Hurricane Evacuees Now Rooted in Texas

Come Saturday and Sunday a celebration of life will take place inside a church in the middle of the Texas hill country.  Friday morning, Pastor Willie Monnet took another look at the sermon he has prepared.

His message will focus on a journey – one that 10 years ago, brought his congregation out of New Orleans and into the Texas hill country.

"I believe God brought us together to be able to prepare us for a greater mission," said Pastor Monnet.

Monnet's "smoking for Jesus ministry,” which is a reference to a bible passage about being passionate for god, originally operated in a rough part of east New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina forced the 200-member church to join the mass evacuation west out of harm’s way.

"By God leading us from New Orleans to here, I don’t worry anymore. That journey you talked about, that was the worrying because everything was uncertain," said Pastor Monnet.

The group first stopped in Lumberton— but spent more than 40 days on the move.

They traveled northeast to lone star, then west to Dallas. They also bounced between Austin and Burnet, until ending up in Marble Falls.  

"It’s amazing how God could take us to all those places and build our faith at the same time," said Monnet.

His church property in New Orleans was destroyed by the flood. Instead of giving up, Monnet found and purchased a closed Burnet County Boys Ranch.

Located just outside of Kingsland, the 56 acres went up for sale about the same time the hurricane made landfall.

"Now I believe He has got a plan, he just didn’t wake up one morning and fall off his chair and say, ‘oh I forgot.’ He has got a perfect plan he is working, I believe that," said the Pastor.

So did most everyone else – which is why only a handful returned to Louisiana. Nearly 50 families built homes on the ranch or live nearby.

Like the Oak trees here on this campus, the congregation has worked hard to sink roots into the Texas Hill Country. To pray and to work here.

The church operates a restaurant in Marble Falls, and several members have also started small businesses.

“It’s 10 years now, it seems just like yesterday, but still every now and then I’m like, ‘wow, Texas who would have ever thought,’" said restaurant manager Erin Legier.

For those who have stayed, this is now home and there is not going back.

"This is where God led us.  I'm content here," said church member Derreck Washington.

Initial concerns about the newcomers by some longtime residents have long faded away.

"They've just been fantastic," said Dee Fenton who lives in Johnson City with her husband.

The Fenton’s first got to know members of the church group when they originally opened the New Orleans eatery in Round Mountain, south of Marble Falls.

"These people who run this place has changed a lot of people's opinion too of what was coming over," said Bobby Fenton.

Despite the acceptance, Pastor Monnet told me it’s important to understand their journey isn’t over.

"So we've got a new enemy now, this fight has not ceased just because we've come to the land of promise or its peaceful in Texas, We are engaged with in another enemy."

And that enemy would be becoming complacent—a spiritual threat this modern day, to which Moses believes, is just as dangerous as the storm that nearly destroyed New Orleans.