AFTERMATH OF THE STORM
By Pastor Jim May
This is the first Sunday after the passing of Hurricane Katrina and this has been one of the most trying weeks that we have ever experienced in South Louisiana, and indeed, across the nation. As I speak the evacuation of the city of New Orleans continues. Hundreds of thousands of people are being taken out by air, water and land to temporary shelters all over the nation. In every conceivable mode of transportation, they come – evacuees, refugees, homeless and destitute, seeking help and needing even the very basic things of life: food, water, clothing and a safe place to rest and recuperate. Sadly many have lost their lives while being transported, and the tremendous cost in lives of those who perished in the flood is yet to be revealed. We can only pray that by some miracle, there are as few lives lost as possible.
Everywhere you go in our town, you can meet new friends and see new faces. The lines at the gas pumps; check out lanes at the stores; and restaurants have swelled to twice and three times their normal lengths of only a week ago. The infrastructure and supply chain for the products and services that we all use is stretched to its limits. Yet, by God’s grace, there seems to be a little less confusion with each day that passes. People are trying to return to a normal life, as much as possible and I haven’t heard of one person starving to death, or dying on the street corner in Gonzales for lack of water. All of the problems so far have been little more than a nuisance or an inconvenience as we adjust and make allowances for the newcomers.
Many of the businesses that were once in New Orleans and those areas are relocating to our area. I expect that we shall witness one of the greatest growth rates that we have ever seen as people begin to rebuild their lives. There is nothing for them to go back to now. Every family has been displaced and scattered to the winds. There is much sadness as many don’t know where husbands, children, wives or grandparents have been taken and finding them is like looking for a needle in a haystack for the moment. In time, all of this will be solved, but the mental and emotional scars will likely be there for many years to come.
Many of those that I have talked to that came here seeking help have said that they will not go back. The homes, the neighborhoods, and the city that they once knew exist no more and they have decided to start again, some right where they are, and others are still wondering where to begin again.
I have no doubt that New Orleans will rebound. I don’t doubt that the “Big Easy” will cease from being a party town forever. It will take some time, but the party will go on because people will be searching more than ever before for a place to release, relax and let their inhibitions go free. I am convinced that people will pay whatever price is required to let the good times roll again at the Mari Gras. Alcohol and drugs will help them forget the present sadness and despair. The “fais-do-do”, or dancing in the streets, will be seen again. Once again, the sound of jazz music will drift across Jackson Square and the French Quarter will be alive with people, because people love to have a good time.
There are some who may begin to believe that New Orleans was chosen for judgment because it was such a den of iniquity. Well, there may some truth to that, but let me remind us all that not one pimp, not one murderer, not one drug addict, not one drunk, and not one party animal, in that city, was any more deserving of judgment, nor guilty of any more sin, than anyone else. Was this a judgment from God? I don’t think so, at least not in the form that He brought judgment to Israel and sent them into captivity so many times. Was it a “wake-up call” as one minister emailed to me from Ireland? Yes, I do think that God is trying to get our attention as a nation; in fact he is trying to get the whole world to turn back to him in repentance. The “wake-up calls” are growing louder.
9-11 was a “wake-up call” and it shook the nation for a while. Then there were the hurricanes of the last few years with four that blew through Florida in quick succession. Then there is the war that we are now engaging in Iraq against terrorism. Worldwide unrest and terrorism has destroyed many lives almost on a daily basis. Earthquakes and Tsunami waves swept through the Pacific destroying everything in their paths. Katrina blew threw the Gulf Coast taking a staggering toll in lives and property. What will be the next “wake-up call”? When will it come? What form will it take? I wonder if America and the world can even hear it, no matter how loud it rings? I wonder if we are not too asleep in sin to even hear the call to turn back to God? We are certainly being given every warning of the Lord’s soon return. God’s mercy is giving us all a time and space to turn back to Him, but the world will never do so. But perhaps, one-by-one, some will heed the wake-up calls.
Don’t look at New Orleans, Biloxi, Gulfport, Baghdad, London or the cities stricken along the Pacific by the Tsunami and think that they were worse than where we are right now, because unless we are saved by the Blood of the Lamb, and cleansed from sin by Jesus Christ’s blood, we are all just as guilty and just as much in need of repentance as any of the people in those places were.
Jesus talked about that in Luke 13:1-5, "There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."
The message to the whole world is simple, “Repent of sin or perish” and no one is exempted.
The thing that must be done now is for all of us to show mercy, grace, love and compassion, and a whole lot of patience, to be best of our ability. There are a lot of hurting, confused, desperate people roaming the streets and looking for a glimmer of hope. You have their answer. What they need most of all is to know the Lord as their Savior so that they can learn to lean up Him and trust in Him. Jesus is the only source of real hope and faith.
