Disaster and Recovery

It’s the first day of June…and the first day of hurricane season. We’re 5 years post-Katrina and 5 weeks into the nation’s largest oil spill in history.

Once again, our attention turns to the Gulf and the state of Louisiana. Once again, the media is discussing the clean-up in the Gulf region. Once again, our government finally gets their boots on the ground to assess the damage and the on-going clean-up process.

And it wouldn’t surprise me if, once again, we fall short of finishing the job.

I say again because New Orleans still has 70,000 homes in need of repair–and it looks like Presbyterians are the only Christian group still seeing the work through. Thankfully, someone is still in New Orleans, trying against what I can only imagine to be great odds, to bring restoration to a people displaced by disaster. It’s a business you’d think Jews and Christians would understand well. Both groups have a history of being displaced and restored.

Granted, our attention in the Christian community has turned toward Haiti and Chile where, earlier this year, disaster struck in the form of earthquakes, displacing countless individuals and families. Our attention should be there–but we should never forget to follow through and see the work to completion. If we fail to do so, what kind of God are we really representing? The kind of God who grows tired of the view in one place? The kind of God who is incapable of spreading resources around to make God’s presence known and bring about redemption?

My seester-in-love is in New Orleans this week and added a beautiful post to her own blog here. When she posted the fact that 70,000 homes are still in need of repair on Facebook, one person commented that if each church in the southeastern United States committed to rebuilding one home–just one–New Orleans would finally and truly know restoration post-Katrina.

I know Haiti and Chile are important. I don’t mean to diminish the relief efforts in either place and I think they should continue to be supported for a long long time. But one church building one house will not break the budget. It will not divert a massive amount of funds from relief efforts and organizations trying to aid Haiti and Chile.

It’s just one house. And it’s time for a homecoming for the people of New Orleans.


Fill The Truck

I had a conversation with a minister friend yesterday about why we left one church for another. Reason #1: we were persona non grata. A close second: the church isn’t a good fit for us and our ideas about ministry. She asked what we liked about the new church…and about their stance on women in leadership. Currently, the church is not in favor of the latter–but I think it’s moving that way…and doing so the right way. She wondered aloud at the fact that, more and more, intelligent, educated women are willing to attend churches that wouldn’t allow them to fill certain leadership positions. I told her that, for me and where I am currently, this church meets other needs and that, consequently, the woman thing isn’t a deal breaker.

This morning, we “had” to go to our former church. Before doing so, I went over to our current church…not to attend a service–though it turned out to be the most worshipful part of my day. Today was “fill the truck” day to help restock the Durham Rescue Mission with things such as clothing and household items in order to help them continue to meet the needs of people in the community as they try to get back on their feet. (In a crappy economy, non-profits are among the hardest hit.)

The truck was to be at church from 8-1. When I arrived at 9:40, there was no truck. I thought maybe it was in another part of the parking lot where I couldn’t see it. Nope. No truck. I drove around the parking lot and still didn’t see a truck, but there were a few spaces blocked off with cones and there was a table with a few chair sitting there. Still no truck, though. There were, however, a few men standing out front and I pulled up to ask about the truck. Turns out, the truck had already been filled once, and they had taken it back to unload it so it could be reloaded.

In an hour and a half, the truck was filled.

At that rate, they could have conceivably filled it a total of 2-3 times.

That’s just one example of why I like this church. The other is even more powerful. The church has partnered to do ministry in Haiti to care for poor, orphaned children. A piece of land on the coast came up for sale. It had an AMAZING view that would heal any soul. To be able to provide housing for a number of children there was the epitome of heaven on earth. The land cost $400,000. The pastor felt the burden of wanting and needing to buy the land, but also the burden of asking his congregation to raise that much money above and beyond their budget…at the time the recession was starting.

And they had to put up the money within a week to be able to buy it.

The pastor asked the church to raise the money, hoping people would be willing to follow the example of Jesus…or even the widow who gave her last two cents…but uncertain of their reaction.

Within one week, the church raised that $400,000.

No committee. No vote. No let’s table the motion and think about it. No let’s put together a team to determine the best way to finance this operation.

Just a big fat check at the end of 7 days.

What church does that?!

Added to that is the fact that most Sundays I walk out chewing on something from the sermon.

The woman thing can wait. The bottom line is that we’re called to love God and love people. Regardless of where people stand theologically or politically, that bottom line is the one thing that can unify people and bring them into a deeper and more meaningful relationship and way of life. And that is where the rubber meets the road.

I’m thankful for the truck I didn’t see this morning. I’m thankful that it was full by 9:40. I’m thankful that moment in the parking lot at one church helped me to be OK with sitting in the pew at another. And I’m thankful for the 2 minutes of worship I experienced before my day really got started.