Last summer, my son Neil told his three children that he planned to take them to the park the next day. "Pray it won't rain," he said.
The next morning, they piled into the truck and were driving across town when he said, "It's such a beautiful day. Who asked God for this? Grant, did you?"
"No," the eleven-year-old said. "I forgot."
"Abby, did you?"
"No, I forgot, too."
"Oh, good," said Erin, her eight-year-old twin, "then it was my miracle."
At church, I see Graham Waller, so bravely dealing with the blindness which resulted from surgery for a brain tumor over four years ago. We still pray for his healing. I've told his parents, Ed and Sherri, that one reason I pray is that when the healing comes, "I want it to be my miracle."
My college roommate and best man in our wedding, Joel Davis, and his wife, Wilma, have a daughter-in-law who is fighting a severe kind of cancer. She spends many weeks in the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston undergoing all kinds of harsh treatments and bizarre tests. I've never met Tina, but every time I read an update on her situation, I pray for her again. And I think, "Lord, when she gets well, I want it to be my miracle, too."
Now, imagine a day in the future, perhaps a decade from now, when the city of New Orleans is a different place. Perhaps the population is 75 percent of what it was here before the storm, but now there are no slums, no hotbeds-for-crime housing projects, fewer drugs, less violence, safer streets, better schools, and Christian churches that are the marvel of the nation, where all the pastors love each other and work together, where God's people are loving and ministering and blessing. Imagine a new kind of city, one unlike any this country has seen in our lifetimes.
Whose miracle will that be?
That miracle will belong to Texas Baptists. They are coming here in droves (appropriate for Texans, I would think); they are working and witnessing and giving sacrificially to help us rebuild. And they are praying; my, how they are praying.
That miracle will belong to Missouri Baptists. They've been all over this city from the earliest days after the storm, feeding thousands, operating chain saws, climbing on top of houses, witnessing to our people, giving of themselves. And those who couldn't come have been praying and giving.
The miracle of the new New Orleans will belong to Arkansas Baptists. They came in to work when no one else was allowed in, and they're still here. You'll find them outside our churches, slaving beside the massive steamers preparing thousands of meals a day, blessing our people everywhere in the name of Jesus. You'll find teams of them sleeping in churches and working in our neighborhoods, showing the love of Jesus Christ to people who stand in awe of this kind of dedication.
The miracle will belong to God's people in at least forty-one states, and maybe more. That's how many states have been represented in the disaster relief teams that have come our way post-Katrina, the last time I checked the North American Mission Board's Web site.
And the miracle will belong not to Baptists only, of course. God has drawn His people from every sector of this nation to this sunken spot on the globe, all for the single purpose of serving a needy humanity in Jesus' name.
The miracle of New Orleans will belong to the good folks from Peachtree City, Georgia, and Hendersonville, Tennessee, who were covering parks in different sections of the city on a recent Saturday, bearing a witness, ministering to folks, loving and giving and laughing. And the wonderful people of Greenville, South Carolina, and Charlotte, North Carolina, who donned their worst clothes and did the dirtiest work known to man, mudding out our ruined churches, then huddling around the pastor and lifting him and the church family to the Father.
The miracle of this new city will belong to a singing group that met in a West Virginia church soon after the storm and took up several hundred dollars to help a needy pastor in New Orleans. I was delighted to hand it personally to two men of God who were thrilled to receive the tangible encouragement.
The miracle will belong to those who came from Florida and all over Louisiana and walked the streets with us on a recent Saturday, praying for the coming back of the city, asking God that it may be restructured according to His blueprint and not man's. And it will belong to those who sent word that, unable to join us for the prayerwalk, they would pray in their cities, in their homes.
The miracle will belong to the Korean pastors who boarded a plane a couple of weeks after the storm and flew across the ocean to do what they could to assist and encourage our people and our churches. The language barrier disappeared when they walked in; their very presence spoke eloquently of the Lord's nearness.
The miracle of New Orleans will belong to those precious individuals who send us notes saying things like "I pray for you every day" and "I used to belong to such-and-such a church in your city. I want you to know we've taken up an offering, we're sending a team, and our people are praying."
Mostly, the miracle of the rebuilding and renewal and revival of this old city will belong to those who stay to the end, seeking heaven's blessing in prayer for all who live here and labor and witness and make those key decisions which will affect everything else.
The Father knows. He can sort it all out. And one fine day — one day when the family all comes together for the first time — we who call ourselves the new New Orleanians will be in the audience applauding as the Father calls out the names and hands out the honors. Many who made all the difference we never knew, never talked to, and never met. But their prayers, their gifts, and their work was used of the Father to turn the tide. They were faithful, and their diligence made the difference.
Allow me to get the jump on the rest of my friends who will be applauding you and cheering you that day, and tell you now, "Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Thank you for loving and coming, for giving and praying, for working for us and weeping with us. Thank you.
"Thank you so very much."