Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I Went To See What Wasn't There...

I am still in Louisiana. I did a three day youth rally at Jennings, in the south central section of the state. It was a wonderful time spent with wonderful people. Standing room only for Saturday and Sunday. I am still stunned that teens will listen to me. What an honor!

Yesterday, today, and tomorrow I will be speaking in DeRidder, a tiny town in the middle/west of the state. I am speaking for the Community Church of Christ, a small church with a big heart and big dreams.

I spent today and some of yesterday down near the Gulf to see the damage from Hurricane Rita. I have seen lots of photos of Katrina damage; some brought by our teams we've sent into Picayune or Pascagoula, the rest via the media. Seeing it firsthand was different. I started in Lake Charles where almost half the downtown buildings showed serious damage. On the south edge of town one out of three roofs (by my estimate) was broken, covered with blue tarps. Some of the homes were shattered, mixed with tree parts and trash as if placed in a blender.

Further south toward the Gulf... the bayous were not hotbeds of housing developments before the storm. Now they are an empty, ghostly void. I drove an hour and saw no undamaged houses. A large church building had its front half completely ripped off. Trailers had spray paint on them to indicate that they stood where houses and a town used to be: "514 Main Street" or similar. Sometimes it was a pile of trash with a sign painted with a house number on it -- no trailer.

I got down to where Route 27 ends at the Gulf. I was interested in seeing the little town there and how it was doing. It wasn't. It was gone. Not one house stood where a beach resort town once lived. I turned west and drove all the way to Port Arthur, Texas past shattered piles that used to be places like Johnson Bayou. Port Arthur itself was hit hard. Homes, churches, and businesses were torn to shreds. I kept wondering "Where do these people get milk and bread? How far is the nearest store that's open?" Up a bit to Orange and the damage was less severe, but still terrible in the poorest section of town.

I had the scariest flight of my life last week from Memphis to Alexandria as a thunderstorm tossed the tiny plane about. I still have worries and this and that and, oh yes, I had a terrible migraine last Saturday. But I don't think I want to complain about any of that. After what I saw on a seven hour tour today, I think I just want to pray.


At 2/07/2006 09:22:00 PM , Blogger pegc said...

Welcome to our world!

Actually, we are in Beaumont, just west of Orange and we fared quite well, but it is a sight to behold. The damage is endless and the trees are gone.

It will be a different spring here. Every street I travel is different and there are still houses with trees right in the middle of them. I keep wondering where the people are that lived in those houses? Of course, every business and I do mean every business here is asking for workers. And many businesses that were here when we first moved here 30 years ago, are no longer in business. Sad, sad stories abound and I know we had it easy compared to Katrina!

Hard to describe until you see it, isn't it?

We are so thankful.

Peggy in Texas

At 2/07/2006 10:02:00 PM , Blogger DJG said...

Thanks for the reminder. I am afraid I and others will forget.

At 2/07/2006 10:36:00 PM , Blogger Laurie said...

HI Patrick:

Our sincerest apologies that we were and are unable to get away and hear you and be blessed by your words. I appreciate so much what you shared about the area and what you saw. One thing for certain, there are some very strong people with indomitable spirits running around the gulf region.

Be Blessed. We welcome you and Kami and Duncan to our home anytime you need a place.

At 2/08/2006 12:11:00 PM , Blogger Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

Oh, Patrick - Wait till you come over here. I'm afraid you haven't BEGUN to see mass devastation.

It truly is indescribable to anyone who hasn't seen it, and even more indescribable for people who are living to to try to explain in any coherent way to others.

The thing over here is that you can drive from New Orleans east nearly to Mobile, Alabama and see 100s of miles of TOTAL devastation for at least 1/2 mile inland from the Gulf.

I pray you will urge others "back home" to continue to come down to bring aid. As you know, Tom publishes the paper in Picayune and we both lived there for 15 years and have many good friends there in the church, where your members came.

We just had TCS and six other young men from the church up in Starkville, Mississippi here putting a new roof on our own home. They stayed at the church building in Picayune and we fed the mighty hungry young men working so hard and so joyfully and enthusiastically. It was a wonderful weekend - a blast!

I'm sorry I can't make it over to meet you and visit with the Thompsons and good people you've written about in DeRidder, but I'm still in a boot on my broken foot and still not out and about, even though I'm past 9 weeks now.

But, there is plenty to good work to do here in front of my computer, and so I'm doing it.

Y'all watch for my next post or three (I've got lots to say) about the young men who came down to so greatly bless us.

Take care and have a safe trip home. PLEASE, God - give Patrick a safe trip home.

At 2/08/2006 01:02:00 PM , Anonymous Jamie said...

For some of us it takes a bucket of cold water thrown in our face to get us to see what really is in front of us. We put on glasses crafted from cynicism, skepticism and even passivism. We live within our self-defined box filled with facades manifested through indulgence, piety, busy’ness, “family” among others. And it takes the sobering effects of images seen through the media of despair, plight and hopelessness to awaken us to “another world”.

Hurricanes Katrina, will for me, be the figurative bucket of water in my face. My senses were aroused to look outside my well-crafted box by the images so easily brought to the world by the media. How could all the media be there to broadcast overwhelming despair, such suffering and injustice, yet no images of help. I think about the camera crew and the reporter so easily accessing the area, feeding themselves, remaining confident in their situation and reporting “all the misery” unfolding in front of them. It is then outrage tears my box apart and I step out into (maybe sadly only for the moment) reality.

A reality that supports that some of my cynicism is justified, yet causes my eyes to stare straight and focused on my own passivism. My box defined me; it defined my “happy little world”, one filled with income, indulgence, piety and place. Yet beneath this box remains a foundation that is unstable and would never hold up under far less hardships than those being suffered by so many.

Call it guilt, call it shame, call it disgust, call it whatever some shrink wants to define it as. Whatever the motive, it’s forces forced me to step out of the box and into action to “do whatever I can”.

Where is God in all this? I believe he was everywhere. God has a way of calling us into His presence in ways we could never dream. God was in the emotions stressed out through the voices of the reporters. God used the images to amass a great relief army to mobilize and respond. Respond in a way that clearly spoke His name laud for all with ears to hear. All of man’s plans in local and federal government, all “organized” agencies, with all of their preparations, organizations, and foundations couldn’t respond as quick and as effective as God’s called out did. Called out without planning, without structure, without formal funding, without……. Yet God’s plan works!

Those who responded to a calling to bust out of their box and expose themselves to the realities of a world havocked by Satan begin to feel the compassion that manifests itself through selflessness and action to heal the hurting, to save the lost, to feed the hungry, to give our lives over to a course that is set by God not us, living in faith as we go and shining in His glory all the way.

Seeing the damage done, first hand, to property, people, culture and life has a way of causes us to rethink our box. Images on TV and in magazines can’t prepare ones conscious for what our eyes see, our ears hear, our mouths taste, our nose smells and our hands touch.

I got to come home and have successfully rebuilt a box. Maybe my box is shaped differently, but yet the reality is that suffering remains and my eyes are once again turned away from action. Living in my world of facades, less cynicism, still busy, full of piety yet a little more humble towards God’s power through His chosen.

Patrick: Seeing “first hand” the region damaged by hurricanes and being awaken to a further depth of understanding of the despair and plight has made you a better advocate for the continued need for God’s chosen to not turn their backs. Let Satan shriek, amen!!


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