LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–While many see only rubble when looking at what is left of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Chuck Kelley sees something decidedly different: opportunity.
Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, visited the campus of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Oct. 4 to thank students for their gifts, prayers and encouragement for his flood-ravaged school.
Students, faculty and staff members at Southern gave a gift of more than $30,000 to New Orleans Seminary following the disaster which left its campus under water and destroyed the homes of many students and faculty members.
“We know out of all of this is going to come one of the greatest opportunities for the Gospel that our seminary and Southern Baptists have ever had,” Kelley said. “Never before in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention have we been able to be present in strength at the forming of a major urban area. New Orleans as we know it is gone. Today it is empty.
“New Orleans parish [is] nothing but rubble, but out of that rubble is going to come a new city and we have an opportunity in the building and forming of that city to lift high the cross of Christ, to bear the message of hope, and to illustrate it with our ministry as we serve others in the name of Jesus. Pray for us in this unprecedented opportunity to make Jesus a greater part of New Orleans than He has ever been before.”
Kelley joined Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel L. Akin for Southern’s chapel service. Akin is serving as guest lecturer for Southern’s annual Mullins Lectures.
Kelley said his main purpose for visiting his school’s sister seminary was to show gratitude for the love offering, prayers and encouragement.
“It was with incredible gratitude that we received a most precious and sacrificial gift from this seminary family for us in a time of need,” he said. “I cannot begin to describe the encouragement that it was as I shared your sweet, precious gift with the members of our faculty and our students, knowing what it cost you to do that for us was a greater encouragement than we could ever express.”
Kelley showed a series of slides taken after the levees broke that had corralled Lake Pontchartrain, leaving much of the campus submerged in toxic floodwater.
“The hardest thing about it is that nearly all our administrative and academic space came through it just fine, but it really devastated our living area,” he said.
“One hundred percent of our faculty housing flooded, and our faculty which lived on campus — which was most of our faculty — lost nearly everything. Forty-five percent of our student houses flooded, and those students lost nearly everything that they had. The blow was a personal blow.”
Three Bible verses have buoyed members of the New Orleans family in the waters of Katrina’s aftermath, Kelley said: Isaiah 43:1-2 and Jeremiah 29:11. The passages remind believers that God is absolutely sovereign even during “unspeakable human tragedy,” Kelley said.
“There is never a time in the midst of a crisis when God is not there, fully aware of it and walking with us in the midst of it,” he said.