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Minister heads back with supplies

Rev. Bob Madsen, left, pastor at First Presbyterian in Gulf Shores, Ala., talks with Rev. Steve Bryant of First Presbyterian Church in Vicksburg Thursday about supplies Madsen will be taking with him when he returns home Saturday. (Meredith Spencer The Vicksburg Post)

[9/17/04]The minister of one of the churches closest to where the eye of Hurricane Ivan made landfall Thursday will head back South with help from his Vicksburg counterpart.

The Rev. Bob Madsen, the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Gulf Shores, Ala., and his wife, Linda, plan to return home Saturday from the home of the Rev. Steve Bryant, the pastor of Vicksburg’s First Presbyterian Church, and his family.

Bryant, a friend of Madsen’s from seminary, called and offered them and their two dogs a place to evacuate. They will return home with a backup power source they expect they’ll need during the two to three weeks they may be without power.

“Steve’s going to loan us a trailer and a generator, and we’re going to pick up some supplies and try to head back Saturday,” Madsen said.

The Madsens plan to use the loaned equipment to power basic appliances like their refrigerator so they can return to their home and help with the cleanup effort as soon as possible.

“Just get back, find out what’s happened with members of my congregation and their homes, find out what’s happened with the community and see what ways we can be of help,” Madsen said when asked what they planned to do next.

Most members of Madsen’s congregation are elderly and he did not know how many of them had evacuated ahead of the storm, he added.

The Madsens and their congregation won’t be alone in offering help to those affected by the storm. He and Bryant said their denomination has an arm, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, designed to help it respond in such cases.

The Madsens’ home and church are within about three miles of the Gulf of Mexico on an island. Authorities have not yet allowed people to return, but reports are the church steeple was knocked off, some trees were knocked down and a sign was twisted, Madsen said. The only damage reported at their home, however, was of some vinyl siding that had been blown off.

The Madsens were one of two Presbyterian-minister families who evacuated to the Bryants’ home, they said. The others were from Gulfport and brought with them two children and two cats.

They were among thousands who fled the coast to Vicksburg and the surrounding area in advance of Ivan.

By this morning, only 30 to 35 people remained at one of the four shelters that remained open, American Red Cross executive director Beverly Connelly said. Those evacuees were from Alabama and Florida, the areas hardest-hit by Ivan.

“We’re going to make a decision after lunch” as to how to handle accommodations for the remaining evacuees, Connelly said.

The number of evacuees in shelters was down from the 565 that was reported at 10 p.m. Wednesday, as strong winds and rain were beginning along the coast.

Hotels also emptied quickly Thursday, with all but three Vicksburg hotels reporting vacancies for that night, according to the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.