Last August, Travis Todd was wrapping up seven nonstop years of ministry with Campus Crusade for Christ in Southeast Asia. He was looking forward to some down time in Alabama and his hometown of Pass Christian, Mississippi.
Meanwhile, pastor Christopher Colby was poised to launch ambitious fall programs at Pass Christian's wealthy Trinity Church. And hundreds of miles north in Evansville, Indiana, a semi-retired Greg Porter, who had founded a successful maintenance company, was focused on improving his tennis game.
But for all three individuals, God and Hurricane Katrina had bigger ideas.
On August 29, Katrina made landfall just west of Pass Christian (pronounced "Christy Ann") on Mississippi's coast. The 30-foot storm surge killed 22 people, destroyed nearly all business property, and damaged or destroyed 90 percent of the town's homes. Pass Christian is one of the communities most devastated by Katrina. By January, only 1,500 of Pass Christian's 6,500 residents remained. The rest are scattered nationwide, joining 2 million other hurricane refugees across America.
Pass Christian's government is in tatters. Like virtually all Pass Christian residents, city leaders suffered grave personal loss. City Hall is now in a doublewide trailer. The storm set back the city 150 years, to its early days as a rustic resort area. Little of the tax base remains, nor does any meaningful employment beyond contract work for cleanup and debris removal.
The Red Cross has left town, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has scaled back. Other major agencies, such as the Salvation Army, are often outmatched by the size and complexity of the needs. In early January, Christianity Today revisited the storm-devastated Gulf Coast. CT discovered ...1