Let me tell you about my new friend. His name is David Eldridge and he is the pastor of Eastlawn Baptist Church in Pascagoula, MS. I had the opportunity to spend a little time with David this past week as I traveled with a group of men to the Gulf Coast on a recovery mission.
David, in his late twenties, is a graduate student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary working on his doctoral studies. Anyone who has ever tried to split time between studies and working knows what a challenge that can be.
Eastlawn Baptist Church is a fairly old church. At one time, the neighborhood around it was a place of prosperity. The church was thriving with over 600 in weekly attendance. Over a period of time, the neighborhood underwent a transition as many of the wealthy residents moved away. Attendance began to decline and by the time David arrived as pastor about a year and a half ago, they were running only about 85.
Then came Hurricane Katrina, pushing a storm surge that flooded the church with six feet of water. The inside of the building was destroyed by the water along with the homes of the whole neighborhood. The people of the church began to try to put their lives back together. David and his wife lost their home along with most of their members. The first service after the storm, they had less than 25 in attendance.
Shortly after the storm, a large church in another town called David and asked him to come be their pastor. This would have been a perfect opportunity for him to simply walk away from the rubble and get a fresh start in his life and ministry. Instead, he thanked the church but politely declined their offer. He feels that God knew that Katrina would devastate this neighborhood before He led David to Eastlawn and that God wants him to stay with these people and shepherd them through this process.
David has continued his studies at seminary. He and his wife have had to work at putting their home back together (still in progress). In the middle of all of this, they had a baby boy this past December. He is not only overseeing the reconstruction of the church, but also the homes of several elderly and widowed members of his congregation. While there has been a great outpouring of volunteer help from around the country, the responsibility of coordinating the recovery and rebuilding has fallen on his shoulders.
I told you all of that to say this, David desperately needs our prayers. He is exhausted. He is frustrated by slow-moving government agencies and insurance companies and contractors who are trying to gouge his people. He is trying to be the husband, father, pastor, student, and coordinator that he must be.
Please uphold this man of God and his church before the Lord. If you can, put them on your prayer list at church. I realize that this is only one story among many from this tragedy, but it is the one I know. Our brother needs a special measure of God’s grace to uphold him during this time. May he be strengthened with all might according to God’s glorious power.