NEW ORLEANS—Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, offered his thoughts to the TEXAN on lessons learned after Katrina, and the return of on-campus students this fall.
After the flooding on campus, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention helped fund and provide workers to refurbish three family housing apartments: Texas Manor, Wood Manor and Providence Manor.
Texas Manor is so named because of a $150,000 gift the SBTC gave to New Orleans Seminary in 2001 as part of the “Great Commission Partners in the Harvest” campaign that benefited the six SBC seminaries, the Ethics & Religious Liberty commission and SBC Executive Committee.
The plaque attached to the apartment building reads: “Texas Manor. Built through the Generosity of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.”
TEXAN: What has the Lord been teaching you over the last 12 months?
KELLEY: More than anything, I have learned that the grace of God will always be sufficient. I have had the worst days of my life, the greatest stress of my life, the greatest weariness of my life, and on and on. But towering above it all is the Mount Everest of God’s grace. He will not give us more than we can bear. He will provide what is needed in his time and in his way. Like the jeweler who displays his diamonds against a black velvet cloth, Gog gives us the deepest experiences of his grace in our darkest moments.
A second lesson has been how proud and grateful I am to be a Southern Baptist. The genius of the Cooperative Program and commitment of Southern Baptists to voluntary, organized cooperation in ministry has been revealed in all of its glory. Our largest gift by far came from the Cooperative Program. After contributing to their united gift, many Southern Baptist churches and individuals dug deep and gave a little more. Added to the financial gifts were the extremely crucial gifts of volunteer labor and the ministry to evacuees.
The partnerships between churches in the hurricane zone and churches outside have been more crucial than outsiders can imagine. This has been our finest hour. It has made a deep impression on the people of New Orleans. It is the reason we were the only educational institution in New Orleans to go through this year without laying off faculty or cutting programs. To quote an ancient Hebrew expression: Wow!
A related third lesson is the necessity of relationships. You will not navigate through an unspeakable tragedy like this alone. You will discover in a time of crisis that time you spend cultivating relationships is time well spent.
TEXAN: How did SBTC churches help the seminary prepare to welcome the students back?
KELLEY: The volunteer labor has been crucial. The SBTC sent us some of the best workers we have had on the campus. They were particularly helpful in getting our manor apartments for families with multiple children back on line. This has been so crucial. Some of the first housing units we opened were these manor apartments, and it has given parents time to come in, get their kids settled, explore all the school options and so forth.
Our biggest question mark was whether or not families would come back to our school. Thanks to the SBTC, we got family facilities back on line first, and that has made a great impact. The financial gifts were very important, but what really stands out in my mind is what SBTC workers accomplished to restore the campus.