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Smoking for Jesus Ministry celebrates 17 years in the Highland Lakes

Smoking for Jesus Ministry choir

The Smoking for Jesus Ministry choir leads a past anniversary celebration of the congregation’s years in the Highland Lakes. The 17th anniversary celebration is 9:15 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 28, in the ministry’s sanctuary, 1804 RR 2342 in the Burnet area. Courtesy photo

Smoking for Jesus Ministry celebrates its 17th anniversary of surviving hurricanes Katrina and Rita with a special service and party beginning at 9:15 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 28, at the church, 1804 FM 2342 in the Burnet area. 

Established in New Orleans, the Smoking for Jesus Ministry and school moved to the Highland Lakes after Hurricane Katrina destroyed most of the congregation’s homes and the church in 2005.

“We had a congregation of over 200 people in New Orleans,” congregant Paige Roberson told Mac McClennahan during an interview on the KBEY 103.9 FM Radio Picayune morning show. “When Katrina came, instead of us leaving and separating, we came together as a church. Our pastor said, ‘Let’s leave together,’ and we did.” 

The church’s story is told in the movie “Mount Up! How One Church Survived Hurricane Katrina and Rita,” which Roberson directed. The movie, which has been shown in theaters, premieres on YouTube at 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 14. 

“When you watch the movie, you’ll feel the joy, you’ll feel the pain, you’ll feel everything we were feeling at that time during our travels from place to place, not knowing if we were going to go home,” Roberson said. “But we believed God was going to make a place for us. We believed he would carry us through the storm.”

The movie is based on the book by the same name, written by the church’s pastor, Willie L. Monnet Sr. 

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the congregation traveled to nine different places with only three days’ worth of clothes. One stop was in Lumberton, Texas, which was soon hit by Hurricane Rita. 

“I was 14 at the time,” Roberson said. “I said, ‘OK. At some point, we must be going home,’ but God had other plans.”  

They eventually settled in Burnet County, where they now have a church and a school with a championship six-man football team in Burnet and the New Orleans Style Restaurant in Marble Falls.

“We’re real excited to be here,” Roberson said.

The 17th anniversary celebration on Aug. 28 will include singing, dancing, food, drinks, and drama, Roberson said.

“Everyone is welcome and admission is free,” she said. “Bring your family and friends.”

The theme is putting God’s faithfulness on full display, a central theme of the movie, which will be aired at the celebration.

“We want people to walk away feeling fully blessed, feeling encouraged, feeling like, ‘Man, they made it. They’re survivors. I can do it, too,’” she said. “It’s to show what God did but also to show that no matter what you go through in life, you can weather the storm.”