Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Five Years After Katrina

I am astounded by God's Faithfulness

Five years ago I was serving as a youth pastor in Metairie, LA just outside of New Orleans. We lived on the NOBTS campus in the middle of the city. The weekend of Katrina I was set to travel to Auburn, Alabama to speak at a Sunday school training conference. My wife Elaine planned to have several 11th grade girls from our student ministry sleep over while I was away. The news told us that the storm would likely miss New Orleans so we continued as planned.

I remember finishing up at the conference that Saturday and turning on my phone to check messages. To my surprise there were around 25 messages on my phone. Everyone from Elaine, to my seminary friends, to students, to church staff, to deacons in our church calling to let me know the storm had turned and that an evacuation had been announced. I called Elaine first, and we determined that she would get a few clothes together, pick up my grandparents (who lived just outside the city) and meet me in Memphis after she delivered the girls safely home.

When we arrived in Memphis we turned on the TV at my mother-in-law's house and watched with great sadness as the city we had grown to love was torn to pieces. We watched the suffering and our hearts broke. A few weeks later we realized that we would not be able to return and we found ourselves laid bare before the Lord.

I remember sitting in church the week after the storm and singing: "Blessed be Your name, On the road marked with suffering, Though there's pain in the offering, Blessed be Your name; You give and take away, You give and take away, My heart will choose to say Lord, blessed be Your name..." Over the course of time Lord has set this song as a song of remembrance for me.

It is strange to be sitting in New Orleans as I write this... eight months ago at the Lord's strong leading we moved back to this city to plant Hope Church. I find myself this week remembering. At this time of the year I always remember what was lost and thank God that He remains the same. But five years later I have much more to remember that just what was lost.

God used the 4 1/2 years we spent away from the city to shape many things in me. He led me to wholly commit myself to those things that are eternal... God's Word, God's presence and the souls of men. He confirmed in me that He is infinitely more satisfying that my things, than my plans, than my ministry, than my family, than my friends... He revealed a thousand flaws in me. He gave me a deeper sense of urgency for His mission. I can't begin to list the lessons.

As I look back over the last few years, God's fingerprints are on all of it. He is so faithful, He is so good, and his grace is absolutely enough in every circumstance and calling.

We are so grateful that He chose to faithfully shape us and to eventually move us back to New Orleans to see His Gospel expressed in this city.


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