We left Franklin at 8 am. The team consists of Maria Williams, Rachel Powell, and Scott and Kathy Koon. As you may know, ClearView has partnered with Hope Church in New Orleans for a couple of years. This year, we started sending mission teams to assist Hope Church. This week is Mardi Gras, and Matt specifically asked for us to be here at this time. Our goal is to assist Hope Church with community outreach and share the Gospel.
The drive down on Friday was long (8 hours) but smooth and uneventful. We arrived just in time to assist with the weekly cleaning at the church. The church is small but growing. Matt and his leadership team do the weekly cleaning. After about an hour of vacuuming, mopping, sweeping and scrubbing, we headed out to gather some church members and head to our first parade.
A word about the parades and Mardi Gras in general. Your image of it all may not be correct (ours certainly wasn't). While there are some areas and some events taking place that are inappropriate, we haven’t personally witnessed any of that. The parades we went to were very festive and very family friendly.
Friday night's parade was a smaller one (although it seemed big to us until we saw the parade on Saturday night). Every group we saw was a family and everyone was so friendly. You'll begin to see that friendliness is a theme here.
For sleeping accommodations, First Baptist Church of Kenner has graciously allowed us to "camp" at their church. We are staying in the youth building and have showers, a full kitchen and heat/AC.
After we woke up and had breakfast, we met Matt at Hope Church at 9 am. We used our rental van to pick up several church members and transport them and our needed supplies downtown to the parade. This was the "Endymion" parade and it was huge!
There are over 70 parades in New Orleans and the surrounding areas during the two-week celebration of Mardi Gras. Endymion is the largest parade of all. Hundreds of floats carried over 2,800 riders! There were thousands of people watching and many of them camped out Friday night just to claim a good spot, even though the parade started at 4:15 pm on Saturday.
Hope Church secured a prime location around the middle of the parade route early on Saturday. We set up a large tent, BBQ grill and chairs. Church members were asked to invite everyone they knew, focusing on the unchurched, which isn't difficult to do since the vast majority of New Orleanians are not frequent churchgoers. By noon, we had the burgers and hot dogs rolling off the grill and were passing out Hope Church contact info and inviting people to church.
People in New Orleans are naturally a friendly group, but during Mardi Gras, they're even more friendly. Matt explained that this is an ideal time for church outreach due to their receptiveness. We met dozens of people and were able to engage in some great conversations. The parade reached our location by about 5 pm and it was amazing!
We continued cooking and meeting and greeting into the evening. By about 8 pm, our crew was tired and ready for bed. Our Fitbit trackers showed over 14,000 steps each on Saturday! Another night at FBC Kenner and we awoke Sunday morning ready to go again!
Please pray for the people of New Orleans. Pray that they will be receptive to the Gospel! Pray that tradition and misconceptions won’t stand in the way of their saving knowledge of Jesus.
Please pray for Hope Church. Pray that they will continue to live the great commission. Pray for strength and direction. Pray that each person on this church staff (many of whom are very new in ministry) will continue to be personally rooted in the Word!
Please pray for our team. Pray that we will have opportunities that are divine appointments this week to share the Gospel. Pray that we will be open to the prompting of the Holy Sprit and we will allow Him to use us in whatever way he deems necessary and useful.