LifeWay will reopen one of its stores in Mississippi on Thursday – a move that its customers and employees view as a sign of normalcy after two back-to-back hurricanes devastated the U.S. Gulf Coast in September.
“Normalcy never looked so good,” said Alicia Lowery, manager of the Gulfport LifeWay Christian Store in Mississippi.
“Customers have been calling and coming by hoping that we are open,” Lowery explained. Many are wondering where to buy their Christmas gifts this year as many of the stores, including Christian ones, have closed down. Others need to replace Bibles that were destroyed by water, and churches need communion sets.
This season’s storms damaged three LifeWay stores in Mississippi and Louisiana and forced the Christian resource ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention to close down.
According to regional director Mick Houston, the store’s entire inventory was lost, but it suffered little structural damage.
“We had external damage and a hole on the side of the building that allowed rain and wind to destroy everything inside, including the merchandise,” Lowery said. “I was just thankful that the store was still there.”
Houston echoed the pastors who wished to return to the area to lead their flock and said the decision to reopen the store is made out of a desire to see others quickly edified.
The Rev. Walter Baer of a Canal Street church in New Orleans said, "It's very important for our people to be together and worship together," according to The Shreveport Times.
Togetherness is the best way to move past the lingering sadness left in Hurricane Katrina's wake, he continued. Baer is among thousands of pastors who are trying to move forward despite difficulties.
Like the pastors, LifeWay’s store reopened faster than others in the area because of a desire to minister to believers.
“We are a ministry tool and [churches] need our support. We are focusing on the ministry aspect,” said Houston. “It’s the right thing to do.”