Every morning, before we leave out for school and work, my family gets together in the front room and we hold hands and have a family prayer. We usually take turns on who says the prayer, this morning, it was my son’s turn..
“Dear LORD, we thank you for this day. We pray that you look after all those people in New Orleans who don’t have a place to stay and don’t have any food to eat because of the hurricane and floods. We pray that you shelter them and take care of them, even the ones who are stuck on their roofs or in their attics, we pray that you watch over all those people who are in the storm. We thank you for allowing us to have a roof over our heads and food on our table, we thank you for allowing me and my sister to be able to go to school, we thank you for allowing mommy and daddy to have jobs. Please watch over us today as we go about our day, in Jesus name we pray, amen.”
I didn’t make that up..that’s really the prayer that my 13 year old son prayed this morning, and just to hear him pray with such sincerity and truth made my eyes start brimming with tears. Not the kind of tears that make teardrops, but enough to moisten your eyelashes.
It’s been a pretty emotional last couple of days. Like everyone else across America, we have been inundated with the horrific images of destruction and despair throughout the Gulf Coast. Houston is only a few hours drive away from New Orleans, and all of us natives have had our own experiences with hurricanes and flooding, but my experiences don’t come close to what they’re dealing with in the aftermaths of Katrina.
My biggest hurricane story is from 1983, when Hurricane Alicia ripped through Houston with immense force. We were without power and running water for several days, but my parent’s house stayed intact. The water only rose up to our driveway, it didn’t make it to the house. But in the days afterwards, I can vividly remember going to stand in line for ice with my dad.
Since all the power was out, this meant that you couldn’t refrigerate or freeze food. So any chance of saving what food you had, rested on getting blocks or bags of ice and keeping the deep freezer closed. Old school ‘ice box’ style.
When the hurricane was passing through our Southside neighborhood, our tool shed in the backyard went tumbling over the fence and there were a lot of trees that were blown down, but most of the structures in Houston remained intact. But Alicia was only a Category 3, hurricane Katrina was a Category 5, that was downgraded to a 4 right before it touched land. Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale
When the eye of the Alicia was passing over the Southside, I walked outside with my father and the sky was so blue and clear it was eerie…
“You see son..this is the eye..so how nice and calm it is? When I was in the Navy, if there was a hurricane at sea that we couldn’t get around, we’d steer right through it until we got into the eye, and we’d just follow that eye because it was calm there.”
As I gazed around at all the debris that had blown in and out of our backyard while the front part of the hurricane passed through, it was almost creepy as to how peaceful it was in the eye. Because no matter how calm it seemed, I knew that we were going to have to make it through that back end of the storm and you just never know what may come flying through your window. That’s why my dad and my uncle boarded up all of the windows on the east and southern portion of the house with plywood or they used duct tape to keep the glass from shattering.
The images that we were seeing on TV displaying the havoc that hurricane Katrina had inflicted upon the Gulf Coast played an even more personal role to our family. Because it was less than a year ago that we made the drive to Biloxi, MS to attend the wedding of some close friends of ours. While we were watching some of the news reports and my wife was pointing out to them that we stayed right there on that same coastal strip of hotels that are now demolished when we went for the wedding, my daughter’s eyes grew wider and more worried..
“Do they still live there?”
“The people who got married..”
“Uncle James and Aunt DD?”
“Yeah..Uncle James and Aunt DD..do they still live there in Biloxi?”
“No..actually they live in New Orleans.”
“Are they okay?”
“I’m sure..I talked to Uncle James Sunday, and all of the family had packed up and made their way to Baton Rouge before the storm hit.”
Fortunately, today’s meteorological advances gives us a few days notice before hurricanes hit land. When you think of the thousands that perished in the tsunami earlier this year that had absolutely no warning of what was coming, then you realize that things could have been a LOT worse.
People who are familiar with the topography and geography of New Orleans aren’t too surprised about the hurricane’s aftermath.
New Orleans is a city that is built like a bowl, or bathtub if you will, and a large part of the city rests below sea level. Bordered by Lake Pontchartrain, (which is more than twice the size of the city) to the north and the Gulf of Mexico to the south and east.
The hurricanes winds and rain caused a breach in part of the levee to Lake Pontchartrain, and now all of the water from the lake is rushing into the city. Until the engineers can figure out a way to stop the breach, then the water level in New Orleans will continue to rise until the water is level with the water in Lake Pontchartrain. They have huge pumps that pump the water in the city out, via underground canals, but a lot of them are down now due to power loss or wind damage.
A lot of people don’t have a home to go back to, and the only thing they have in this world right now is the clothes on their backs and their lives. They no longer have any income, because where they used to work is no longer there..so in a lot of ways, they can be considered refugees without a home.
It may take months before they can even make it back to where they used to live, and the cleanup and restructuring of the city will take years to complete. But through it all, we know that God is still in control.
Those who have anchored their soul in the LORD have a solid foundation, and you can tell who they are when they’re on the TV, because they usually say, “I’m just grateful to God to be alive.”
So many people were upset about things like buying a bigger TV or getting another car, and now all those material things take a firm backseat and people can really examine the difference between what’s real in life and what’s bound to fade away.
People decry and bemoan the evangelism of the Christian faith, but yet time and time again, when there are humanitarian troubles like Hurricane Katrina, it is those of the Christian faith who step to the forefront with aid and support. Red Cross, Salvation Army, there is a long list of Christian based service organizations out there on the frontlines of the battlefield everyday. Because no matter how people may criticize or lambast the many hypocrites and thieves that attempt to portray themselves as keepers of the faith, the Bible is very descript as to who God considers as ‘religious’ people:
“If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” – James 1:26-27 NKJ
Our prayers are for all the families that have been affected by this storm and it’s aftermath. I couldn’t even begin to answer all the questions that some people have right now as to why God would allow this to happen. But the one question I can answer, is that no matter what, Jesus is still the LORD and Savior of us all.