On August 29th, 2005, after strengthening over the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Katrina made its second and third landfalls over the states of Mississippi and Louisiana. It devastated Gulf Port Mississippi and then during the next few days as the waters rose, it overwhelmed the levee system of New Orleans and flooded the city and the surrounding area. As a result, more than 1800 people died, and 10’s of 1000’s were displaced by the evacuation. That winter the seminary I was attending sent large teams on a weekly basis to assist with clean up and rebuilding. I went in February with some fellow students and others from surrounding churches in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina. There were still very few people in the city, and I can tell you, most of New Orleans was no place you would want to be. We were there for a week and accomplished a lot of good work. Some worked on personal homes for people. My team worked on repairing a Hispanic church that would also be used as a soup kitchen.
There was a lot that stuck in my memory from that trip. Daily we ate from a Red Cross feeding station, the food was memorably bad but they fed so many people. I had one great meal on Bourbons street. One team member fell 15 ft from a ladder as I watched from across the room, placing him in the hospital for weeks after we left New Orleans. The pastor’s tears, whose church now not only had electricity because of the work we did but also a hundred people from the neighborhood enjoying hot dogs and encouragement.
The worst memory was a woman we ran into on the street near downtown. Someone on the team had started a conversation with her, and when she found out that we were with the seminary she began yelling at us about a previous talk she had with Christian relief workers. She just kept screaming, “How can he tell me God loves me? My friends were stuck hanging on to trees for days, and no one came.” Her anger was raw, and I don’t know if there was an answer that was going to satisfy her at that moment. There were quite a few of us and more stopped to listen, so I moved on to let the conversation continue more privately.
I think many of us find ourselves feeling like that at times, or maybe it’s even a constant question that is a roadblock for belief and trust in God. Tomorrow, we’ll look at a time story in Mark when his chosen 12 disciples asked the same sort of question in the middle of a storm. I still don’t know if I have an answer that is satisfactory for anyone suffering so. I only know that I trust in the one who does. I hope you’ll join us tomorrow as we see what we can from this account in the Gospel According to Mark.
Join us for worship tomorrow!
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Jamaica Plain 02130