Three weeks after Hurricane Katrina washed away much of the Gulf Coast and scattered its residents to distant places, Patrick Keen, pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, downtown New Orleans, stood in the heat of the parking lot outside Houston’s AstroArena shelter. He struck up conversations with other evacuees, many of whom were moving to more permanent housing. The sports stadium would be emptied of evacuees within two days.
Keen asked passers-by how they were doing, where they were going, what they needed and urged them to “come and see me” back in New Orleans “if there is anything I can do to help you.”
Keen was also trying to track down Bethlehem’s members. In his hand he clutched a sheaf of dirty papers—a copy of the congregational directory that he had found in the wheel well of his car after escaping to Houston. Though their addresses and telephone numbers couldn’t help him now, it was a tangible connection to the people for whom he has worried much over the weeks since the storm. It was a “moment of grace,” Keen says.
But the good news for Keen that day, Sept. 16, was that when he drove back to New Orleans the day before, he had discovered the church building still “standing strong.” It had some broken windows but apparently little water damage. And his house, too, was spared.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers