It’s Mardi Gras in the Big Easy. But there’s nothing easy about life for most people who live in a city that was brought to her knees by hurricane and flood, reports Patrick Keen, pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Four months after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast and water from the breached levees flooded most of the great city of New Orleans, we are still in shock. The city is celebrating Mardi Gras, and we are still in shock.
In shock. As we day-by-day discover the horrific devastation that has caused New Orleans in this 21st century to seriously consider what its future, our future, will be. In shock. As I drive through neighborhoods and communities, still not believing the depth and girth of loss resulting from the flooding.
When I speak with people from across the country, I’m always asked, “How are things going down there?” Truth is, it’s slow going.
Believe it or not, as people trickle back into the city they are filled with awe, seeing the widespread destruction caused by the failure of the levee system. Many are frustrated by our elected officials' failure to bring meaningful leadership to this problem we face. There are failures on each level of government—federal, state and local. There is a huge need to make a decision as to how New Orleans will come back—and what it will take to bring it back.
Insurance companies play games with claims and pay only a fraction of amounts allegedly covered by policies—that is, if one has been able to reach a claims adjuster. For example, I was informed by a claims representative that Bethlehem Lutheran Church would receive $26,000 for damages. We received a check for $6,000. This is the same experience many homeowners face as they try to recover. How disappointing and frustrating for people, many who have no other way of becoming whole.
The good news for our congregation is that just about every Sunday another member returns to worship. Now our worship attendance averages 40. Our pre-Katrina average was 120 in two worship services.
We are preparing our facilities to host groups of ELCA members who are interested in coming down to help in the recovery efforts. We need skilled and unskilled volunteers to help in a variety of ways. We need people to come down and view for themselves, then go back and tell the story of the problems in this region of our nation. We need our bishops, pastors and politicians to lead as they have been empowered by God and the people of God to lead in these days of leadership voids. Tell the story of the great opportunity that is before us.
Editors note: The Lutheran previously covered Keen and his congregation in its October and November 2005 issues. Read "Reach down and show mercy" and "A shepherd searches."
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