Listening and Caring Deeply
On the evening of Saturday, July 16, I grabbed a seat at The Dock, a local restaurant in Lake Providence, and awaited the arrival of Woodland Baptist Church from Louisville, Kentucky. Fifteen road-weary but smiling faces greeted me not long after, sporting their "Louisville Loves the Lake" t-shirts. Between meals of Cajun fried rice and jambalaya, I had the privilege of listening to several people in the group describe how much they loved coming to Lake Providence. This was their fourth year coming for an entire week in the midst of the summer Louisiana humidity and heat.
It took a while to leave the restaurant due to the majestic sunset and the great opportunity it provided for taking pictures - check out some of them on our Instagram account. I personally joined in the picture taking given that my breath was taken away, too, and continues to be whenever I see the sun setting over the town. After this mini-sabbath, everyone gathered together and headed to the Mission House to get unpacked and settled for the evening.
In the morning, the group split up and attended several area churches to spread the word about a community cookout and the vacation bible school they would host during the week at Progressive Chapel Missionary Baptist Church. Everyone was warmly received at the First United Methodist Church, Progressive Chapel, and China Grove Missionary Baptist Church. Several pastors and church members gave me a warm greeting as well, sharing their fond memories of previous director of Together for Hope Louisiana, Jenny Hodge. I told them that I was very excited to move down at the end of August and to begin establishing relationships with their congregations and others in the community.
The first community cookout, which was held that Sunday evening, grew from three local children to over twenty five children and a few other local adults. Woodland Baptist provided hamburgers, hotdogs, freeze pops and plenty of fun and games. Some old relationships were rekindled and many new friendships were formed. Every child returned the following morning to Progressive Chapel, along with some additional fifteen neighborhood kids, making for the largest day camp Woodland had in their four years in Lake Providence. VBS finished nicely later in the week on Thursday, and everyone (Woodland and the Lake Providence youth) had a nice time serving, worshiping, and playing together.
As I prepare for the upcoming transition, I trust that this new call will be inspired by the dedication and love that groups like Woodland have for the town of Lake Providence and East Carroll Parish, and also by the joy and perseverance of the youth who brought so much into our lives during VBS. I hope to see where the Spirit has been and continues to be active in this community, to listen deeply and to learn from community members and leaders, and to be a helpful presence alongside of all those who care deeply about this special place.