New Boyce College student experiences God’s provision in the storm

Communications Staff — November 3, 2005

On Aug. 29, Hurricane Katrina swept into New Orleans, forever altering the lives of those who lived there. Damage and destruction permeated the city and surrounding areas. Ever since, people have sought to recover and piece back together their broken and storm-scattered lives.

James Thompson is one of those people. The story of he, his wife Pam and their two daughters, Marissa Grace and Makayla Mercy, is one of God’s protection and provision for His people.

In August 2005, Thompson started his fifth semester at Leavell College, the undergraduate institution of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Thompson served as the seminary’s webmaster, and he and his family lived on the seminary campus. Pam was pregnant with their second child, due to arrive in early October.

Thompson said he and Pam had become accustomed to monitoring hurricanes since their arrival in New Orleans in 2003, and as Hurricane Katrina approached, they kept a watchful eye on the storm. On Aug. 27, the school issued an official evacuation notice.

“We went to Alexandria, La., to stay with Dr. Chuck Quarrels, a former professor at NOBTS and our former pastor,” Thompson said. “Sunday morning, we woke up and my wife was going into labor.”

Seven weeks premature, Makayla Mercy was on her way. Thompson rushed Pam to Rapides Regional Medical Center and a doctor was called out of a local church service to deliver the baby. At 9 a.m., Makayla arrived and was immediately taken to the hospital’s neonatal unit in good health.

“We called home to Florida to ask people to pray for us, and it turns out that someone there knew the doctor who was handling the delivery,” Thompson said. “They called up to his church in Louisiana, and we had two whole churches praying for us in their worship services.”

The day after the Thompsons celebrated the birth of their second child, Hurricane Katrina hit land.

“We watched news reports and followed the storm and the destruction that followed,” Thompson recalled.

As they waited in Alexandria, Thompson worked on what they would do next.

“I was in touch with another student who had come from New Orleans up to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,” he said. “I learned that we could take classes at Boyce College and that the seminary was making arrangements for housing for those who needed it.”

After Makayla got out of the hospital, Pam’s father came up and took Pam and the girls back to Florida to stay with family, while Thompson headed to Louisville to try and secure a place to live. When he called Southern about housing, he received good news.

“It turns out that some people going down to Florida until May of next year had just called Southern that morning to offer their condo to anyone coming from New Orleans,” he said. “I called later that day about housing and they gave me the condo. It was perfect for our needs.”

Thompson moved into the condo in mid-September, and began taking classes. He was also put in touch with Lawrence Smith, vice president for communications at Southern, and recently started working for the seminary as a webmaster.

During fall break, Thompson flew down to Florida and discovered that his and Pam’s families and local church had gathered together furniture, clothes and other items for them to take back to Kentucky. That weekend, both of the Thompsons’ families traveled with them to Louisville to bring the gifts and help them get settled.

In early October, Thompson and his father went back to New Orleans to see what was left of their stuff.

“We went into our apartment and other than a musty smell there was no damage,” Thompson said. “The people downstairs from us had lost everything, but we were able to salvage clothing, bedding, basically anything we wanted.”

Thompson explained that earlier that year they had experienced water leaks in the apartment and the maintenance department had installed a new roof on the building that summer.

“That is another example of God’s provision,” he said.

Thompson also noted things would have been different if Quarrels, their pastor in New Orleans, had not moved to Alexandria.

“Quarrels was a professor at NOBTS, and he left to become a vice-president at Louisiana College. Had he not been in Alexandria, we probably would have gone to Jackson, Miss., which was hit by the storm,” he said. “Also, the hospital in Alexandria had a good neonatal unit, which we needed with the premature birth. Months before the storm, God was making provision for us to have a safe place to flee from the storm.”

Thompson said that God’s provision for him and his family, along with spiritual strength and peace for him personally, have been amazing.

“I am not a person who jumps to spiritualize things. But so many things happened that I can’t help but say that God protected us and blessed us,” he said. “At no point have I felt stressed. I have been able to go through this whole situation very calmly which is a miracle in itself. For whatever reason, God has taken care of us throughout this entire ordeal, and has been merciful and gracious to us in every situation.”

Thompson is still on track to earn his undergraduate degree in the spring, and plans to enroll as a master of divinity student at Southern in the fall of 2006. Pam was taking classes at Leavell and plans to enroll at Boyce that same semester. Makayla is now two months old, and their older daughter Marissa Grace is 17 months old.

Thompson said they are still looking for a local church where they can “serve well beyond our comfort zone.”

Thompson said he would encourage people walking through tough circumstances to keep their trust in the Lord.

“As a believer, you can know that God will take care of you,” he said. “It may not be in the same way that we have been taken care of, but He will take care of you in a way that will allow you to bring glory to Him. We don’t understand it, but I believe that God takes care of us so that we can bring glory to Him no matter the situation.”

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