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Rising from Ruin is an on-going MSNBC.com special report chronicling two coastal Mississippi towns, Bay St. Louis and Waveland, as they rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

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This project is evolving. Our daily dispatches coverage has been retired. Click here to see what happened in the area between mid October and January 1, 2006.

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WAVELAND, Miss.—On a dusty side road just off the main strip, there is a flurry of activity. In a neighborhood where most homes stand silent, this one has about 20 men and women working on the roof. They’re fast, but also festive, moving supplies up ladders and nailing down shingles.

It doesn’t have the feel of a typical roofing crew, and it’s not. It’s the Jehovah’s Witnesses, here to help one of their own.

For homeowner Alice Maness, this is the third crew to come through. The first came and cleaned out the muck, the second gutted the house. And now, the roofers are here.

“We’re Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they help each other,” Maness says.

As we learn, Jehovah’s Witnesses have a well-practiced system for disaster relief. The organization sends out teams to assess damage to members’ homes, orders the materials needed, sets up a base, and then begins deploying church volunteers from its churches all over the country. There are about 300 people at just one of its three bases in the Katrina-stricken region.

Even in normal times, building is part of the church’s culture, because members join building parties to construct Kingdom Halls used for worship.

“We’re practiced, and super fast,” says Brian Matusz.

He should know. His house in Gulf Breeze, Fla., took four feet of water after Hurricane Ivan. But “brothers and sisters” arrived, in wave after wave, and made it habitable within six weeks.

“They came in from everywhere. It was unbelievable,” says Matusz. Now, he says, his house is the only one standing in the cul-de-sac. “All the other neighbors couldn’t get the insurance and everything together, and they’ve all bulldozed.”

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Great observation and story. Thanks for showing a glimmer of hope in such distressing times.

This story reminds me of Jesus Words in John 13:35, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another"

TY MSNBC - Another beautiful example and report showing how we as a nation - can - and should start to see that helping others can be a non denominational-but religious awakening to our lives - and that it is in sharing of love - not hatred - for one another that a truly personal and spiritual experience is achieved as it is in all of us...especially when so many others - are in need of our assitance, our patience, our love and understanding.

And this organization does this for it's members without ANY money being asked for from the recipient of the rebuilding - and without collection from any national advertising - on only voluntary donations being rec'd - to help parents, families and children in need.

We can only hope that soon our current Family Law legal system thru Federal law debate and passage of a shared parenting agenda could start to see - and be seen to work as a part of the solution - in this same light?

Stephen Rene - Founder


Other religious, not-for-profit and fraternal organizations should emulate this. Helping your fellow man is what being "human" is all about.

Your comment is very nice, but I think it is sad to only help those of your"own" when so many are in need.

That's one thing everybody has to give Jehovah's Witnesses credit for: they excel at organizing their members, especially on building projects such as these.

If the rest of the world were to practice what the Witnesses preach and believe, the whole world would be better off.

This article makes it sound like the Jehovah Witnesses are unique in helping out their own. The Catholic Charities help their own and others out in times of trouble, as do Jewish Family Service, as well as the Mormans.

I've known Jehovah's Witnesses to help people regardless of their faith. It kind of goes back to the parable of the Good Samaritan. They help and show love to all people because God loves all people. While the focus of their work is teaching people the Good News of Gods Kingdom, that is only part of the many good things they do for people of all faiths. It's too bad that a lot of folks don't get to know them better.

(1 Timothy 2:1-6) 2 "I therefore exhort, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, offerings of thanks, be made concerning all sorts of men, 2 concerning kings and all those who are in high station; in order that we may go on leading a calm and quiet life with full godly devotion and seriousness. 3 This is fine and acceptable in the sight of our Savior, God, 4 whose will is that all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all—[this is] what is to be witnessed to at its own particular times."

..Maybe now is the time..For what ever happens on a universal scale is beyond our control..

Jehovah's Witness are an example to follow. They are an exceptional organization that always exceeds in showing their love to one another. I am sure God is happy for the work that they are doing helping the hurricane victims.

In all religions there is something positive to focus on. And the fact that these volunteers are not getting paid is an example in itself, one we can all emulate when it comes to giving of our time for others.

Thank you for sharing these positive examples of faith, love and commitment to rebuilding and helping those upholding their faith - in these times of natural crises. It should be noted that all this is done free of charge for those in need - as no donations are being for publically by the organization - to afford these kinds of humanitarian tasks...but prove that more can be done - by the rest of us in a more positive way - to help others especially with all the tax dollars being sent to these disaster sticken areas.

Again - a positive viewpoint - is very much needed in seeing the truth - and that in that the truth and our light - will set us free.

Thank, you again, MSNBC, for sharing this infomation with the internet community and rest of us "in the world - needing some extra light shed on these and so many other critical issues."

