Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Katrina: Two Years Later

One of the best things about the internet has to be, that you have the opportunity to meet and get to know people that otherwise you never would have known. Some might say that’s one of the worst things about it as well, since getting to know “online people” can have its downside as well, in that you spend less time getting to know the people in your own community and church. That’s one of the areas where internet use demands balance & discipline.

Over the years however, I’ve met a lot of people online that have been and continue to be a tremendous blessing to me. One of those people is Pastor Eddie Exposito of Slidell, LA. I first met him several years ago in #prosapologian, the chat channel of James White.

Eddie and his wife and children live right in the heart of where hurricane Katrina made landfall, just two short years ago. I remember it so well. I remember us watching the news constantly, hoping and praying that Eddie and his family and church family would be spared. I remember thinking of the other people I know from the internet who live either right in that same area or very close to it – and then adding them to my prayers as well. I remember it feeling like what it might be like to watch a train wreck happen while holding my breath... and not able to do anything but simply trust the Lord.

Hurricane Katrina made landfall south of New Orleans at 6:10 a.m. Aug. 29, 2005, as a strong Category 3 hurricane that flooded 80 percent of the city and killed more than 1,600 people in Louisiana and Mississippi. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

One Sunday after the devastating storm, my son Samuel and I both stayed home from church with one form of cold or another. After breakfast that morning and after everyone else left, Samuel and I decided it would be a good time for the two of us to go through some of our family’s clothes and set aside a box of clothes and other supplies to send down to the Slidell church family. Samuel took it upon himself to go through his best clothes and tell me that there were little boys in Slidell that no longer had “good church clothes” so he wanted them to have his. A pretty noble gesture from a little boy who’s never known what it’s like to be in such a situation, and who had just turned 5 at the beginning of September. So we packed a huge box (and I do mean huge) and got it all ready to ship down to the church. Unfortunately once we found out what the cost of Canadian shipping was going to be for this gigantic, heavy box of clothes and personal supplies, we were unable to ship it. I still wish the Canadian government would have made an exception for ALL large packages going to any zip code in the greater New Orleans area, but they didn’t and we didn’t have the money for shipping. So, we had to find other ways to contribute along with our church family. Yep, I remember all that like it was just last week.

It’s hard to believe it’s been two years already. It’s even harder to imagine what it must have been like during and immediately after the storm. I’ve followed the updates from Eddie and his church over the last 2 years, I’ve seen the pictures, and I’ve listened and read the testimonies of the people most directly affected. It’s been heart-wrenching to say the least.

I’m sharing all this with you today not just to go down memory lane, but to let you know that the work in Slidell is ongoing. People are still without homes of their own, lives are still torn apart, and the work of the gospel is still being done. Katrina absolutely changed the lives of everyone directly affected, and in many cases did so with a newfound passion for missions and evangelism. That’s exactly what Eddie and his church family are still doing to this very day – putting feet on the gospel (and sheetrock and bags of groceries and whatever else is needed) and making a difference in their community. I spoke with Eddie a few days ago and he asked if I’d be willing to share the needs of his church and community, and I’d said I’d be more than happy to do that. Here’s a message directly from him:

Two years ago today, the largest and most costly natural disaster to strike the USA ravaged our town. And if you're tired of hearing about New Orleans and the impact of Hurricane Katrina, just imagine how difficult it is for us living here to endure the seemingly non-stop silliness and negative press.

The reality, however, is that God sovereignly ordained this tragedy for His glory and purpose, and part of that intention is that His gospel be proclaimed and lived out before men.

It is to that task that we set our minds and plows.

With your help, we seized this unprecedented opportunity to plant an outpost for truth in a very dark region that revels in sin and open abandon.Together, we took up the call and established an anchoring. Now, as we press on amidst the rebuilding and related hands-on ministry with a handful of long-term volunteers, we ask for your renewed help.

Our main needs are:
• Prayer for wisdom, perseverance and God's continued provision.
• Skilled workers (carpenters, drywallers, painters, plumbers, tilers, etc.) to help put people back in their homes.
• Skilled finishers to help put our relief operation into its new building.
• Financial support for long-term volunteers, fuel, supplies and materials.

For further details, see our Sovereign Grace Homeland Missions news blog.

By His grace and for His glory,
Charles Busby and Eddie Exposito
Elders, Sovereign Grace Fellowship
Slidell, Louisiana

Won’t you take some time today with your family (and church family) and seek the Lord in prayer and ask Him if there’s something you can do for the church family in Slidell?