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.