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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Hurricane Katrina: 'Reach down and show mercy'

Catherine Keen, wife of Patrick Keen, pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran, an African American congregation in downtown New Orleans, is struggling with the terrible predicament of members, neighbors, family and friends.

She feels guilty that she has a roof over her head but still worries about what lies ahead for herself and her husband. For now they are staying with her sister in Houston.

Her anguish, even over the phone, is palpable.

“We are physically OK,” she says, but watching on television the scenes unfolding back in New Orleans is extremely painful. “I’m struggling to stay focused, but it’s so hard.”

She worries about what has happened to her 99-year-old uncle, the patriarch of her family, who was on kidney dialysis. She has no idea where he is.

Keen worries about an elderly parishioner who has dementia and whom she saw on television being rescued. But she doesn’t know where this member is now either. “I know she’s scared,” Keen says.

She grieves for the people who have no water or food and the elderly who are dying in the New Orleans Convention Center, seemingly abandoned like the refuse around them.

No longer is Keen concerned about material things, like her house. “Why should I worry about my house? It doesn’t matter. I’m just praying and asking God to please reach down and show mercy. I need him to make this go away. I feel like he has forsaken us.”

Keen, who has cancer, wonders if she will ever go back to New Orleans.


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