Parish folks react to spill

Plaquemines Parish, La.

Maurice Phillips, a commercial fisher of Plaquemines Parish, La., took a group of disaster management leaders out on a small boat to “see the oil” on June 7. This is the best way to witness the destruction of the British Petroleum (BP) oil spill, said members of the Grand Bayou. Paul Unruh of Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS), a relief agency supported by Mennonite Brethren churches, led the group as part of a listening tour. The group also met with 11 pastors from the area who described their concerns and expressed their faith in God.

The oil has devastated the seafood industry and the livelihood of individuals in the Parish. Just five years ago, these same families lost their homes because of Hurricane Katrina.

“Usually this time of the year, there would be 100 shrimping boats out,” Phillips said. That morning, the boat for the listening tour was the only one.

“This is all we’ve ever done and we don’t want to do anything else.” Reverend Ted Turner, from a church in Boothville, La., said many young people in the Grand Bayou and Venice, La., learned to fish from their parents, who learned from their parents and on back.

“We live off the land.”
Carolyn, wife of fisherman and assistant pastor Paul Sylve, buys few groceries because the family eats so much of what they fish.

“This Bayou is a great place, and God created it for us. Hopefully they’ll find a way to stop this oil.” Sylve’s 11-year-old daughter said she will cry if she goes out to see the oil in the marsh.

“This is something we haven’t faced before; it’s a new enemy.” Another member of the Bayou community, Rosina Philippe, described the spill as a “product of greed.”

Unruh and Jerry Klassen of MDS provided a collaborated statement regarding a possible MDS response to the spill: “Because of the ongoing, unfinished disaster that’s unfolding and the need for support in the community, our best channel may be to return to our building program, let our hammers ring hope while we continue to listen to other opportunities to respond.”

—Anna Groff, for Meetinghouse

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