A number of people on our Katrina team went on the mission thinking that God would speak to them in a profound way. Few got the experience that they were expecting. I wrote them this note when we returned...
At Cafe DuMonde and in the truck going home people were saying that they didn't get the big AHA moment that they had hoped for on the trip. That didn't surprise me. I guess as I get older I "hear" God in the subtle things, not the big AHA moments.
This morning I read this in my devotions...
"We misunderstand God altogether if we think he deals coursely with our souls (meaning that he makes things obvious). If we consider what has really influenced our lives, we will find that it lies in a few silent voices that have preached to us, the winds which have passed across our soul so gently that we scarce could tell when they were come or gone. Even in the midst of the battle, when coarser weapons fail, let us not forget the lesson of Elijah: [who said...]
'A great powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks be fore the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquatke came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.' (1 Kings 19:11-12)
When God speaks he speaks so loudly that all the voices of the world seem dumb. And YET, when God speaks he speaks so softly that no one hears the whisper but yourself". Bread and Wine, page 129-130
I think God will be whispering to us all for a long time about our experience. So I encourage us to listen, reflect and then share what we hear with each other...even months from now.
I pass these thoughts along because you might be wondering how God speaks to you.
Monday, March 20, 2006
Sitting here looking out at a foot of snow inside of a warm, odor-free house makes me feel like New Orleans was a dream. Yet I know I was there because when I look at my house I'm always thinking how I could best knock out a wall or tear down the cubboards! Kinda weird. I also get sad whenever I drive by a nice shopping center with cars because so many in New Orleans are vacant and boarded up. (Picture: the team suits up for the first time, ready to enter the mold infested home.)
So, was it worth it? We traveled 2500 miles and spent $2500 to gut two houses. Only 199,998 more to go! Yeah, it was worth it. I'd do it again in a heart beat. I can't right now, but I hope our going will inspire others to take the baton and run with it. Like so many things, no one act of compassion/kindness is the answer. The answer is in a lot of people doing as much as they can for as long as they can with the help of God to empower and encourage them to keep at it. (Picture: this is the first house we worked on. The FEMA trailer is in front. The owner just moved into it on Thursday.)
New Orleans is in very tough shape. They won't turn the corner on this problem for years. Our team tried to come up with a way of relating what we saw but we can't. No one picture captures it. You really have to experience house after house and mile after mile of devastation to appreciate the magnitude of what happened down there. (Picture; Kate, Tom, Phil and Karla take a break.)
I mean, just think of where you live. Imagine that EVERY house needed to be repaired at some level. Imagine that MOST of the homes were unliveable and people were camping in a trailer or tent or even living in their car while their home sat rotting. And then you have to travel across town to find a store that wasn't damaged to buy what you need. Then imagine that most of your neighbors aren't even bothering to return because it hurts or costs too much. So, even if you do restore your home, the neighborhood may be a rotting ghost town. (Picture: a house was pushed off it's foundation and onto a car from the rush of the broke levee water.)
Our trip is over but I hope our heart holds New Orleans close to us. And I hope it's sensitized us to the needs that exist all around us and how we can help others instead of always looking out for our own needs. (Picture; this is what the house looked like after knocking out walls, etc. day one. After day two the toilet and all walls were gone as well.)
This Sunday at Cedarbrook our team will give an overview of our trip. We are looking to send another team down to New Orleans this Spring. Would you like to go? If you live in another city, I bet you can find a group going down that you can join. Or, just grab a few friends and contact Samaritan's Purse. They are a top notch organization that is doing a great work down there. Click here for more photos of the area. (Picture; our crew takes one last photo at base camp before heading home.)