NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Their message was simple and their gifts were small, but a group of home school children from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary ministered to their neighborhood in their own special way to mark the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina Aug. 29.
Paula Stringer, professor of childhood education at New Orleans Seminary, led a group of more than 20 children and adults from the seminary’s home school network down nearby Gentilly Boulevard to pray and give bottles of cold water in Jesus’ name.
Emily Bray, mother of 6-year-old Olivia and 4-year-old Sarah Cate, told the story of the Good Samaritan for the girls’ morning devotion before meeting up with the home schooling group.
“I told the girls that in New Orleans a lot of people have had an opportunity to help but because it’s not their hurt or their situation, it’s easier to walk on by,” Bray said.
When she told the girls that they would be giving out water and talking to people that day, they wanted to do more. Olivia and Sarah got a trash bag and filled it up with stuffed animals. As the group prayer walked and gave away cold water in the Gentilly neighborhood, the girls gave out the stuffed animals.
When their mother told them that they probably would meet more construction workers and adults than children, Sarah Cate responded, “But everybody needs a puppy!”
The group met only one child during the day but they encountered many other special people, including an 89-year-old man who was out cutting his grass. He told them the story of how he and his wife had evacuated before the hurricane and she had broken her hip in the process.
The man does not have a car. Instead, he rides a bicycle everywhere he goes. It is his fifth bicycle since the hurricane because the previous four have been stolen. He did not want any water but thanked Sarah Cate for a blue bunny rabbit.
“Well, we just want you to know Jesus loves you,” Sarah Cate said.
The man reached down and gave her a kiss, to which she replied, “Oh, that was good. Do it again.”
“It was so funny because a lot of these people wouldn’t take our water but they wanted the stuffed animal,” Bray recalled with a laugh.
Across the street, Olivia offered a woman a stuffed animal, which the woman refused. She said, “Nothing has gone right for me, not with the insurance adjusters, FEMA, the government.”
When the woman finally accepted the bear saying that she was sorry not to have anything to give Olivia, the child said, “That’s not what this is about. This is about how Jesus loves me and I want you to know that He loves you too.”
The lady burst into tears, gave Olivia a big hug and asked her to marry her grandson. She invited the group to come back to visit, and they plan to do so.
“I wanted the children to see ministry opportunities in their own backyard,” Stringer said. “What excited me most was on the walk back to campus, several kids were making plans for other things they could do for people.”
Some of the children planned to make cookies and go visit people again with this simple message: “I’m sorry you lost stuff in the hurricane. We did too. I just want you to know that Jesus loves you.”