At the corner of Canal and Broad Street in New Orleans is an old church. The building and congregation date back over 100 years. When Hurricane Katrina hit in August of 2005, everything changed for that little church.
My friends Frank and Parris Bailey have been pastoring in New Orleans for over 35 years. Little did Parris know because of the Katrina disaster that God would ‘connect the dots’ in her life and give birth to a dream she had carried around for over 35 years.
In the 1970’s Parris and I were new brides and new mothers. We had our new found faith in Jesus and lived in community in the middle of California, sharing everything we had.
During that season, my husband and I ended up in New Orleans and helped start a church in a house in 1976. That house was filled to the ceiling, rafters and stairs with young people and after a year we returned to California.
Frank and Parris went back to New Orleans to take over the work and year after year realized more and more fruit from their ministry. They now have one of the largest churches in the New Orleans area, Victory Fellowship.
Thanks to Katrina, they meet in three different locations–the suburbs, downtown New Orleans and across Lake Pontchartrain. The places where their members landed after the hurricane has dictated the life of their church.
I say ‘thanks’ because of this–an African American congregation displaced due to the hurricane gave the church to Victory, if they would take responsibility for it’s restoration.
God had more than one kind of restoration in mind.
When Parris was 14 she became pregnant and had to give her daughter up for adoption. Because of that experience she turned to a life of serious drug abuse, a downward spiral that finally led her to giving up and finding Jesus.
As Victory’s ministry and outreach grew, Parris held a secret prayer in her heart that she could build a place of restoration for women who were lost like she was–out on the streets with nowhere to turn.
In February of 2009 I had the privilege of seeing this dream come true first hand as I visited the site of the soon-to-be-opened home for Mary’s Song, directly across the street from the church on Broad and Canal Street.
And Mary said, “I’m bursting with God-news; I’m dancing the song of my Savior God, God took one look at me, and look what happened, I’m the most fortunate woman on earth.”
An abandoned ‘shotgun’ style house was being renovated for the first group of women to enter the restoration and rehab program that would be Mary’s Song.
(you can click on some of the links below to see the ‘now’ photos)
There have been great successes with Mary’s Song graduates–lives have been changed and ministry has taken place.
Three years have gone by. This past April I met many of the women in the program in person. I had the honor and privilege of sharing God’s Word with them and listening as each one told me a little bit of their story.
I was touched by their lives and impressed at their courage in the middle of desperate situations.
After our time together we went for a walk in the Sculpture Garden at City Park.
(Parris is interested in body, soul and spirit ministry!)
We had a work out and a ‘faith walk’ as she stopped near various sculptures to share a biblical parallel.
One cause close to Parris’ heart was a desire to make the ministry of Mary’s Song self-sufficient. She hit upon a plan three years ago to package and produce organic skin care products as a way to bring the needed financial support to the ministry.
The line ‘change your skin, change a life’ has become a Mary’s Song theme.
I can tell you from personal experience, not only are the products fabulous, they are remarkably reasonably priced. AND the proceeds go to support women in restoration.
Now, that’s a win-win situation.
I share all of this with you, my friends, to encourage you to visit the Mary’s Song site and see for yourself what God is doing and how and if you might help.
This Friday, October 19th is the Third Annual Mary’s Song Auction and Benefit.
The event is being held at beautiful facilities in City Park (of course).
AND it is SOLD OUT! Hooray.
However, if you’d like to make a donation to this important work of restoring women and learn more about the program, you can click here http://www.marysong.net/
You can also view the Victory Fellowship home page here. There are two interviews with newsmedia and my friend Parris, telling about Mary’s Song.
The Mary’s Song Summer Newsletter link is here. Please take the time to check it out; you’ll find all you need to ‘change your skin and change a life’.
Photos, from top: Close up of window in Broad Street Church, church building, ‘before’ shot of Mary’s Song group home, pond in sculpture garden (white egret near edge of pond), bench sculptures, Parris, Mary’s Song women. All by J.L. Collins Feb. 2009, April 2012
and with Jennifer for God Bumps.
More inspiring stories over there!