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2023 New Orleans Short-Term Mission Trip

Posted by Jacob Nielsen on

In June 2023, Bethany Church commissioned a team of 8 people to fly to New Orleans, LA to serve with St. Bernard Project, a national disaster recovery and resilience organization dedicated to shrinking the time between disaster and recovery by reducing risk, increasing resilience, and improving the recovery process by transforming the disaster sector’s systems, policies, and programs. The team consisted of co-leaders Pastor Jacob Nielsen & Kathryn Sherman, Sean Bean, Margaret Blake, Sara Hawks, as well as Jennifer & Ken & Zack Thomas. Throughout their week in New Orleans, the team submitted daily updates on their projects and how they saw God at work.

June 25 The New Orleans Missions Team was dedicated in the service on Sunday and then shared more specific details in our Time of Prayer at 1 PM.  The team left for New Orleans on Sunday evening arriving in the middle of the night.

June 26 From our short term team in New Orleans, team member Ken writes: After a long night and short nap, the team headed to our first project site. Everyone did so well keeping energy and enthusiasm throughout the day. Our project leaders, Alex and Everett, were happy with our progress. As well as with our attitudes and "normalcy" as a Christian church group. There were breaks throughout the day that allowed us to have conversations with each other. Opportunities were made to sprinkle in topics of our faith. We ended out day with a meal and conversations about what we had experienced thus far in our trip. Everyone is tired but in great spirit. Tomorrow is another day to serve and connect. God is good.


June 27 Valory writes: “This was our 2nd day of working with the St. Bernard Project, and it was amazing. We were tearing out walls and ceilings, and meeting the homeowner and seeing his struggle made me feel more energized and purposeful in my work. We worked great as a team, took time out to pray for one of our brothers who was physically hurting and got to know our supervisors on a more personal level. This is an honor to do the work that God has inspired and led us to take on together. I look forward to tomorrow, and all of the opportunities it will bring.”

Jen shares: “Today we worked on Gene's home. It has been a blessing to learn the stories of these homeowners and knowing their names makes it so much more personal. Today's project called for full armor...coveralls, helmet, gloves, glasses and a respirator mask, because we would be tearing out walls and exposed to a lot of mold. As eager as I have been to work and serve, I found myself almost panicked at the thought of having to wear this mask in the heat and the thought made me feel very claustrophobic. As I was suiting up, I was praying that the Lord would just give me peace and take the fear away. That He would sustain me...all of we worked in the heat. As I walked into the house and began to work, I found myself breathing slowly and steadily and the Lord gave me the peace I asked for. I felt calm. Yes, it was very hot and it was difficult, but as I was praying and working, the Lord kept reminding me that it's ok that it was difficult. That sacrifice isn't usually easy and being here isn't about my comfort, but about providing hope for those that have had none. My small sacrifice and my own comfort is so small in comparison to the loss that these people have had. I am so blessed to be here and so grateful for the opportunity to be a small part of such amazing work that is being done here. The people of New Orleans are hurting in so many ways. As we drove around different areas today, it was sad to see the condition that this city is in and I can't imagine just how forgotten these people must feel. Please keep them in your prayers. Pray for protection from more devastating weather and for provision for their physical, emotional and spiritual needs.”


June 28 Here’s a day three update from team members Sara & Margaret: “Today we worked again on Ms. Nutters' home. The Lord is working through us to be able to share the gospel with others by our actions and words. The Lord is amazingly working through us to get projects done. Our team has good unity and has bonded together with people we are meeting. We laugh a lot together. We were able to finish the projects and they were: caulking, most of the painting and hanging some doors.”

June 29 “Hey Sam and Zach here, here’s a quick update on what went down on Thursday in New Orleans. First thing in the morning we did a devotional and headed over to Cafe du monde to munch on some beignets. Before our trek to the job site we got stuck behind a train makin us a little late. It was the hottest day we worked so far and we were in a full suit of equipment making it a harder experience, but we finished most of the demolition and cleaned up the site. We were also able to help out and love on a lady named Angie who was preparing for her sisters funeral, she passed away unexpectedly and we were able to pray over her and help set up the service.”


June 30 Update from team co-leader Kathryn: “Today we had the opportunity to work on flooring for a very sweet Ms. Betty. Lucky for us, today’s home we worked on had some AC! Ms. Betty is a retired nurse tech who had recently lost her vision due to nerve damage; her weathered and uneven floors from Hurricane Ida make just walking through her house everyday a potential safety hazard. We were able to make significant progress in laying down floors throughout her home and were able to bless her by picking up trash in the areas surrounding her home.

Margaret also had the opportunity to sit and talk to Ms. Betty for a couple of hours and hear her stories about how she survived through Hurricane Ida, her love for her family, and her devotion to Christ and her local church. Later this evening, we’ll also get to share a dinner with our project leaders who have been leading us and keeping us safe during all of our projects this week.

One of my favorite parts of the day was actually the hour drive to our job site. After Jacob led our morning devotional on the prodigal son, we continued our conversation in the car about what part of the story we most connected with. We began discussing how a few of us felt nervous about going on this mission trip, even to the point of considering not going at all. With plenty of “I can’t imagine this trip without you!”s, we realized how astounding it is that God knew all along just how well we would work together and how we each would play a role in each other’s time here. It’s truly been an honor to work and serve along these men and women, and I couldn’t imagine a better team for this trip!”

 July 1 Pastor Jacob writes a final update for our New Orleans team: “It's the team's last day in New Orleans. At the end of mission trips, going home the next day is always a bittersweet feeling. We are excited to see our family and friends back home but will miss our time here in the Big Easy. Today was our day off from volunteering, so we got a chance to check out the swamp and the city. First, we went on a boat tour exploring the swamps just northeast of New Orleans. We got the see live Gators in the wild! After the boat tour, we returned to New Orleans to explore the French Quarter. People went shopping, explored different parts of the city, and got to experience live music in the humid air.

The best part of the day was going home to Gentilly Baptist Church and debriefing the entire trip. The team shared their most memorable moments and what we will mention to people when we return home. We've met some incredible people here and can't wait to continue building into those relationships. God worked in so many ways throughout this trip. The team and I thank you and have coveted your prayers.”