Part II: Lagniappe and the Gulf Coast

Well here it is. It’s a little late, and not very timely, but below is the second of three installments in my mission trip chronicles – an update on Lagniappe and the Gulf Coast area. The third installment – what I learned – should come very shortly.

Lagniappe Presbyterian Church in Bay St. Louis is a fairly new (around two years) church plant. Lagniappe’s pastor, Jean F. Larroux, III, is a native of the Gulf Coast area and was pasturing a church in Memphis when Katrina hit. His aunt and uncle lost their lives in Hurricane Katrina and his mother’s home was destroyed by the flooding. Similar to the story of Nehemiah, Jean felt a calling to return to the place where his “fathers are buried so that [he] can rebuild it” (Nehemiah 2:4, 5). Lagniappe Church was planted as a result of his calling to the area to restore, rebuild, and proclaim the Gospel to the area.

Lagniappe (pronounced LAN-yap) means “a small gift given with a purchase, by way of compliment or for good measure” or “an unexpected or indirect benefit.” In other words, it means grace. The church exists to participate in the restoration of the Mississippi Gulf Coast through the declaration and demonstration of the love of God shown to us in Christ Jesus (taken from the church’s mission statement).

The church facilities (photos of which you can see in Part I) are in what previously was a large spa warehouse/distributor of some kind (I’m a little fuzzy on the details). There is the main building that has the offices, meeting room, mess hall, kitchen, and showers. There are also many air-conditioned bunkhouses for staff and volunteer housing. A large “tool crib” is in the back of the property, which houses pretty much anything needed for construction.

Lagniappe exists to help restore the Golf Coast – not just rebuild. They want to not only bring back the buildings and infrastructure that existed before Katrina, but also to help the beauty, culture, and life back to the area as well. They do this through rebuilding/construction efforts and ministering to the people of Bay St. Louis and Waveland County.

People might think, like I did before this trip, that it’s been quite a while since Katrina hit – almost two years. It should be pretty much rebuilt, right? Nothing could be further from the truth. The eye wall of Katrina directly hit Bay St. Louis and other surrounding towns, ravaging homes with high winds and destroying them with a 40-foot-high wall of water. The people there are in such dire need still. Many are living in FEMA trailers or in tents in the woods. Homes and lives need saving. The devastation was unbelievable, and it will take years to restore the area.

The government seems to have taken a backseat in the restoration process. They gave people temporary disaster relief trailers to live in, and are funding many efforts, but as far as tangible, physical support, they seem to be hands-off. I could be wrong, but the people and organizations picking up the slack in actually rebuilding and restoring are the churches and organizations like Habitat for Humanity. With the vast number of houses that still need to be rebuilt, they need lots of help.

The people of the Bay need all the prayer, support, and help you can give. PrayForTheBay.com is a good place to start. Lagniappe’s website is also a good place. Pray for the church’s role in the restoring efforts – of people’s physical and spiritual lives. Pray for the victims of Katrina – that they will rebound from this disaster and see God’s sovereign mercy and grace in all things.

Lagniappe is in need of resources – for maintaining the facility, for construction materials, and for mercy ministry. One day of ministry at Lagniappe can be funded with a gift of $3,800. They are also in need of labor – volunteer labor is the key to rebuilding the houses. A house that would normally cost around $80,000 to build costs much less than that because of the volunteer labor. You don’t have to have a large, super-organized group of people in your church to go down – they accept volunteer groups of all types, shapes, and sizes. Elizabeth and I are thinking and praying about going down during Christmas week – join us!

For more, I would highly recommend viewing Lagniappe’s informational video to see how you can help.

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