HIGH WATER... ENDURING CHURCH!

Celebration of the life of Arthur Wardsworth

Pastor Arthur Wardsworth, an active member of Churches Supporting Churches and a force for God's justice, passed from this life in the early hours of December 10 following a courageous battle with cancer.

Obituary for Arthur Ezery Wardsworth Jr.

Pastor Arthur Ezery Wardsworth, Jr., Pastor of Second Good Hope and Mt. Pilgrim 4th Baptist Churches in Algiers, LA. Beloved husband of Nedra Marts Wardsworth. Father of Arthur III, Isaiah and Megan Wardsworth, Taleitheia Benton and the late Nehemiah Wardsworth. Son of Dora Dean Wardsworth and the late Arthur E. Wardsworth, Sr. Brother of Patrick V. and Desiree' Wardsworth. Son-in-law of Herbert Sr. and Rose Ellison Marts. Brother-in-law of Sandy (Harold Sr.) Brown, Janel (Robby Sr.) Green, Sheila and Herbert Jr. (Margaret Marts.

Also survived by Second Good Hope and Mt. Pilgrim 4th Baptist Churches and a host of other relatives and friends.

Relatives and friends of the family, also officers and members of Second Good Hope and Mt. Pilgrim 4th Baptist Churches and all neighboring churches, Cornerstone and Westside Baptist Associations and all associations; employees of American Cancer Society, Orleans Parish School System, Algiers Charter School and Recovery School District; members of O. Perry Walker High School Class of '83, All City and State Elected Officials and The Community-at-Large are invited to attend Wake Services on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 at 7:00 p.m. at Second Baptist Church, 2836 Sullen Pl., Algiers, LA. Rev. Brian Richardson, Presiding. Funeral Services on Wednesday, December 15th at 10:00 a.m. at the above named Church. Cornerstone Missionary Baptist General Association Presiding.

REMAINS WILL LIE IN STATE ON TUESDAY, DECEMBER 15TH FROM 12:00 NOON UNTIL 2:30 P.M. AT MT. PILGRIM 4TH BAPTIST CHURCH, 429 NEWTON ST., ALGIERS, LA AND FROM 3:00 P.M. UNTIL 5:30 P.M. AT SECOND GOOD HOPE BAPTIST CHURCH, 800 ELMIRE AVE., ALGIERS, LA. Interment in Westlawn Cemetery, Gretna, LA. Professional Services Entrusted to: MURRAY HENDERSON FUNERAL HOME 1209 Teche St., Algiers, LA

Please lift Nedra Wardsworth (Pastor Wardsworth's wife), the rest of his family and church families in prayer.



Reflections from LeDayne McLeese Polaski of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America

Mama Jamilah Gets To Go Home!

During a Sunday morning worship service at Christian Unity Baptist Church, Mama Jamilah heard her pastor, Rev. Dwight Webster, encourage his congregation, "Shout out what you want to the Lord. Tell God what you want - God will hear you all at the same time."

She had heard it before - but that particular morning something stirred within, urging her to speak her true desire. She lifted her voice among all the others - crying out with all her heart - "God, I want to get back into my house."

It was a tall order. Like many New Orleanians, she'd been out of her home since Hurricane Katrina. Now more than three years later, it was hard to see how anything was going to change. Still - she lifted up her prayer in faith and hope.

Somehow, Pastor Webster heard her above all the others and said to the congregation, "We've got to get Jamilah some volunteers." That next Wednesday, she got a call from a local volunteer agency. A friend had added her name to the group's list long ago, but she'd heard nothing from them. "We have some volunteers in town," said the woman on the phone, "Could you use them?"

Jamilah says, "That moment was the first time that I could see the light and start to believe that I might really be able to get home."

Jamilah's story echoes that of many who call the Crescent City home. She - along with 13 friends and family members - evacuated ahead of the storm, packing supplies for three days - the longest period of time she could imagine having to be away. After all, as a New Orleans native, she'd never even evacuated during previous storms. She ended up being gone for three years. Along with three grandchildren and an elderly aunt and uncle, she stayed first with friends in Baton Rouge and then for a year in a hotel in St. Francisville, LA. The next two years were spent as "scrambling" after FEMA housing support ended and the family was forced to leave the hotel. What could they afford while still paying the note on a ruined house back home? The scrambling included a studio apartment in St. Francisville where the whole family shared two beds and then finally a room in her sisters' house in New Orleans after her grandchildren decided to reunite with their parents in Houston. After years of this, the dream of getting back into her house seemed distant that Sunday morning.

But now three successive groups of Unitarian Universalist volunteers have rebuilt her bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen. Different rooms are named for particularly crucial volunteers - Henry's bathroom, LeAnn's kitchen, Sandy's hall, David's washroom. Mama Jamilah moved back into the unfinished but livable house in September.

