Teen's songs offer hope after Katrina
Feb. 6, 2007
NOTE: Photos are available at http://umns.umc.org.
A UMNS Report By Woody Woodrick*
Elizabeth Cumbest says the seven songs she has written about Hurricane Katrina are prayers set to music.
Supporters of the Seashore Mission Church in Biloxi, Miss., hope the songs are an answer to their prayers.
A 15-year-old United Methodist, Elizabeth released an eight-song compact disc at a special service on Jan. 14 at Heritage United Methodist Church in D'Iberville, Miss. Within three weeks, "All Things New - Songs of Hope after Hurricane Katrina" had raised about $6,000, with proceeds going to help Seashore Mission Church recover from the storms.
When Katrina roared ashore on Aug. 29, 2005, a dozen people sought shelter in Seashore Mission, which serves the poor and homeless in Biloxi. Only six of those people survived, and all that's left of the building today is a concrete slab.
The story left an indelible impression on Elizabeth, who became involved with the mission as a child working with her parents, the Rev. Chris Cumbest and the Rev. Sheila Cumbest, both of whom work with the denomination's Mississippi Conference.
On and off for almost two years after Katrina hit, the teenager wrote songs praising God for grace in the midst of tragedy but also expressing fears and heartaches for so many losses. Her song "I Need You" says:
"I'm broken inside "And this pain in my heart I can't hide. "When it seems that everything I love is gone, "And everything that could went wrong "When there's nothing else, I need you." "Cause I'm crying and I'm torn "My spirit is broken, my heart is worn "And when it seems there's nothing left to do "That's when I need you."
Elizabeth hadn't planned to do much with her songs. However, while traveling with her parents last summer to the denomination's California-Pacific Conference, someone suggested she put her song "The Storm" on a CD.
"I started thinking that I had written several songs and wondered how I could use them to help the ministry of the Gulf Coast," she said. "The Seashore Mission Church came to mind when thinking about all of that.
"I think it was a God thing that he told me to do this."
She didn't rush into the recording studio, though. Elizabeth discussed the possibilities with her parents and then with members of the Mission Church council. The teen says the meeting was emotional. "We were all in tears together. They laid hands on me and prayed for their mission as I do my mission for their mission," she said.
"I think it's a great idea that will help the church," said the Rev. Elijah Mitchell, pastor at the Seashore Mission Church. "I attended a council meeting when she presented her plan and we're excited about it. She's been telling the story of what happened at the Mission Church in several different locations."
Jim Barnes of Hattiesburg, Miss., agreed to produce the recording. Work began last August, and the CD was completed in December.
Elizabeth called the recording process "really cool."
"It was very neat to have to learn how to do all that," she said. "I had to play the guitar and sing about 20 times for each song, it felt like. I think I did each song about five times.
"We had to record the guitar, vocals and mix it, then go back and put in all the other instruments I wanted to put in."
Elizabeth doesn't see herself pursuing a music career, however. "I really want to go to law school first. My dream is to be in politics and law. This is the kind of thing where if God leads you go," she said.
Besides helping provide needed funds for the Seashore Mission, Elizabeth hopes the songs offer encouragement and comfort to Katrina survivors and helpers. "I hope those who live on the Gulf Coast will get hope to rebuild their lives, homes and communities," she said. "I hope these songs help people not associated with Katrina to keep the Mississippi Gulf Coast in their prayers."
To order "All Things New - Songs of Hope after Hurricane Katrina" CD for $10 each, call 228-588-9222 or send $12.50 ($10 plus $2.50 shipping and handling) to P.O. Box 849, Hurley, MS 39555. Make checks payable to Seashore District UMC/Mission Church.
*Woodrick is editor for the Mississippi United Methodist Advocate.
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