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Seashore Mission starts over with partnership

The Revs. Sally Bevill and Elijah Mitchell greet worshippers arriving for the March 18 celebration of the new partnership of Beauvoir United Methodist Church and Seashore Mission Church. A UMNS photo courtesy of Mississippi United Methodist Advocate.

By Lisa Michiels*
April 5, 2007 | BILOXI, Miss. (UMNS)

Just in time for Easter, the Seashore Mission has new life on the Gulf Coast.

Clergy and lay members of the Seashore District gathered March 18 at Beauvoir United Methodist Church to celebrate new beginnings of ministry to displaced people.

Seashore Mission Church, on Howard Avenue in Biloxi, housed the United Methodist district’s ministry to the homeless. After Hurricane Katrina destroyed its building and scattered its staff in 2005, the future of the mission’s programming was uncertain.

"After the storm, a number of people began conversations about how to recover the ministry. We kept running into road blocks along the way until the conversations led to a partnership with Beauvoir United Methodist Church, giving the ministry of Seashore Mission a place to begin anew," said the Rev. Bill McAlilly, the area’s district superintendent.

"To that end we have reappointed the Rev. Elijah Mitchell to Seashore Mission Church and as an associate to Beauvoir United Methodist Church. Beauvoir and Seashore Mission will join as a worshipping community," he said.

The mission church offered those seeking refuge a place to find food, shelter, a 12-step program, a general equivalency degree and discipleship classes for more than 15 years. Through partnerships with area businesses and other agencies, it also provided limited medical, legal and employment services. Prior to Katrina, it met the needs of 75 to 100 people a day.

In the 18 months since Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, temporary housing and employment were found for the staff. Mitchell accepted an assignment with Mississippi United Methodist Disaster Response.

‘God is the leader’

The original site of Seashore Mission Church presented challenges through the years, so the storm provided the board with an opportunity to seek property that could better serve the ministry’s needs.

"Katrina may have destroyed the facility, but it did not destroy the spirit or the love of the ministry to God’s precious souls."
–The Rev. Elijah Mitchell

"Katrina may have destroyed the facility, but it did not destroy the spirit or the love of the ministry to God’s precious souls," Mitchell said. "Our partnership with Beauvoir does not mean that we have given up our dream of a building to house and expand the ministry."

The partnership does offer a place of worship and an office space for Mitchell.

The Rev. Sally Bevill and the congregation of Beauvoir welcomed Mitchell and the members of the mission. Beauvoir has a history of community service and just recently was awarded the 2006-07 Community Partnership Award from "Hands On Gulf Coast."

Since Hurricane Katrina, the church has housed the Hands On service organization, and Bevill, the church’s pastor, also serves as the conference Hispanic-Latino coordinator.

The shared ministry of Bevill and Mitchell presents an opportunity for expanded services to displaced people.

"We’re not sure where it leads, but we are sure that God is the leader," Bevill said. "Katrina has showed us God makes beautiful and wonderful things out of disaster. I know what the past looks like and we can’t change it, but we can look forward and make changes. I trust God to show us the way."

*Michiels is a correspondent for the Mississippi United Methodist Advocate, the newspaper of the Mississippi Annual Conference.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.


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