The Landscape of Destruction
Today we spent the day at my parent's home. They live just upriver from New Orleans. The shortest route to their home leads you through New Orleans. The complete devastation of this city is still as aparent as it was on day one. It is a chilling experience to drive through and see the miles of abandoned homes, cars, and businesses. I thank God for the work done through the Carrolton Avenue Church of Christ with Operation Nehemiah. Hilltop Rescue & Relief are also doing an outstanding job of bringing relief to the area. Others who are working include Tamany Oaks Church of Christ and Mandeville Christian Church. IDES is working through the Slidell Christian Church in Slidell and Pearlington, and elsewhere. I'm sure there are hundreds of others as well. And yet there is so far to go, and so much to do. We took the time to drive down Highway 90 from Gulfport to Biloxi - it was our first time to see this area in person. The pictures are stunning, but in person it is more meaningful. I realize that there have been 10 months of debris removal, but so much evidence of Katrina's power is still visible. On our way back I noted with interest the sign to Bay St. Louis, where my friend Charlie Buckley has preached for three decades. He has such dedication and strength in his faith. In a recent e-mail he requested prayer for his wife Olive. I do not know the details, but it looked as if a member of her family had passed away. The Picayune church continues to do outstanding work in Pearlington and other places. I appreciate the efforts of Johnny Hayes and others there as they continue a long-term recovery effort. Recovery efforts continue at the Long Beach church of Christ where Mark Hodges is minister. He was hired just three months before the storm. I thank God that his home was not damaged heavily, and he has been able to minister continuously in this situation. David Austin is minister for the Gulfport Church of Christ. He and a brother who has been converted since the storm have been helping people non-stop. The Orange Grove recovery effort is continuing under the leadership of Rick Rogers. Having sold their building before the storm, they are enduring some special circumstances that are making this a difficult effort. Pray for the leaders and minister Les Ferguson, Jr - who has been a lifelong friend of mine. Ocean Springs church of Christ has been a major player in the recovery of the Coast in their area. Katrina robbed 29 families of their homes, but now they have helped 27 return. Many of the members have been instrumental in the effort, under the leadership of minister Al Sturgeon. Al is a good friend who I know will take no credit - but it belongs with him. They are blessed with a house on their property which can house 15 or so volunteers. The Eastside Church of Christ, also in Ocean Springs, has also been a benefit to their community. Though small, they have a big-hearted minister named Quarderick Brumfield. I know that they have been steadily involved in helping people repair their homes and housing volunteers. The Vancleave Church of Christ is farther north in Jackson County, but they have taken hold of the opportunity to bless others in crisis. Minister for the congregation is veteran gospel preacher Buck Hall. Vancleave has steadily delivered supplies, housed volunteers, and sought to help everyone they could. They have constructed a storage facility to prepare for future storm recovery. They are also working with a church of Christ in Grand Bay, AL to help restore their facilities. The Creekwood Church of Christ in Mobile has steadily been involved in helping, in association with the Churches of Christ Disaster Response Team. I believe that the Regency church of Christ has also been involved in disaster response. Communication with the Mobile churches needs improving so that the greatest benefit can be gained from all of the work done. Still, I praise God for every person helped, and for every volunteer. The Port City Church of Christ, also in Mobile, has been so helpful to us in many ways. Our neighbors have certainly come to our rescue ... including the Pleasure Island Church of Christ in Gulf Shores, Prattville church of Christ and Hunter Hills Church of Christ, both in Prattville, AL and the Gateway Church of Christ in Pensacola. There are so many more...but these are the ones along the Coast that come to mind. I know I have probably left some churches out, not knowing their particpation in the effort. But driving across the Coast today, I was mindful of the work of faithful Christians throughout the Coast who have often put their own needs aside in order to help show the love of God to the communities in which they reside. And of course I cannot leave out the Central Church of Christ and the work going on here. We had a great week here with almost 175 workers from several states. Many will head home in the morning, and others will come in their place. I can tell you that they do not go home and forget us ... they go home and plan to come back and bring more help. That is not only rewarding to our community, but it stirs within my heart the truth of the power of service. It is more blessed to give than to receive. That truth needs to be lived out now more than ever, across this landscape of destruction.