Church Finds New Home In The "Wilderness"

On January 20, 2005, Pastor Willie Monnet’s sermon held a troubling prediction for his congregation in New Orleans. “You know, God is really having mercy on America, really,” he told his congregation. “I mean with all the things you see going on with the weather and all that, New Orleans could be under water 20 or 30 feet in a split second.”

Pastor Monnet started the inner city church in 1996 and became a safe haven for many from drugs and violence. Located east of New Orleans in the city’s ninth ward, he named it Smoking for Jesus Ministries. “Revelation 3:16, Jesus says ‘I would rather you be cold or hot,’ but if you are lukewarm, he says he will spew you out of his mouth. So we named it Smoking for Jesus Ministries—on fire for the Lord, red hot,” he says.
For Pastor Monnet, the church was family and was determined to keep them together, and safe.  In faith, he and members of the church started preparing for the impending disaster. They were calling the storm, Katrina. Monnet remembers, “The news reporters showed how tremendous this storm was going to be, a Category 5, and everybody knew that at some point, New Orleans would flood.”
On Saturday, August 27, 2005, the order came to evacuate. Church Elder William Tumblin recalls that morning. “From the time that pastor told us to start boarding up, we were ripping and running, making sure we had enough stuff and supplies and materials,” he says. “You can imagine, boarding up everything, and then when you finish boarding, you’ve got to run home and try to hurry and pack and get your family together to get out of Dodge. So it was pretty hectic.”
Pastor Monnet also recalls that morning. “Sunday morning, there was an eerie feeling in the air,” Monnet says. “Everything was quiet, and knowing that something was going to happen, tremendous, in that city.”
That morning, a caravan of 40 cars carrying 200 church members, left the church parking lot and headed west toward Texas. “We got in the cars together and expected to take a journey that would probably only take about five or six hours,” Monnet says. “It turned into twelve hours.”
They came to a retreat center in Lumberton, Texas. The first thing they did was hold a service.  Elder Tumblin says, “God blessed us, and even in Lumberton, we were able to use their facilities. One of the things that really stood out about this whole ordeal was that, no matter where we went, we always did church services.”
By Wednesday, they were able to watch news reports of the devastation Katrina and the resulting storm surge was inflicting on their city and their neighborhood.
Church member Courtnaye Richards remembers seeing the damage, “The water was up to street signs. And that was a reality check for us that ‘Wow, our city is under water.’ It was like, ‘What do you think we should do?” Basically we were homeless. We had nowhere to go. So we began to pray.”
After two weeks of living in the cramped quarters of the retreat center, some members drove back to New Orleans to survey the damage. “The church took about four feet of water. At 90 percent humidity, everything was molded. All our homes were devastated,” Monnet says. “We only had three days’ clothes that we took with us for the journey.”
They realized there was nothing left for them in New Orleans. Then, just three weeks after Katrina, they learned that another storm, Rita, was headed straight for Lumberton.  “We didn’t know which way to turn, but God did,” Tumblin recalls.  “He had everything laid out already and all we had to do was, just sort of take our hands off the wheel and trust Him.”
They headed west to the Texas hill country. Because of the millions fleeing the storm, a five-hour drive took them nineteen hours. But everywhere they went, they say God provided all they needed for their journey. “Just to see other churches open up their doors to us, that’s unusual, to be running around with 200 people, and then trying to find somewhere to house them,” Tumblin says. “Every step of the journey, everything we needed was always there, from food to clothing.”
Forty days after leaving New Orleans, the church found what they call their “Promised Land,” in the Texas hill country town of Marble falls.  It just so happened--a brand new apartment complex had just opened. “Nobody had lived in it,” Monnet says. “They needed people to live in their apartment complex. So God sent all these families that needed a place. We didn’t have any furniture. So everything was given at that time to these 52 families or more. That was God giving manna in the wilderness.”
Eventually, the pastor heard of a nearby property in Burnet, Texas that was for sale, which included a church, land, and several adjacent buildings. “God opened up this place, and the man that wanted to sell this place called us and said, ‘You are an ideal match for the property.’ That was part of this miracle,” Monnet says. “How did God know, we needed these dormitories? We needed property to build our house. We needed a church. We needed administrative offices. We needed a cafeteria. We needed a gymnasium for our children. We needed a playground---and everything was here already. God had prepared everything. Everything was ready.”
Since settling in the area, the church and its members have flourished.  Their many ministries have provided vital services to the community.  They even opened up a Cajun seafood restaurant, bringing a little taste of New Orleans to the Texas hill country. “It was definitely a faith journey because we didn’t know where we were going,” Richards says. “But we knew that God had a plan. We knew God had a plan.”

“Just like Moses said, ‘I didn’t do this. God did it,” Monnet asserts. “People ask us all that time. How did you choose Marble Falls?’ We didn’t even know it existed. You’re talking about walking by faith, just trusting God.”

Mentioned in the Video

Guest Info


Right-click on a link below and choose "Save link as..." to save the file

High Definition - MP4
High Quality - MP4
Low Bandwidth - MP4
Audio Only - MP3
Give Now