It is interesting and appropriate that the title of this piece is "Jehovah's Roofing Service." The love that these Witnesses are showing is a grand reflection of the love shown by Jehovah himself. It is an inspiration to see such love in action and should move others to do the same. Has not the pain of the many local and international disasters been enough to move more --if not all people-- to show more of this same brotherly love? It is not surprising that the Witnesses do these things for their own --and for strangers-- because Jehovah God showed all mankind the greatest love, first.

Most religious organzations help there own first. Not only do Jehovah's Wineses help there own, but they rebuild for others who are not Jehovah's Witnesses as far as the donated supplies extend.....and they do this at no charge. This was very evident in the hurricanes that rolled through Florida in the last several years. Bible says to love your neighbor, they certainly do that.

It seems that FEMA may be able to learn a few things about caring for citizens from this organization. What's interesting is that these people are volunteers and the organization simply encourages helping others, it is not manditory. Hats off to them!

I know that Jehovah's Witnesses are a very caring people. And have been bad mouth by many people. They will always give you smile and a special thought for your day. And if you don't want to be bother by them they will leave you alone. They have to many other people to talk to.

I really enjoyed reading this article about the Witnesse's activities. They are very organized, and not only in building projects but in assembling a worldwide, multi-language, volunteer preaching work. As a former member who was removed due to actions of my own, I bristle at the misrepresentation of their motives. They due strive to keep the organization clean and unified. To that end it is necessary for all members to stay united, in their moral, spiritual, and in the charitable works mentioned above. They are an example for all of us to emulate. This type of unity of mind and spirit is what is sorely lacking in most of man's endeavours. And it is one in which I wish to return to as soon as possible.

It is so nice to read a pleasant, uplifting story in the news anymore. However, it is very sad when a minority of people feel that they must put down others who are doing what they themselves choose not to do, namely giving of themselves for others. Let he who is without sin throw the first stone. There are some critics here who must be free of sin. Instead of throwing out hatred and negativity, why don't you speak of your own good works in aiding others. When Huricane Andrew hit in Florida, a close friend traveled there to help other witnesses - he returned with a binder full of news articles praising what the witnesses were doing. When a local baker gave his bread to a local church only to find that the church was charging $2.00 for each loaf, he decided to bring his bread to the kingdom hall - he soon discovered that the bread was reaching ALL those in need at no charge. Others had a similar experience. Many of the national guard came to the "oasis" as the kindom halls had been nick named to eat a good meal, others soon discovered that it was well organized and very well equiped to get donated items to those in need. There are many times when witnesses have helped all who are in need - just as many other fine organizations have done in the wake of natural disasters. Before anyone chooses to write a comment putting these self sacrificing people down, please pause, consider taking a few days off this week, traveling to the disaster area, spending your time there helping others rebuild their lives and return home - then if you still feel that you must - write your comment. I'm sure you can contact one of the many organizations offering aid that would love your assistance. Maybe it will give you a chance to rub shoulders with other individuals who choose to give of themselves to help others - and one of them may just be a jehovah's witness.

Non-profit fraternal organizations have been there. In fact, Woodmen of the World was one of the first into this area with a mobile cooking team feeding people. Over several weeks Woodmen fed nearly 70,000 meals. Amazing though, there were baptists and catholics and possibly more religions represented on our teams of volunteers who worked around the clock. Kudos to the witnesses for doing what they are doing as well as to all of the other religous and fraternal organizations that are there and will continue to be.

Speaking with an illustration here:
When we go on an airplane or a ship, adults are told to get their oxygen masks and life jackets on, first, respectively. If the elderly and the children were helped first, how would the strong be of any use to the elderly and young once the catastrophe began and ended?
The same is true in all disaster relief efforts. The strong ready themselves, first, then they go out to help those less able to help themselves. As each group of relieved individuals gets the aid they need, they become a stronger, ready, larger group that can assist others.
This same basic premise of learning, accepting and living the truth about Jehovah and His purposes in our own lives, first, is practiced so that others can see the fine results and want to do the same in their lives. In this way, we are truly being Jehovah's Witnesses; we testify about His great love by showing it amongst ourselves, first (Isahiah 43:10, John 13:35)

Very nice article about a humanitarian effort. For those who are critical of the Witnesses, whether they are formally associated with them or not, this article is showing the spirit of helping their fellow man in a crisis. This is an upbuilding story and as your mother used to say: If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all!.

It sounds like a wonderful work the Witnesses are doing.They are helping people when it is needed most.
The ranks of this denomination are overwhelmingly blue collar and construction oriented, and they are using their talents with good intention. However, they still deny that Jesus Christ is God, Jehovah God,Almighty God, the only One and True God. This is the foundation of ALL christian faiths, so beware of this religious machine!

Also noteworthy is that these volunteers travel to location using their own funds, often times losing money in loss of work time and travel/expenses. We really appreciated this kind of self-sacrificing spirit.

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