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Barry sends missionaries to WCU

TO THE RESCUE — Twenty-four GenSend missionaries working in New Orleans spent the weekend of Hurricane Barry landfall at William Carey University (WCU) in Hattiesburg after being evacuated from New Orleans by Hardy Street Church in Hattiesburg. In the left background is Tatum Court, which was rebuilt after a devastating 2017 tornado. The new building was dedicated on July 18. (Photo courtesy of WCU)


By Suzanne Monk


As Hurricane Barry approached the Louisiana coast, 24 college students serving as GenSend missionaries in New Orleans were evacuated on buses sent by Hardy Street Church in Hattiesburg.

The students spent the weekend in residence halls at William Carey University (WCU) in Hattiesburg and attended worship services at Hardy Street Church.

“William Carey University is so grateful for the assistance we received from others after the tornado, and we’re pleased we were able to reach out to these students during their time of need,” said WCU President Tommy King.

The university, which is affiliated with the Mississippi Baptist Convention, was hit by a tornado in January 2017 that was officially classified as an EF3 in intensity. Six buildings were destroyed outright or damaged so badly that they had to be demolished. Other buildings on campus required extensive repairs.

In the two years since, WCU has been steadily rebuilding and returning to normal.

The Hurricane Barry story began July 11, when Scott Hanberry, pastor of Hardy Street Church, received a telephone call from his friend George Ross, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) Send City missionary for New Orleans and assistant professor of church planting and evangelism at New Orleans Seminary.

Ross coordinates the GenSend program in New Orleans. According to the NAMB web site, GenSend is a program for Christians ages 19-25 designed to “immerse young adults into a context where they gain practical knowledge of the realities of missions and leadership.”

With Barry rapidly approaching, Ross had a problem. Parts of New Orleans were already flooding, the storm’s expected path and strength were in flux, and he needed to move a group of GenSend missionaries to higher ground as a precaution.

Hanberry called Brett Golson, chair of the WCU department of Christian ministries, director of bivocational ministries, and associate professor of religion.

“I told him William Carey University would be happy to put them up for the weekend,” Golson said. “We had a plan by about 10 a.m. Hardy Street sent the buses while we finished working out the logistics on our end,” Golson said.

By 5:30 p.m. on July 11, the students had arrived on campus.

On July 12, Bennie Crockett gave the students a tour of The Carey Center where the work of William Carey is highlighted.

Crockett is WCU’s vice-president for institutional effectiveness and planning, professor of religion and philosophy, and co-director of the Carey Center.

William Carey, for whom the university is named, is known as the Father of Modern Missions for his extensive work during the 1800s as a missionary and linguist in India. The Carey Center’s two main exhibits house artifacts from his time in both England and India.

WCU hosts took the students out to eat at The Midtowner restaurant, where they got a feel for downtown Hattiesburg. On July 14, Hardy Street Church picked them up for breakfast and worship services.

“Our congregation was thrilled to meet them,” Hanberry said. “It’s one thing to be part of the Southern Baptist family and support their work financially through the Cooperative Program, which funds missionary outreach, but being able to worship with them on Sunday was very special for us.”

As the rain let up on the afternoon of July 14, the GenSend students boarded the buses one last time to return to their mission projects in inner city New Orleans.

Monk is WCU coordinator of media relations and marketing.