Albany-- Many people criticized the government's response to Hurricane Katrina but you didn't hear that condemnation of churches. Churches from all over the country quickly came to the rescue. Some Albany religious leaders say they will continue to serve.
When storms washed away nearly everything, the church stepped in.
"Because the need was there," says Porterfield Associate Pastor Betty Lou Miller. Nearly 15 members of Porterfield United Methodist Church filled up two vans and a trailer and headed to Biloxi, Mississippi in April, almost nine months after Katrina left her mark. Even months later, that mark could still be seen throughout Biloxi.
"That's what was really surprising," says Miller. The surprise had volunteers from the church working side by side with Mississippi families, tearing up homes for a fresh start.
"When your strength is all run out, this was God's work. I'm convinced of that," says Miller. That work was taken up by many south Georgia churches. Words of Restoration's I-CAN Center packed up tons of love and hope for the devastated regions.
"The truck was full. It was filled from front to back," says Words of Restoration Pastor Dr. Oscar Benton. Clothing and food was delivered to Mississippi in an 18-wheeler. Benton says the giving gesture is two-fold.
"By one hand, you're pulling yourself up and by the other hand, you're reaching back and pulling others up," says Benton.
"When you do mission work, you come back with a great deal more than you ever could bring," says Miller.
Pastor Miller brought back many stories from Mississippi. One couple in particular touched her. The wife hadn't slept well for months but that changed when the church arrived with help. Miller remembers exactly what she said.
"You give us that lift and enough hope that I could oversleep. I actually slept last night. I thought a story like that...where any of us could be," says Miller.
That's another reason church volunteers went to make a change but a change was also made within. That may have been the purpose of it all.
"In the midst of that storm, there's an eye," says Miller. It's an eye that opened several eyes across the world and brought strangers closer together.
The I-CAN Center delivered hundreds of boxes of clothing and food to Meridien, Mississippi. Porterfield United Methodist Church plans another mission trip to Mississippi in October.