Today marks a solemn anniversary for many Americans along the Gulf Coast. August 29, 2005 was the date the eye of Hurricane Katrina slammed ashore at Slidell, LA triggering what is now known as the worst natural disaster in United States history. Who among us doesn't remember the shock and awe of the power of nature that was unleashed upon the residents of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana? While not the strongest hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast, Katrina's destructive winds and rains were only a prelude to the devastation that engulfed New Orleans when several of the levees on the cities many canals failed, bringing the waters of Lake Pontchartrain pouring into the Crescent City.
No one who lived in that area was unaffected by the impact of the disaster. Lives, homes, jobs, schools, businesses, churches and personal property were lost. Right on the heels of Katrina, came Hurricane Rita, which pounded the remainder of the Louisiana and Texas Gulf Coast. Much of what wasn't totally destroyed was severely damaged. While recovery efforts are still ongoing, much still remains to be done. Now, on this Third Anniversary of Katrina, it seems that the other shoe is about to drop. A storm named Hurricane Gustav has laid waste to Haiti and is now picking up steam in the warmest areas of the Caribbean, and is projected to make landfall late Sunday somewhere along the central Gulf Coast. New Orleans appears to be right in Gustav's sights. Louisiana Governor, Bobby Jindall has already begun preparations to declare a state of emergency, and New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin is preparing to order a mandatory evacuation.
Our older son, Jay, and his family are joining thousands of their neighbors in securing their property and packing up to evacuate. Jay is Lead Pastor at First Baptist Church of Westwego which lies directly across the Mississippi River from New Orleans' Audubon Park. Jay's church, like hundreds of others in the area, was tremendously impacted by Katrina. Several members of his congregation have moved away from the area. The roof of the sanctuary was severely damaged by Katrina and the entire interior had to be gutted after the storm. Jay and his Student Pastor, Bryan Scholl, were two of the first people people back into Westwego after the storm and worked with City officials and the North American Mission Board of the SBC to get Disaster Relief work under way on the West Bank. Jay and FBC New Orleans Pastor, David Crosby have both been called the "Disaster Pastors" for their extensive disaster relief work in their respective areas.
Now comes Gustav, and an entire metropolitan area which is still suffering from "Katrina Fatigue" is faced with the uncertainty of what this storm may bring. Where will Gustav make landfall? How strong will it be? Where will they go for evacuation? Will the new levees hold? Will this be a replay of Katrina? Jay tells me that the anxiety level is high among his church members and neighbors. While actual panic has not set in, there is a sense of dread and apprehension over what the next few days have in store for them. The church secretary at FBC Westwego and her family lost everything they owned in Katrina. Kelli and her husband, George, came to know Jesus as a result of the ministry of Baptists who befriended them at an evacuation point, and led them to Christ. Now, having lost her father just two weeks ago, Kelli and her family are facing the uncertainty of the future. They are not alone. A report on FOX News this morning quoted Gov. Bobby Jindal in saying that this may be the largest evacuation in history, affecting twice as many as the one million people, who were evacuated with Katrina.
Keeping everything in perspective is most important. Property can be replaced. Human life cannot. This Hurricane will come ashore somewhere. No one knows where, and no humans know the final outcome, but God does. I would urge each reader of this blog to pray for the people of New Orleans in particular and the Gulf Coast in general. Pray that they will be prudent in their judgement and actions, and that they will not forget that God is in control. Pray that they will be safe and find refuge from the storm. Pray that when the storm has passed that they will know the peace of God that surpasses all human understanding.
Joe McKeever has been telling people for three years to "Pray big for New Orleans". Many of you have in the past three years - don't stop now.