Hurricane Gustav, described as "the mother of all storms," threatens to wreak havoc on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast with its expected landfall Monday – just one day after Katrina Remembrance Day.
Three years ago, Hurricane Katrina marked its place in U.S. history with its massive destruction of New Orleans. Flood waters submerged 80 percent of the city known for its Mardi Gras festivities and displaced nearly 2 million people from south Louisiana. More than 1,800 lives were lost in total among the Gulf Coast states.
In an effort to not forget the tragedy, churches across the nation held services that incorporated memories of Hurricane Katrina on Sunday.
United Methodist Church Nu Faith Community in Houston was among those that held a service of remembrance for Hurricane Katrina/Rita survivors. Noting the "hardship" of the rebuilding journey, the church said it wanted to honor the memory of those who died and to offer comfort to the families of the victims.
Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori had also called on the denomination's churches to observe Katrina Remembrance Day.
"Katrina Remembrance Sunday is a way of remembering, of heralding the vast relief work that has gone on, and of reminding that there is still work to be done," explained Neva Rae Fox, the Episcopal Church's program officer for public affairs.
Bishop Charles E. Jenkins of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana noted that the church's relief work has shifted from recovery to now including redevelopment and biblical justice.
"The needs continue [to be] great and the resources are dwindling," he said.
Katrina currently stands as the costliest Atlantic hurricane in U.S. history, causing an estimated $81.2 billion in damages. Since 2005, thousands of church volunteers have descended upon New Orleans and the Gulf Coast to assist survivors and rebuild the region.
Now three years after Katrina, many of the same Christian agencies that had helped during that disaster are once again preparing to respond to Hurricane Gustav with its 115-mph winds.
The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and the Salvation Army are among the agencies that plan to provide relief before and after Gustav hits.
Currently, meals are being prepared by the Southern Baptist Feeding Units at shelters housing evacuees in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.
SBC chaplains are also serving with the feeding units to provide ministry and support for the evacuees and volunteers.
Meanwhile, the Salvation Army has or will mobilize more than 170 mobile feeding units across the region. Its total current feeding capability is more than 560,000 meals per day.
Louisiana authorities say most coastal residents have already evacuated, and the streets of the city are empty.
"We're nervous, but we just have to keep trusting in God that we don't get the water again," said Lyndon Guidry, who left for Florida just a few months after he was able to return to his home in New Orleans, according to The Associated Press. "We just have to put our faith in God."
Gustav has already killed at least 94 people by triggering floods and landslides in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. It is the seventh named storm in the Atlantic hurricane season. Tropical Storm Hanna, the eighth, is about 100 miles from the Bahamas.