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As church recovers, pastor sees expanded ministry role

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A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

The Rev. Gene Faurie adjusts a makeshift display built from the remains of the altar of Buras (La.) Trinity United Methodist Church.
Aug. 28, 2006

By Kathy L. Gilbert*

BURAS, La. (UMNS) — The harshest winds from Hurricane Katrina first hit a remote community on the tip of the Louisiana coast destroying most of the town, including Buras Trinity United Methodist Church.

Buras was once a beautiful coastal town located near Empire, touted as one of the top three fishing spots in the world. Now, groves of gray, dying trees line the lonely highway and FEMA trailer villages are scattered among the slabs and splinters of former houses.

“If it wasn’t for the weeds, nothing would be green,” says Debbie Faurie, wistfully. She and her husband, the Rev. Gene Faurie, pastor of Buras Trinity, lost their home and all their possessions in the storm.

“People say Katrina was a Category 3 hurricane when it hit. Down in Buras, we know it was stronger than that,” Gene says.

About 60 to 70 members of the Buras congregation drive from various parts of the state to meet in the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church, Gretna, on Sunday nights. Gene says he used to have an attendance of about 240 on Sundays. Most of the members were young families with children. With nothing left for them in Buras, many have moved, he says.

Almost single-handedly, Gene is tearing down and cleaning out the remains of his brick and frame church. Most days he and Debbie drive out to the church and work. Unlike churches in many other parts of the state, Trinity has received only two volunteer teams since the storm hit Aug. 29, 2005.

He says he would love to get some volunteer teams in Buras. He would also like money to buy new tools.

“I am wearing out all of mine,” he says.

Future dreams

A former contractor, Gene dreams of turning the shell of his church into a shelter to house teams of volunteers.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

The Rev. Gene Faurie and his wife, Debbie, can't decide where the bedroom of their former home was located before Hurricane Katrina struck.
“I can see a kitchen (and) bathrooms with showers, and the old fellowship hall can be an open-air pavilion,” he says, pointing to a large room missing most of its roof and a wall. The couple has been living in a trailer provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency since the storm. The Fauries laugh when asked what it’s like to live in an 8-by-30 foot trailer.

“When we applied for a trailer, I asked for a slide-out,” Gene says. Slide-outs expand the living space while still keeping the home within widths needed for towing.

“I told them I needed extra space because I was going to have to have a church office in the trailer. Well, somebody else got our slide-out,” he says.

He smiles and turns to Debbie. “I tell her the trailer we wanted is probably saving somebody’s marriage,” he says. “We get along pretty well.”

Gene wants to use the insurance money from the church and parsonage to build the church in a new location. He says he and Debbie can live in a camper on the slab of their old home.

“ It was really hard at first,” he says, standing on the cracked concrete slab of his former home. He shakes his head.

“God will take this and do wonderful things,” he says. “I want to be part of it.”

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

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