By Cyndi Sellers
After almost 90 years of ministry, the Big Lake Gospel Tabernacle building is no more, but the church does not intend to let the destruction of Hurricane Laura stop them. Pastor Garry Mann says they plan to rebuild, but they need a little help. “This church has been a landmark in this community for a long time, and a positive influence for a long time,” he said. “We weren’t expecting this. But we’re here today, and that’s what matters.”
After Laura, the church building looked like a giant had stepped on the roof. Delta did further damage, making the building beyond repair, according to the pastor. “What wasn’t destroyed was quickly being taken over by mold” he said. “The decision was made to take down the structure and raise up a new one, mold free and substantially stronger.”
Pastor Mann and Mr. Elray Nunez, church board vice-president and oldest member, recounted the history of the church while sitting in Mr. Nunez’s den, where the remaining church members now meet on Sundays for services.
The church was founded in the mid-1930s, meeting in houses and later moving into a wooden church building located near the Grand Lake pontoon bridge. In 1942, the building was dismantled and reassembled at its present location on the island. One hundred-year-old stained glass windows from the Catholic church in Hackberry were installed in front. A brick facade was added later, and a classroom and fellowship hall wing constructed. In the early 1980s a steeple was placed on top of the sanctuary.
The church building flooded during Hurricanes Rita and Ike, but not Laura, yet Laura caused worse damage, said Pastor Mann, who has led the church for over 50 years. It was “the toughest, meanest storm.” The congregation, which numbered about 80 before Rita, and about 50 afterward, has lost more members due to storm displacement, and now numbers around 25.
Nevertheless, they plan to rebuild. “We are confident that’s what the Lord wants us to do,” said the pastor. “We are also confident there are those out there who love this church and have been touched by this ministry over the years. We appeal to those who have been touched by this ministry and would like to donate toward a new building.” The pastor’s home was also damaged in the storms and is not habitable, needing interior work.
The church’s mailing address is 10430 Highway 384, Lake Charles (Big Lake) LA 70607. Interested persons may call Pastor Mann at 337-794-1266 or Mr. Elray Nunez at 337-794-5442 or 337-598-2934. Emails may be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.