Katrina Relief for the Long Haul
By John M. Perkins
Born a sharecropper’s son in Mississippi poverty,
John Perkins is one of the leading evangelical voices to come
out of the American civil rights movement.
Today, he is president of the John M. Perkins Foundation for
Reconciliation and Development in Jackson, Mississippi, and
an internationally known speaker and teacher on issues of
racial reconciliation and Christian community development.
In 2004, Perkins partnered with Seattle Pacific University
to launch the campus-based John Perkins Center for Reconciliation,
Training, and Community Development. When word reached SPU
about Hurricane Katrina and its resulting devastation near
home and ministry in Jackson, the community
joined together to support Perkins through prayer and a pooled
financial gift. Here, in his own words, Perkins talks about
the disaster relief efforts he and his ministry have undertaken
since Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on August 29:
My SPU friends, I want to personally extend a fervent thanks
to all of you who were involved in helping us during this
crisis. I cannot express how much your gift will further
the work we are trying to accomplish at this time. We are
deeply touched by your thoughtfulness and generosity.
At present, we are laboring intensely to find permanent housing
for the displaced people who are here in Jackson. Hurricane
Katrina left thousands in nearby communities without homes,
and many relocated to shelters
in downtown Jackson, which were crowded and far from a homelike
After hearing stories about life in the shelters, I decided
to make existing John M. Perkins Foundation houses available
as well as purchase other houses to repair and renovate. This
is done under the banner of our Zechariah 8 Community Project,
which has a goal of purchasing 15 homes, renovating them (with
the help of volunteers), and making them available to those
evacuees who want to become homeowners. I am excited about
how the community has pulled together and how God is opening
To date, two families have moved into homes we own here in
Jackson. Another two are considering moving into our houses
once renovations are complete. These families are mostly from
New Orleans and other devastated
Where homes were unavailable, we helped evacuees move into
smaller church shelters throughout the city and provided both
goods and small grants to these churches to help them care
for displaced people, many of whom have large extended families.
With the help of the American Red Cross and FEMA, we have
also placed families in nearby apartments.
When the renovations of our houses are finished, we are moving
people from these apartments into their own homes. Our hope
is that they will stay long-term and work to rejuvenate Jackson’s
Our recovery efforts also extend beyond Jackson. We have
identified several communities
that were hard-hit by the hurricane and are sending volunteer
work groups there to help with home repairs and clean-up efforts.
In the coastal cities of Moss Point and Gulfport,
Foundation volunteers have worked on 14 different projects.
In the rural community of Tylertown in Walthall County, volunteers
have repaired the roofs of four homes.
Among these is the home of disabled Tylertown resident Laura
Magee. The uninsured
homeowner didn’t know how she would fix the damage to
her home and found herself in despair. “I’m not
working because of a severe back injury, and I just didn’t
have the funds to repair my roof,” she says. “The
Lord sent me a blessing — a miracle. I’m so thankful
for you and all those who work with you. I have one less thing
to worry about now that my roof is repaired. It’s just
I don’t have to run and get towels and pots to catch
the water when it rains. I have a brand new roof!”
I’m delighted to have the opportunity to assist people
like Ms. Magee. Perhaps the most exciting thing for me has
been seeing our brothers and sisters from all over the country
step up and help us in this crisis. We welcomed a total of
55 volunteers who came to work on renovating our houses.
Hurricane Katrina has provided yet another opportunity for
us to live out the principles of holistic Christian community
development, to focus on ministering to the physical, emotional,
and spiritual needs of God’s children. This project
is about long-term development, and we know it means being
involved for the long haul. Support like yours enables us
to do just that. Thank you so much for all the help that you
have provided. It is making a difference.
Editor’s note: In December, a group of Seattle
Pacific students, staff, faculty, and alumni will form a SPRINT
(Seattle Pacific Reach Out International) team that will travel
to Jackson. The team will assist hurricane-displaced families
by helping the Perkins Foundation to build long-term housing
in the city.
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