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Pastor Returns Home to New Orleans


March 10, 2009 | bpfna

A New Orleans pastor and his wife have returned to their home in New Orleans. BPFNA Program Coordinator LeDayne McLeese Polaski shared the news in a March 10, 2009, letter to BPFNA members and friends.

Dear Friends,

I have some wonderful news to report -- Charles and Thirawer Duplessis are back in their home!

Charles is the pastor of Mount Nebo Bible Baptist Church in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Louisiana. Thirawer will not allow me to describe her as the Associate Pastor -- but she's surely a leader of the congregation in her own right.

The church building and the Duplessis family home were utterly destroyed by the flood waters released when the levees broke after Hurricane Katrina.

For three-and-a-half years, Charles and Thirawer have worked with faith and gritty determination to rebuild both. Witnessing their faithfulness has been an immense gift to me. They are, quite simply, two of the most amazing people I have ever known.

On February 27, they spent their first night back home. I was able to visit with them the next day since I was in town for a Churches Supporting Churches (CSC) meeting. It was an experience of deep joy, and I was pleased to represent YOU the members of the Baptist Peace Fellowship in doing so.

Plans for rebuilding the church are underway. In the meantime, the church will be able to hold services in the Duplessis home -- the first time since August 2005 that they have been able to worship in their home neighborhood. (They have been meeting across the river in a home owned and very generously shared by some church members.)

The rebuilding of this house is a real CSC success story. Like most New Orleans homeowners, Charles and Thirawer had a huge gap between the funds they received from insurance and the Road Home program and the actual costs of rebuilding their modest home. (The average African American family in New Orleans was left with a $75,000 gap between monies received and the costs of rebuilding.) Much of that gap was filled by Mount Nebo's CSC partner church, Flossmoor Community Church in Flossmoor, Illinois. Most of the volunteer labor was supplied by a CSC partner organization, Mennonite Disaster Services. The result is a modest but lovely new home -- another anchor in the rebuilding of a devastated neighborhood. By chance, the same block is
home to six Make It Right model homes (the organization started by Brad Pitt) -- so that one block is a true beacon of hope to a still-struggling community.

If ever a disaster befalls my life, Charles and Thirawer are the model of how I would hope to respond. Despite immense losses, terrific stresses and strains, endless red tape, pastoral demands from a scattered congregation, and financial worries, Charles and Thirawer are people of deep and infectious joy. While if it were in my power I would wish with all my heart that Hurricane Katrina had never happened, I remain deeply and endlessly grateful for the gifts that have emerged. My personal and organizational connection to Charles and Thirawer is one such cherished gift.

While BPFNA was not directly involved in the rebuilding of Charles and Thirawer's home, we are very much involved in the ongoing work of CSC. As always, we are deeply grateful to all of you who make work like this possible.

If you'd like to send Charles and Thirawer a card of congratulations, feel free to send it in care of BPFNA, 4800 Wedgewood Drive, Charlotte NC 28210. We will forward it to them right away.

Whether or not you know them personally, you are connected through BPFNA, and they would be very pleased to hear from you.

Peace and Grace,

LeDayne McLeese Polaski is BPFNA's Program Coordinator and has worked with Churches Supporting Churches since its inception.

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