Monday, August 07, 2006

Katrina Victims Need Our Help

I have just seen with my own eyes and heard from residents of New Orleans that nothing significant has been done to rebuild much of New Orleans, to bring businesses, jobs and people back. I personally drove around New Orleans this week and saw for myself the state of devastation in which it still remains. Along Orleans Avenue in the mid-city area East of the French Quarter many blocks are completely deserted, no businesses are open and less than one-tenth of the homes are occupied. I participated in the renovation and reopening of the first church in the mid-city area this past week. One year since Katrina and one church is reopened. I went through the lower ninth ward which was so hard hit that many of the houses are damaged structurally and can only be replaced. In one neighborhood of hundreds or thousands of homes, I found only one "home" being occupied but I don't know how since the power company will not provide service to this area. I wonder who has enough grit or desperation to live among so many abandoned homes where for more than one mile in any direction there is no other human life - just broken down homes, immense piles of debris and rats. There were three men in my car, it was about 10 PM and we each worried for our safety. I was reminded of one of the Mad Max movies about the future after worldwide destruction. There was not one sign of recontruction and I don't expect one in the second year since Katrina.

The French Quarter is thriving. St. Charles Avenue and the neighborhoods of the monied look like Katrina had not struck. Only a rare home in that area is not fully repaired. But most of New Orleans does not have the money to make its own repairs. No businesses. No jobs. No people. No insurance checks because the insurance companies claim that the losses were due to flooding rather than the wind damage of a hurricane in spite of the fact that many of the houses that I saw were leaning or laying down. No job. No home. No insurance. No help from the government. FEMA is still making excuses.

After one year everybody has a share of the responsibility for so little being done in the areas struck by Katrina. Some politicians and some of the citizens in that area are now blaming the poor as the crime rate increases. Poverty begets crime. Hopelessness begets crime. After one year and no progress there can be little hope that help will come. Anger and crime are inevitible. Not because of race. Because of poverty and hopelessness.

Don't forget and don't blame the victims of Katrina. Demand that the government do something. Ask what YOU can do and act on it.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Pride: A Sin

I'm happy to be a believer and follower of Jesus Christ but I don't care for many of the Christians I meet. Christian belief is not bling-bling. An ostentatious display of one's belief is just as repulsive as an intentionally conspicuous display of wealth. It's an act of pride and in my opinion it's not Christ-like.

I can usually recognize a bling-bling Christian in a matter of seconds, especially if he or she knows that I'm a believer. Out come the merit badges, photos of mission trips and Christian-talk. They won’t waste a second proving that they are more than a common believer. They are chosen. They are on a mission. You are going to hear all about it… now.

This week in New Orleans I’ve also met some Christians whose conduct really impressed me. Several ladies, members of the Bibleway Missionary Baptist Church in New Orleans, have prepared and served all of our meals and laundered all of our clothes. Their gratitude for our help in rebuilding their church is genuine and so rewarding. They are not adorned with Christian bling-bling, yet their belief is obvious. I don’t need to hear their testimony. I can see it for myself in their conduct and treatment of me – their caring words and loving embraces.

I thank God when one of the ladies says Grace before a meal instead of one of our bling-bling Christians. Their prayers are simple, on the point and short. Our bling-bling Christians can and will go on and on. Who said that the longer prayer is a better prayer? Perhaps the bling-bling Christian believes that the longer the prayer, the better the pray-er.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

New Orleans Mission

I'm in New Orleans with members of two Danbury Churches - Walnut Hill Church (the largest in the Danbury area) and New Hope Baptist Church. I'm not a member of either church but I have been attending New Hope Baptist and prefer it based on my experiences with both.

We came to New Orleans to renovate and reopen the Bibleway Missionary Baptist Church at 3201 Orleans Avenue. This is being called a mission but I don't think it meets the requirement that its purpose is to spread the Word. The membership of Bibleway Missionary that I have met is saved and knows the Word better than I do. I think this is a benevolent project that is no less worthwhile and necessary than a true mission. The project leaders hope that reopening the first church in this area of New Orleans will be a catalyst for more rebuilding projects.

The heat, humidity and some of the work are exhausting me and I have wanted at times to just walk away and rest or go home. I'm disappointed that I can't keep up with the younger members. Age is a factor but probably less a factor than my weight and lack of regular exercise.

The work is progressing very rapidly. Overall the project is not managed very well and people tend to do what they want. Most of us aren't skilled at any of this work and some of us have never used a power tool before. Several of the members are construction tradesmen or contractors that are at least familiar with the work. I would like to see the work done better but there is the practical matter of limited time. The church will be reopened for service next Sunday and for the most part nobody will much notice our shortcuts. Still, I wish there was more time.

Everybody keeps saying that God is making this happen. This may not be the Christian thing to say but I think all of these men and women are making it happen through their desire to serve mankind in God's name. I don't think they are doing it with the Power of God. I think they are energized by their Faith. Is this the wrong way to think?