I want to shout from the rooftops and sing in the streets, “There is a God and He cares about you, New Orleans!” Like Aslan on the move brought spring to the frozen world of Narnia,* Jesus is on the move among Katrina’s survivors, bringing life to all He touches.
The people of my city are hurting. Many are homeless, jobless, relocated and overwhelmed. I am one of the most fortunate ones. We have a home and my husband has his job. However, Hurricane Katrina profoundly changed my family and me.
My mother in law, Yvonne, is now a permanent member of my household. Floodwaters, wind and an oil spill destroyed her St. Bernard Parish home. Yvonne has completely yielded her life to Christ. Despite losing her home of 42 years, the community she loved and the church that has been her family, she fills our home with her love and laughter.
My sister in law and her family lost their home to flood and mold. They are temporarily living in Nashville, Tennessee, where some of God’s finest people have supplied them with a temporary home and brand new furniture. Their daughter, a high school senior, is living with friends down here so that she can finish school with a few of the kids she has been with since Kindergarten. Their losses are huge, but God supplies their need.
My maternal grandmother and great-grandmother relocated to Evansville, Indiana. They escaped Katrina only to have the tornado that swept through that area just miss them. My grandmother’s condominium down here and many of her possessions were demolished by a tree and flooding from broken water pipes, but they are safe and with family.
My brother, Jim, and his wife lost almost everything they owned when their Lakeview apartment flooded to the rooftop. Jim is a New Orleans police officer. He faithfully executes his duty to this day despite his losses and the indescribable horror he endured.
There is no power and little cleanup in New Orleans East, the Ninth Ward, Gentilly, Lakeview and St. Bernard after three months. Once thriving communities on the Mississippi Gulf Coast are ruined. Piles of debris are everywhere. A spray-painted sign that rests atop a shattered home recently touched me. It says, “My life is NOT in this pile. It is hidden in Christ!” Praise God! That life is safe!
I wrote a poem on May 1, 2005 called “Living Water, Bread of Life” after a powerful encounter with God in church. One of the stanzas says:
You are taller than the mountain
Stronger than the hurricane
The universe cannot contain You
Yet You know my name
I had little idea how strong a hurricane really was before Katrina, but I knew God was stronger. I know it better than ever today.
Katrina made me grateful. I see all that I took for granted with new eyes: life, family, friends, church, power, sewerage, whole trees, a solid roof, privacy and the comfort of my own bed are treasures! My aunt and uncle welcomed four adults, two young children, three dogs, four cats and two ferrets into their home for twelve days. My parents returned from Atlanta with us and allowed my family to bunk upstairs until our power was restored four days later. The National Guard served us food and water in full uniform in 90 plus degree heat on blacktop. The New Orleans Police Department has known little rest as officers work extended shifts to cover the loss of many of their coworkers in a dangerous, desperate city. All our retailers, grocers, and restaurant workers have been pressed beyond reasonable limits. People from all over the nation came here to help rescue, recover and restore. Our president, governor, mayors, senators and other civil servants have had little rest and taken much blame. I have not always agreed with their decisions, but I am thankful for their efforts.
The coldest, blackest winter the people of this devastated region have ever known has descended, but every winter becomes spring. In the midst of this cruel season, Spring Himself is here—on the move among His people. He is saving souls, meeting needs and showing all that He is Lord.
In this world, there is great trouble, but I am cheered. Jesus overcame the world! (John 16:33 paraphrase.)
*The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
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