This is an answer not only to Jamilah's prayers - but also to those of the whole neighborhood. The title "Mama" has been bestowed on her because she is one of those people who makes a community whole. Like many before her, she lives by the belief that every child is everybody's child. "I have been Mama to many children," she says, "As many women were Mamas to me."

Her reach has extended to all those around her. She speaks of one elderly neighbor, living outside of New Orleans, who desperately wanted to return home but kept asking her family, "Is Jamilah back yet?" She knew that, if Jamilah was back in the neighborhood, she would have someone to check on her and provide the physical and spiritual support she needed to move back into a still-struggling community. And if Jamilah were not there - then it seemed impossible to move back.

How are things in New Orleans? It depends on where you look. People move back into homes every day. Sunday after Sunday you'll see churches celebrating "marching in" - their first Sunday back in a refurbished sanctuary. Businesses are reopening. And yet - many people are moving back into nearly-empty neighborhoods, communities have been dramatically reshaped, many churches have less than half of their pre-storm membership, and many businesses are struggling. The economic crisis, of course, has only exacerbated an already dire situation. And still, Jamilah and thousands like her continue to cry out in hope and faith. God is listening. The only question is whether the same can be said of us.

WANT TO HELP?

Churches Supporting Churches (CSC), an organization co-founded by the BPFNA, continues a vital ministry in New Orleans. Through CSC your church can:

Partner with a New Orleans church to provide financial and spiritual support on the long journey to full recovery. Your support can be as creative as you like - one congregation recently helped its partner church create a community garden on its property.

Provide volunteer teams to rebuild homes or churches. Skilled volunteers are most needed, and one skilled leader overseeing an enthusiastic team can accomplish much.

Provide much-needed rebuilding supplies.

Directly support CSC as it continues its own direct ministry. In partnership with the Morehouse School of Medicine, CSC sponsored a healing retreat for New Orleans pastors in late June. The retreat is part of CSC's long-term work of capacity-building for congregational leaders. They are also moving forward with building deeply affordable housing on church-owned property - a pilot project received city permits in September.



Charles and Thirawer Duplessis are back in their home!

Charles is the pastor of Mount Nebo Bible Baptist Church in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Louisiana. Thirawer will not allow me to describe her as the Associate Pastor -- but she's surely a leader of the congregation in her own right.

The church building and the Duplessis family home were utterly destroyed by the flood waters released when the levees broke after Hurricane Katrina.

For three-and-a-half years, Charles and Thirawer have worked with faith and gritty determination to rebuild both. Witnessing their faithfulness has been an immense gift to me. They are, quite simply, two of the most amazing people I have ever known. The spirit with which they have approached this mammoth task has been deeply inspiring.

On February 27, 2009, their determination paid off as they spent their first night back in their rebuilt home. I was able to visit with them the next day since I was in town for a Churches Supporting Churches (CSC) meeting. It was an experience of deep joy.

Plans for rebuilding the church are underway. In the meantime, the Mount Nebo church will be able to hold services in the Duplessis home -- the first time since August 2005 that they have been able to worship in their home neighborhood. (They have been meeting across the river in a home owned and very generously shared by some church members.)

The rebuilding of this house is a real CSC success story. Like most New Orleans homeowners, Charles and Thirawer had a huge gap between the funds they received (from insurance and the Road Home program) and the actual costs of rebuilding their simple home. (The average African American family in New Orleans was left with a $75,000 gap between monies received and the costs of rebuilding.) Much of that gap was filled by Mount Nebo's CSC partner church, Flossmoor Community Church in Flossmoor, Illinois. Most of the volunteer labor was supplied by a CSC partner organization, Mennonite Disaster Services. The result is a modest but lovely new home -- another anchor in the rebuilding of a devastated neighborhood. By chance, the same block is home to six model homes built by Make It Right, the rebuilding organization started by Brad Pitt -- so that one block is a true beacon of hope to a still-struggling community.

If ever a disaster befalls my life, Charles and Thirawer are the model of how I would hope to respond. Despite immense losses, terrific stresses and strains, endless red tape, pastoral demands from a scattered congregation, and constant financial worries, Charles and Thirawer are people of deep and infectious joy. While if it were in my power I would wish with all my heart that Hurricane Katrina had never happened, I remain deeply and endlessly grateful for the gifts that have emerged. My personal and organizational connection to Charles and Thirawer is one such cherished gift.

We are deeply grateful to all of you who make work like this possible.

If you'd like to send Charles and Thirawer a card of congratulations here is there once-again address:

Charles and Thirawer Duplessis
1837 Tennessee Street
New Orleans, LA 70117

Whether or not you know them personally, they would be very pleased to hear from you.

Inquiries for further information should be directed to:

Rev. LeDayne McLeese Polaski
Program Coordinator
Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America
4800 Wedgewood Drive
Charlotte, NC 28210
phone: (704)521-6051 fax: (704)521-6053
ledayne@bpfna.org
www.bpfna.org