I got back from New Orleans on Wednesday, November the 8th. I was there for a conference on Marketing for Higher Education — put on by the American Marketing Association. It was very informative. But that's not what I want to discuss right now. I was fascinated with the city of New Orleans, and the people.
It has only been about a year since hurricane Katrina hit, so there is still a lot of damage in the area. While I was there I had a terrible time with allergies. I think there was some mold I was dealing with, because I am very allergic to it. I eventually ended up with a bad cold, which I am still dealing with today. But while there I did have the chance to visit the South Carrollton Avenue Church of Christ and met some friendly people there. The church was packed.
I remember asking a member there what the size of the congregation was. And they said about 100. But they seem to be double in size, because they have a constant stream of visitors. And these visitors always arrive to help in the cleanup effort. Many come to help through the church's rebuilding effort called Operation Nehemiah.
At the conference itself, there were distinguished people from the area who spoke about their experiences, and their current trials. I also got to talk with many folks about what their experiences have been like. Many still have no permanent home. Many are unemployed. Many are upset that they have not received any money from government organizations or their own insurance companies. They are suffering still.
However, in the midst of it all, there is hope. Many in the church come to help constantly. There are New Orleans natives who don't have a home, but are rebuilding their lives, helping their families, and even helping their neighbors. It is tough. But there is real hope.
Which brings up an interesting issue. Some of the people I've met were angry. They were angry with the federal and state government. They wanted their insurance companies to do the right thing, and were frustrated. Some people had their homes intact, but needed some work done, and were frustrated. And still some were discouraged and decided to use violence as a means of making ends meet.
I don't blame most of them for the way they felt. But I kept meeting people with a different perspective. They too were dealing with overwhelming problems and frustrations. And they too were angry about it. But they were different. They spoke like God was real. Their faces glowed with expectation. Their faces always looked up at the sun as they spoke.
For some, God was real. For others, the tangibles of earth mattered most. They both have serious needs. But they view those needs differently.
I have to reexamine my faith. Is it dependent on circumstances? Or am I dependent on God's goodness? Do I look for comfort as proof of God's power and righteousness? Or do I see His power and righteousness in the midst of suffering?
I know I saw God's amazing love when I met two women in particular. They each told me about how good God was even though they had lost everything.