Like many of you, I sat watching my television screen as multiple pictures of total devastation were flashed before my eyes. A sense of helplessness began to overwhelm me. Can’t we do something? Is anybody doing anything?
For most of us the effects of Hurricane Katrina will be the images in living color on the pages of magazines such as Life, Time, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, etc. Some photo-journalist will no doubt receive an award for the picture that “says it all,” capturing for the rest of us the essence of the whole experience.
We will continue to hear the refrain that not enough is being done. Many have, and will continue to take political advantage of this crisis. Shame on them. The American people will ignore them. Instead, Americans will figure out ways to be helpful. The amount of money that will be given by the average citizen in this country may never be known. But I can assure you of this – it will be a staggering amount. And this will be above and beyond the amount of taxpayer money the federal and state governments will throw at this relief effort.
As typically occurs in such instances, the media focuses on the really bad stuff. Besides the catastrophic destruction of New Orleans, and the coastlines of Mississippi and Alabama, we are subjected to the wanton disregard for personal property, hearing that the police are powerless, or incapable of preventing wholesale looting and vandalism (as if the hurricanes destructive forces were not enough!). Rapes occurring in locations re-designated as places of refuge from the storm. Food and water availability is slow in coming. Hospitals are without power, and the generators are not designed to operate continuously. Bodies are floating in the streets. Gun-toting residents are roaming certain neighborhoods. Diseases, such as typhoid, may become epidemic.
Then there’s the cry for the National Guard. Where are they? We have tens of thousands of our military in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we can’t protect the streets of New Orleans. We can drop food packages all over Afghanistan, but what about our fellow Americans in Dixie who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Or even if they will have a next meal?
The nay-sayers will be in full voice for months to come after this is finally stabilized. Are there things we could have done differently? Done better? Of course. That is always the case. But let’s remember – our nation has never had to deal with such a monumental act of natural devastation as we have just experienced with Hurricane Katrina. Should we have been better prepared? Yes. And there will be much beating of the breast over what could have been done, should have been done and would have been done, if only . . .
The National Red Cross, and a host of private agencies, will work round the clock in seemingly tireless efforts to aid their fellow citizens. They will need much more financial support from us to carry out their mission. And they will get it. That’s how we are as Americans. We help each other.
Cities and towns that have been a part of the American lexicon may soon be part of our history. Biloxi, Mississippi, is one example. This city was devastated by Hurricane Camille in 1969. Will they be able to come together and rebuild yet again? And what about New Orleans? What will be left of this historic city? Already there are those in government suggesting that to rebuild a city that is below sea level is not wise. With levees built to keep back the Mississippi River and Lake Ponchetrain, aren’t they just asking for trouble?
Then there will be those who will cast a downward glance at the apparent decadent lifestyle evidenced in New Orleans and say something like, “Serves them right,” or “God has brought his judgment on their sinful living.”
Before any of you go too far in thinking this way, I’d like to remind you that I have been to New Orleans numerous times in my responsibilities as a Navy Chaplain. Our headquarters for the Marine Forces Reserve, and Naval Reserve Forces are, or I should say, were located there. I have walked those streets. I have witnessed the debauched life lived by some, but most are God-fearing, family folks who happen to live in New Orleans.
I also remember it was the testimony of an evangelist from New Orleans that God used to bring me to faith in Christ. That was thirty-three years ago tomorrow.
Jesus was able to take my sin-sick soul and reclaim it for himself through the witness of one of his ministers from New Orleans. I’m confident he will be at work bringing about his desired purposes in the midst of this devastation. It won’t make the evening news, but it will change lives for eternity.
Please pray with me for our southern neighbors.