NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Eighty percent of the city has been underwater. Entire neighborhoods no longer exist. The death toll as a result of Hurricane Katrina could reach into the thousands. Welcome to post-Aug. 29 New Orleans.
While some people may view the city as a hopeless situation, Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch sees an excellent chance for a great revival.
“It is possible for God’s people to capitalize on this catastrophe for the sake of the Gospel and that a great awakening can occur during the days ahead,” said Welch, who toured shelters in the region Sept. 7.
“I believe that’s what Southern Baptist leaders, pastors and members are working and praying for,” said Welch, pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla. “This has every possibility as far as the spiritual impact in the area to be as strong or stronger than 9/11.”
Such tragic situations cause not only Southern Baptists but the entire nation to come together, Welch said.
“The belief is that during this unified effort of people that Southern Baptists will be unified in their effort to share the Gospel with all people,” he noted.
In addition to visiting the shelters and speaking at two gatherings Sept. 6 at Florida Boulevard Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Welch delivered relief supplies that were transported on a plane owned by a Methodist and two Jewish businessmen.
Such acts of generosity by people of different faiths reminded Welch that God may be about to do something truly remarkable.
“All kinds of people in all walks of life are coming together and forming our greatest opportunity to live and share the Gospel of Jesus,” he said.
Welch traveled to Louisiana not only to minister to evacuees, but to encourage the volunteers at shelters and disaster relief sites.
“At each place I tell our relief workers that we must stay focused on the fact that this is our finest hour not only to display the love of Christ but to share the Gospel,” he noted.
“I wanted to ensure Southern Baptists in this state that the national convention is concerned for their best future as well as this immediate need,” he said.
Whenever he visits a shelter, Welch tells evacuees he is sorry for their circumstances but that Southern Baptists will do all they can to give them a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name.
Brian Blackwell is a writer with the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.