HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–It isn’t easy being a refugee from New Orleans. My family and I actually prefer the term evacuee (we tell our kids that you can’t spell “evacuation” without “vacation”!).
Even though we are blessed to have a home to return to, we’ve still been overwhelmed with all sorts of emotions. The fear of losing everything, the relief of knowing that loved ones are safe and the anxiety of an unknown future have all been gnawing at us — chipping away at our strength and stability.
Then everything changed when I got to see the heart of Jesus in action. While staying in a motel in a very small town in northwest Louisiana, I heard that a local church was looking for pastors to help counsel evacuees. I went as a displaced pastor. It turned out that they didn’t need help from me, but I sure needed them.
While its pastor was on a mission trip in Uganda, Calvary Baptist Church had been housing 50 hurricane evacuees. Members had been feeding and ministering to displaced families for the entire week. What was so amazing to me was the way this church had seen a crisis and responded immediately, doing whatever it took. While I was there, they were relocating their displaced families to Sunday School classrooms because the Family Life Center air conditioners broke. When I asked Buster, the associate pastor, what they would do about Sunday School, he said, “Brother, this is Sunday School!”
Truly, I was seeing the heart of Jesus in action.
But that was just the beginning. Later that evening a large group of people jammed into the town hall of Many, Louisiana. There were city and parish officials, business owners, bank representatives, teachers, social workers, FEMA representatives, pastors and lay people from just about every church in Sabine Parish. The meeting was to coordinate all the shelters around the Parish and find a home for every evacuee. At 10 p.m. that night, 500 more weary evacuees from New Orleans would be arriving and needing a place to stay and people to care for them. Another 1,000 would arrive just days later. What would be the town’s response?
I saw the heart of Jesus in that room. Every church was ready and willing to open its doors to these total strangers for as long as needed. The local schools would enroll every child and the local banks and businesses would contribute whatever was needed. Calvary Baptist was taking another 50 or so evacuees, First Baptist, Antioch Baptist and First Methodist were lined up to add hundreds more to their already-running shelters. Churches of every denomination and the entire parish were coming together to be the heart of Jesus in action.
A layman from First Baptist was next to me in the room. With tears in my eyes, I turned to him and said that what they were doing was incredible and that the Lord would surely bless them. He was unsure of what they had gotten themselves into, but resolute that this was what they were supposed to do. Like everyone in the room, he had watched the scenes coming out of New Orleans and wasn’t sure what to expect. When I asked him what his church would do when one of these evacuees damaged the church property, he couldn’t say for sure. He only knew that they were taking a step of faith and doing what needed to be done in this time of great need.
All I could do was encourage him and thank him for letting me see the heart of Jesus in action.
Marc Daniels is pastor of Avondale Baptist Church in New Orleans. He and several of his members are temporarily relocated in Hendersonville, Tenn. They and are being housed in a rental home and in motel rooms paid for by families of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville.