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Wiped out by Katrina, New Orleans church finds sanctuary in a living room

The Mount Nebo Bible Baptist Church in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. As members of the neighborhood slowly return, Rev. Charles Duplessis leads church services and bible study in his own living room, hoping someday to rebuild.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Before we go, we finish out the week with voices from a small community church in New Orleans that's still trying to rebuild a full decade later.

    The Mount Nebo Bible Baptist Church was destroyed in the Lower Ninth Ward during the storm, while neighborhood residents were forced to move away. Today, they are returning slowly.

    But the Reverend Charles Duplessis still has to lead church service and Bible study in the living room of his very home, as he works to bring back the church building.

  • REV. CHARLES DUPLESSIS, Mount Nebo Bible Baptist Church:

    The day we entered the building, we surrounded it. We had the friends and family and the church members. We surrounded the church. We said a prayer before we even went into the building.

    And so we went in, and we had a joyful noise in the lord. We had choirs. We started a youth choir. We had Sunday school, Bible study. And on Sundays, every other Sunday, we'd have volleyball, and the young children would play basketball and football, because they had enough room to do all three of those things. It was two stories. We sat on 20,000 square feet of property. It was five lots. So we moved in and we were in it until Katrina struck.

  • WOMAN:

    We don't really talk about it. We know what done happened. We done went through it. So, there's nothing else we could do, and just thank God we're still around. A lot of people didn't even come back. I guess they had nothing to come back to.

  • REV. CHARLES DUPLESSIS:

    When we got to the church, we went up the steps and opened the door. The pews were pushed forward. The stairs to attic was down.

    And it was just heartbreaking to see where you ministered and where the kids played and where we worshiped at all devastated. The question was, how do you get the church back? All the congregation had been scattered. And it took us awhile to find where everybody was.

    We had 120 people in our congregation, and now we're down to 49. I woke up one morning, about 2:30, and I was crying. And God said, why are you crying? I said, God, you know why. Lord, you know why I am crying. I don't where the people are or anything like that. I can't find them.

    And he said, I got it.

  • WOMAN:

    Place it into the sea of forgetfulness, but we're never homeless on our just day.

  • REV. CHARLES DUPLESSIS:

    Our home was finally rebuilt in 2009. And so when we moved in, we started having services here in the home, trying to rebuild the church on Flood Street. I knew God would, some kind of way, bring it back together.

    He said, now my son who was lost. Now he's found. And, therefore, the whole household could rejoice.

  • WOMAN:

    I know he would like to have the church rebuilt. I would like to see it rebuilt myself. I miss the church, but the church is in your heart.

    I don't care where you're at. You can have it on a tent outside. You could be on the street. If you're praising God, house or no house, it's a blessing to have a place to go. .

  • TANGELA DUPLESSIS BAKER, Church Member:

    One of the things that the Bible says is, speak those things as if they were already. And I see the church. It's there in my mind. There is no doubt that God will restore us.

    What I do know about people from New Orleans is, we always come back. That's the uniqueness of our culture. It's that, I want to be home. I am coming home.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    What an inspiration.

    Reverend Duplessis says he has still raised less than half the money needed to rebuild the church, but he says he is confident in its full return.

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