The precious state I live in and love so much has had its share of chaotic days. Three years ago the people of Louisiana and much of the Gulf Coast…
The precious state I live in and love so much has had its share of chaotic days. Three years ago the people of Louisiana and much of the Gulf Coast were rocked by Hurricane Katrina. So many lives were lost and families displaced that the people of our state have a point of reference they use – our recent history is referred to as either pre-Katrina or post-Katrina.
Exactly three years later, we have a somewhat similar point of reference thanks to Hurricane Gustav. Louisiana carried out one of the largest evacuations in our state’s history as nearly two million people cleared out of the projected path of Hurricane Gustav’s 110 m.p.h. winds.
After Gustav ripped through our state, people began to return home, and saw first-hand how much damage it brought. Literally thousands and thousands of trees were uprooted and laying across power lines and roadways. Many trees fell on houses and destroyed roofs and entire homes. Thank God New Orleans was spared to some degree, but there are still so many of our parishes in that Atchafalaya Basin that were hit extremely hard. These rural populations are some of the poorest areas in our country. Even today, a week after Gustav’s landfall, there are still places in those areas that look like the storm could have just passed through fifteen minutes ago.
I am so grateful to report that the body of Christ, the Church, did what Jesus has commanded us to do: Go the second mile for their neighbor. Examples were everywhere: a college professor named Karla taking care of an elderly neighbor, and African American church giving out tarps for free to people from the community with damaged roofs, and hundreds of volunteers showing up every day to serve people they’ve never met – clearing trees, giving away ice, water, food and other supplies. Also representing the body of Christ were large organizations like Samaritan’s Purse, Joyce Meyer Ministries, Convoy of Hope, Operation Blessing and PRC Compassion – setting up shop in our offices and parking their trucks on our property and giving financial resources to serve tens of thousands of people affected by Hurricane Gustav.
It is the church being the church during chaotic days.
I’ve been in awe at the heart of God’s people. Like Shaun Ray. Shaun and his wife are a young couple on our staff who are expecting their first child in February. During the storm, a tree fell through their roof into their bedrooms. When Shaun and some friends were working on cutting out the tree and tarping the roof, they saw that two of his neighbors across the street also had trees in their houses. So, before they finished, they went to help Shaun’s neighbors clear their fallen trees and tarp their roofs first. I think we’ll rename him Shaun “Good Samaritan” Ray. The selfless serving and sharing in this story has been repeated over and over again. What’s even cooler is that one of the men who Shaun helped told one of the Samaritan’s Purse crew working on getting the tree out of his house, “Whatever it is that y’all have, I want it.” And right there on the spot, they led him in prayer to receive Jesus into his life!
It seems like we tend to hear a lot about what the church is not and how the church is failing. I see none of that here. I’ve sat and talked with pastors of just about every type of flow and liturgy this week. When families have lost everything and need a hot meal and a fresh change of clothes, it no longer matters what denomination you’re with, or what part of town your church is in, or which translation of the Bible you read.
Here’s something I think is important for us today: I do not believe we’ve seen the last of chaotic days. The Bible says a lot about perilous times. Here’s the scripture that brought me comfort these last several days.
“I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy, for You have considered my trouble; You have known my soul in adversities.” – Psalm 31:7
These things happen every day in the world somewhere, whether it is a tragic shooting at Virginia Tech, a tsunami in Asia, an earthquake in Peru, flooding in Oklahoma, a tornado in Kansas, a rockslide in Egypt, a suicide bomber in Baghdad, or a child left to starve in Sudan. Who are we to think we are not going to face adversity?
It isn’t about the adversity we face. It is about Who stands with us during the adversity. He is the One we follow, the One we glorify, the One we serve, and the One Who gives courage.
We are finding Christ in chaotic days.
If you would like to join the effort to provide relief to victims of Hurricane Gustav, here’s how to do it. Check out the current needs posted at http://www.healingplacechurch.org/relief, and contact firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know how you’d like to help. Thank you.