Saturday, October 08, 2005

Baton Rouge, Lousiana, Saturday, October 8

Last night I dreamed that I was standing, arms outflung, in front of the ocean. It was dark and waters were rising foul and warm all around me. I was with my community and I reached on each side of me for hands and said, "Take my hand so that none of us need die alone."
The waters rose very fast and I drowned, and as I died, I thought, "That was all I could do. And I am not dying alone."

I awoke gasping for breath.

I meet people every day here who have lost loved ones to drowning. Joshua, one of the two chief church volunteer leaders at Allen Chapel, is grieving his cousins and their family -- three children, I believe, who drowned in New Orleans.

Last night I bought some items at the Body Shop. I asked the salesgirl if she knew where a certain restaurant is but she smilingly replied that she did not, as she's from out of town. "Oh," I asked, "Where you from?" Without losing her smile, and with a touch of pride she replied,
"I am from New Orleans."

The New Orleanians I have met are all resolutely high-chinned. They do not want pity; they always say that they are counting their blessings and they are so glad to be here. They smile, so I smile back with dry eyes and wish them a very good day and take care.

Let me ask the pastors out there to think about something:

If the population of your town or city suddenly doubled with evacuees from a monumental natural disaster, what do you think your church's mission would be in that time? What is your church for?

Would you welcome people in to sleep on your pews and to camp out in your kitchen and Sunday School rooms?
Would you serve as a distribution center for donations pouring in from all over the country?
Would you clothe the naked and feed the hungry? How about displaced prisoners? Would you shelter them, too? Do they deserve a roof over their heads, or do they not?

How many committees, if any, would you need to form to discuss these decisions? How long would those meetings be before decisions could be made?

Does your church have a covenant, is it explicit, and how would it hold together if unwashed, traumatized, homeless and hopeless thousands were in need of your hospitality?


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