NEW ORLEANS (BP)–New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary again set aside the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall to convey the love of God to a hurting city.
For many students, that message of love was delivered through the pinging of hammers and the cranking of lawnmowers. And, like last year, evangelism teams scattered across the city to verbally communicate the message.
One evangelism team set out for Village de l’Est, a largely Vietnamese community in eastern New Orleans. In the previous two weeks, the close-knit community had been hammered by at least five murders. Sending an evangelism team there was an easy decision for Ken Taylor, urban missions professor and coordinator for the anniversary work day.
“Within the past few weeks that neighborhood has seen a Hispanic worker, members of a Vietnamese family and members of a Laotian family killed,” Taylor said. “I felt that as we were putting people out into the city we had to give it our attention, since only through Christ is there a solution to the ultimate problems faced by this community.”
“In the midst of where there’s been death, we shared life,” said Preston Nix, the NOBTS professor who led the evangelism team. “In the midst of despair, we shared hope.”
For several students, joining this particular evangelism team likewise was an easy decision. Parker Pierce moved to New Orleans just three days before the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and even before hearing about the anniversary work day, he had traveled to Village de l’Est to get to know the community and to prayerwalk.
“I just came out and walked around,” Pierce said. “I didn’t know what else to do but to walk around and pray that God would put some people here to be a light.”
At the time, he didn’t know about the crimes that had occurred there; his motivation for exploring Village de l’Est: his heart for Southeast Asians. He is a master of arts student at the seminary who, in the past few summers, has been involved in mission efforts directed toward Cambodians.
In all, four members of the evangelism team to Village de l’Est already had strong ties to the Vietnamese community whether through family background or just a heart for the people. For them, it marked a beginning of outreach to the community.
Participants in the work day met back at the seminary for lunch and to share their experiences with one another. Francine Matthews, a master of divinity student, told of an encounter her evangelism team had with a man named Henry. After about a 20-minute conversation, the man professed faith in Christ. As the group moved on, they prayed specifically that other Christians would come along to connect the man to a church.
A few houses down, the team met Rodney, a member of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church.
“We told him that his neighbor had just accepted Christ,” Matthews recounted. “He was so excited and said, ‘I’m going down there right now to talk to him, and I’m going to take him to church with me.’ We got to see God answer that prayer immediately.”
Another group told how they were able to share the Gospel with two brothers -– one in the ninth grade and the other in sixth grade. Though the older brother was not ready to respond to the message, the younger one was and overcame the pressure of following his brother’s disinterest.
In all, at least 12 people responded to the spoken message of hope and love through Jesus Christ that teams shared throughout New Orleans Aug. 29. For them, the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina will always be joined to an anniversary of the spiritual kind.
Michael McCormack is a writer for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.