NEW ORLEANS (BP)–We recently commemorated the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. New Orleanians recalled the devastation of the storm in lives lost and property destroyed. We also gave thanks for the thousands of volunteers who have helped us rebuild.
For many of us, the story of Katrina is very personal. I know it is for my family. I teach at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and live on campus. Katrina sent four and a half feet of water into our one-story home. The mold line went up another 18 inches. We lost almost everything that we owned, and evacuated to Fort Worth, Texas. On Aug. 25 last year, just four days shy of the first Katrina anniversary, we were able to move back into our home on campus.
Our return was made possible by the help of thousands of Southern Baptists. You helped us salvage what we could from our home. Southwestern Seminary helped provide a place for us to live. A steady stream of volunteers came to our city to gut and rebuild homes, including mine. Every SBC entity contributed money to provide a financial safety net for the seminary. We have recovered and flourished as a school because of your help. Thank you!
In addition to rebuilding the seminary, you have helped rebuild my city. People still talk about the yellow-shirted volunteers who gave them food and supplies in the storm’s aftermath. You cut trees, cleared debris and gutted homes. You are most remembered for the kindness and compassion you showed to storm-shocked survivors.
God has used your ministry in my city to open hearts long closed to the Gospel. There are unprecedented opportunities for evangelism. But how can they hear without someone telling them of salvation in Jesus? Dr. Bill Day of the seminary’s Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Health reports that approximately 60 percent of New Orleans’s churches closed as a result of the storm. Buildings are destroyed. Pastors and people are scattered to other states. New Orleans is a field ripe for an abundant harvest, but the laborers are few.
The city is being rebuilt. The foundation is being poured. Will the new New Orleans have the same character as before the storm? We have the opportunity to leave the imprint of the cross in the foundation of this great city. But the longer the concrete sets, the harder it is to leave an impression.
My friends, let this be your New Orleanian call to come over and help us. Continue to help us rebuild our city. Help us seize the opportunity to change lives with the Gospel. Help us revitalize existing churches and plant new ones to reach the returning population. Help us before the softened hearts in our city harden and grow cold. Everyone likes to scratch their initials into newly poured concrete.
Lloyd Harsch is associate professor of church history at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary