have a place comfortable for them to come back to."

Call the Frenches at 504-430-0581 or email rosemfrench@hotmail.com to reserve lodging at First Baptist Norco.

Originally published in Baptist Horizon, March/April 2007.

 

 
 
 
 

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