Saving the Cross

September 15, 2020
As Hurricane Laura made landfall in southwest Louisiana, Brenella Nickson sat on her sofa with her grandson in Welsh, Louisiana, 25 miles to the east of Lake Charles. 

"It was bad," she said. "At 11:00, the lights went out, and it sounded like a train was coming through the yard and trees just started popping out of the ground. We just sat on my sofa and prayed."

The next morning, Nickson started surveying damage in the neighborhood when someone stopped to tell her the door to Jones United Methodist Church, a church she has been attending her entire life, was wide open. 

Nickson made her way to the church and found more than an open door. She noticed a few shingles missing, some damaged paneling on the church's front, and debris all over the property. Then she looked up at the steeple, one of the tallest structures in the Welsh neighborhood. 

The steeple was intact, but the cross was missing. 

Amid downed power lines and wind-strewn debris, the 64-year-old insisted on searching for the cross. 
The cross from Jones' steeple now sits to the right of the 'old rugged' cross Nickson's father made 15 years ago after Hurricane Rita.

"I've been worshiping under that cross for 40 years since this particular site for Jones United Methodist Church was built in 1980," she said. "I had to find that cross, and I had to make sure it was safe." 

Nickson would later find the cross sitting in a park across the street. She carried it back to the church. 

"I am so grateful that it didn't fly away," Nickson says. "It's good and dirty now, but it's in great shape. We're now calling it the 'old rugged cross'!"

Nickson is familiar with 'rugged crosses' as her father built a wooden cross for the church 15 years ago after Hurricane Rita devastated the area. After making the cross, her father wanted to varnish and paint it, but the pastor at the time insisted that the cross remain unfinished.

"And now we have two 'old and rugged' crosses," Nickson says.   

Nickson says Hurricane Laura and everything that has happened in 2020 has awakened the Welsh community and the congregation at Jones United Methodist Church. "We need to serve and nurture more," she says. "It's all by God's grace and mercy that's keeping us. We've just got to keep the faith and keep keepin' on." 

Nickson says the church hopes to re-attach the cross, but in the meantime, volunteers have been busy tarping the roof and patching leaks. 


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