NEW ORLEANS (BP)–My home is in New Orleans, near the mammoth Lake Pontchartrain. I walked over the levee this morning and enjoyed a stroll along the shore. Schools of fish often announce their presence by rushing to the surface when predatory redfish circle below.
This morning what got my attention was a lone pelican diving again and again into the same water. I climbed the small pile of rock near the shore and stood up for a good look.
The water was boiling with schools of small fish. Apparently the speckled trout and redfish were feasting on the slow ones. Sometimes the small fries would launch completely out of the water in their efforts to avoid being eaten.
Unfortunately for the prey, this pelican had discovered their distress and managed to gorge himself before moving on.
I thought about the plight of those small fish. They were being attacked from below and above. They found no safe haven.
Our church wanted to express the love of Christ in a very practical way to residents of the Upper Ninth Ward in New Orleans — people some simply would ignore and who also were searching for a safe haven. Jesus taught us to care for the hurting and the poor, and we were seeking to do just that as we helped 40 families achieve homeownership.
I went to the site of the Baptist Crossroads Project (the name of the construction project) one day just to pray. My heart’s desire was to bring glory to God and exalt the Savior through this good work. But I wondered if we could successfully integrate the building of homes and the articulation of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
As I drove on to the property I was surprised to see a mechanic working on a bulldozer. The local Habitat for Humanity, our partner in the building blitz, had begun to level the property, and someone had sliced a fuel line to steal the diesel fuel.
The mechanic’s name was Gary, his uniform announced, and he lived on the North Shore. He began to tell me his Hurricane Katrina story.
“You need the Lord right now,” I commented.
“I’ve never been a religious man,” he replied.
“But you know that you need God now, don’t you?” I asked.
He acknowledged his need of God in the midst of his troubles. I asked him if I could take a moment to show him how to trust in God. He seemed eager to hear. I went through the plan of salvation, and Gary asked Christ to come into his life.
God gave me the opportunity to lead Gary to faith in Christ. He confirmed in my heart that day that we could successfully combine the good work of building homes with the clear articulation of the Gospel. And He reminded me again that He wants his church to be powerful both in word and in deed.
All people, rich and poor, are precious to Christ, and He is seeking them earnestly everywhere in his world, including New Orleans. We who fish for men are wise to bless and protect and care for “the least of these,” for that is where we will find the Savior at work.
David Crosby is senior pastor of First Baptist Church, New Orleans.