This is the time for the church to shine for Jesus! This is the time when every Christian can let their light shine for the Lord. This is the time when the Love of Jesus Christ that we have can be made manifest in very real ways. This is the time when compassion must reach out to those around us. Instead of getting frustrated, aggravated and angry over those who stand in our way, let us show them grace and the love of God.
Romans 12:10, "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;"
Philippians 2:3-4, "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others."
At the checkout line – prefer the others around you and be concerned for them, even though you’re in a hurry and you are tired and ready to get out of the store. In the gas lines, think of that one ahead of you that might just be someone who has nowhere to go when he fills his tank but to a shelter where he must live for the next six months.
We must be sensitive, kind and generous, as much as we can, and fulfill the call of God within us to minister to those who are hurting around us. That’s what the Bible talks about when it speaks of having the mind of Christ.
Matthew 9:36-38, "But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest."
There is a harvest out there right now. We have a great opportunity, by letting our light shine, to reach out to people like we have never done before. I know that most of us have jobs and families and that we have busy schedules that we must keep. There is always so much more to do. But don’t forget to be a friend to those in need. Don’t forget to reach out to them at every opportunity to meet their need physically, but more importantly, to tell them about Jesus. The hopeless are looking for hope this morning. They need Jesus!
Let us not get so caught up in our own need, or our own inconveniences, and turn a deaf ear, or a blind eye to the needs around us. If we do so, we will be like those who passed by the wounded man because they didn’t want to be bothered and didn’t want to get involved. We must be the “Good Samaritans” wherever we go.
Luke 10:33-34, "But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him." He didn’t argue with the wounded man over “who got to the gas pump first”. He didn’t fight for him over the oil and wine. The Good Samaritan gave out of his own provision and his own need to help another.
This very morning all around the area, there are multitudes of people, working tirelessly to help those in shelters. Every day, there are those who are cooking huge meals to feed the hungry. Doctors and nurses are voluntarily giving of their time to help those who need attention. In times like these we can see the best in mankind come to the front. Sadly, we can also see the worst in some.
But we, as Christians, have a duty, an honor and a privilege, to represent Jesus to those in need. If we truly have the love of God in us, then that love must also come forth to be given and shown to others.
1 John 3:17, "But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?"
I have been contacted by ministers from Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas and California and received email from as far away as the country of Ireland. And I have been told that at least one school in New Mexico wants to send help. Most of these want to know if they could they could send donations to our church for us to forward to wherever it could be used the best. Of course I said yes. We will do whatever we can for those who are in need. I may have to call on some of you to help if this effort really begins to grow.
As I come to the close of this message today, I want to thank God for His great mercy, grace and love for His people. I want to thank Him for protecting our families, our homes and our property from the storm. There is not one of us sitting here, who cannot say that we are a very blessed people. All we have to do is to look just a few miles down the road to see just how blessed we are.
I don’t know of any of our congregation that has lost a loved one, or lost their home as a result of the storm. We may have suffered in the heat without power, or had to endure the lines, or maybe eat sandwiches for a few days, but we are still blessed.
There are many of our brothers and sisters in Christ who have suffered, and are suffering all of these things and more. They have no “home church” anymore. They have no church family to turn to. We will do our best to reach out and help them as we learn of them.
To those brothers and sisters in the Lord I can only say what David said in Psalms 37:23-25, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand. I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread."
Somehow, all of this will work to your good, if you are a child of God. Somehow, through all the pain and suffering, God is going to bring a better thing into your life. Your answer, your supply, your need can be helped by FEMA, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, and many other charitable and caring organizations. But your real help comes from the Lord. He is the One who will see you through.
As we close, let us stand together and pray for those who are suffering and in despair this morning. Let us lift them up before God and show compassion for them.
Our Father in Heaven, you know all things and see all things. We cannot fathom the sufferings of our fellowman, but you can. Today, there are multitudes that are still living in desperate conditions in the valley of the shadow of death in the devastated regions of Southeast Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Many are losing hope. Many are caught in utter despair. Reach out to them by your mercy and grace and bring them forth alive and well.
For those who are already come, we pray that you will help us all to meet their need according to our ability. We pray that you will give men wisdom and power to aid everyone who is in distress. We pray that you will bring peace to their hearts and provision for their lives.
I pray that you will stop those who are attempting to hamper the rescue efforts so that the relief efforts will be successful. I pray that you will bless and protect those who are working so hard to rescue those in trouble. Keep your hand upon them; lead them and guide them to every home and space where someone waits to be rescued. I pray that you will allow the loss of life to be minimal.
Then Lord, I pray that you will help us to recover as quickly as possible from the devastation upon our land. I pray that people will be able to rebuild their lives and to enjoy life once again. I pray Lord that you will bring joy instead of sorrow, laughter instead of mourning, victory instead of defeat, and that, most of all, somehow many souls can be won to Christ through it all. AMEN