Life has to continue between the hurricanes for the people of Dulac, a small community in Terrebonne Parish struggling with low income, lingering effects of the BP oil spill of 2010 and even the looming threat of losing the very ground under their feet to coastal erosion.
It’s why New Life Community Church in Luling partnered with the Clanton Chapel UMC, preschool and Dulac Community Center as part of its efforts to help its neighbors in a relationship that dates back years.
“We understand and appreciate the needs around the world,” said Rob Weber, the Luling church’s lead pastor. “But we also realize that there are great needs right here in our community, in St. Charles Parish and beyond, and we strive to nurture followers of Christ who then reach out and teach others about the love of Jesus.” Kirby Verret agreed.
The Dulac native and resident added, “You don’t have to go overseas to help needy people, they’re close by.”Helping Dulac’s people also represents the church’s much desired opportunity to extend its work beyond the church walls, a relationship that Verret said has continued 30 years.
Just about an hour from Luling, Dulac is surrounded by water and especially susceptible to damage from hurricanes, but this small shrimping community of about 2,000 people in endures.
Weber described Dulac as a place “about as far south as you can go and still be in Louisiana” yet the church has a long history of partnering with the Clanton Chapel UMC there, the only Native American United Methodist congregation in Louisiana, and the Dulac Community Center.
Without question, Verret said their longtime relationship with the church is a meaningful one that brings light into children’s lives and future.
“Between these storms a lot of living has to go on, especially for the children,” he said. One hurricane after another they have come, Verret readily naming them – Ike, Rita and Gustav – among the storms that have ravaged a community that is really two communities within one of Cajuns and a large Native American population that’s part of the area’s United Houma Nation.
Although different, Verret said they work together to help each other and particularly for the children.“Being about providing something special for these children is important to give them a positive outlook on life,” he said.
Verret equates spreading hope to “planting a seed.”Getting that seed to take root is the challenge when the winds of change are constant.
“We have to admit we’re in a very difficult situation here at times in the bayou area where employment is seasonal and the ones who do the work are at the bottom of the food chain you might say,” he said. “There are a lot of gaps in the families due to the low income and struggles of life.”
But Verret said there is also hope.
Since 1984, New Life Community Church’s Women United group has sponsored a yearly “Angel Tree” where members of the congregation can choose a child at the Clanton Chapel Preschool and provide gifts and an outfit, which they just delivered for Christmas. They also bring them clothing.
“We have such a caring and generous congregation,” expressed Audrey Martindale, NLCC Women United president. “Every year the names are all taken, usually on the first Sunday they are available, and our members really enjoy shopping for the children and delivering the presents.”
This year, the group also included children in the Child Advocacy Services program in St. Charles Parish.
But Verret, as well as Weber, say the transformative power of belief has helped make meaningful change.
“Partnering with the Dulac community is just one component of our church’s larger mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” Weber said. “We truly believe that church isn’t just a place you go to worship on Sundays – it is a way of life and an attitude of service and generosity.”