Finding Faith in a Fallen City

02/02/2006

Dr. Fred Luter of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans.

I just returned from the devastated city of New Orleans. Even after several months, television cannot capture the horror of the scene—miles and miles of destruction, as though bombs were detonated block by block. Yet in the midst of ruin, I saw beauty. I witnessed love and compassion in action, demonstrated through the faith community. While news reports focus on the divisive bickering of politicians, I saw the amazing impact that armies of compassion can have on seemingly hopeless situations.

In his State of the Union speech, President Bush addressed the rebuilding efforts all along the Gulf Coast, citing the government’s $85 billion commitment to remove debris, repair highways, build stronger levees, provide housing assistance and extend business loans. While it is appropriate for the government to help rebuild infrastructure, it is impossible for bureaucrats to rebuild the human spirit. True restoration of a community can only come through the cooperative efforts of the people.

I met with about 500 pastors and their wives from across all denominational lines. Protestants and Catholics sat side by side as a unified family of God. Jesus Christ said to his followers, “You are my body.” As I heard all that these leaders have accomplished, I felt like I caught a glimpse of Jesus himself.

150 days into the crisis, the Pastor’s Resource Council of churches and organizations, known as “PRC Compassion,” has worked together to cooperate with 250 local faith-based organizations, train and commission 682 chaplains and counselors, route 1,284 delivery trucks, deploy 11,365 volunteers who have logged 400,841 hours of service, and assist 2,219,100 people. This is by far the most effective humanitarian aid, because it is administered by neighbors and friends who truly care for one another.

I visited the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, where most of the 7,000-member church lost everything in the hurricane and evacuated the city. A host of volunteers, diverse in both race and denominational background, removed the damaged furnishings and cleaned up the debris so people could stand in the building, pray, and rebuild emotionally and spiritually. Services have been held in the parking lot. The church has no electricity, but there is far great power being released through the hope-filled believers.

The pastor, Dr. Fred Luter, has very few members left in the area. Those that remain are very cautious about rebuilding, because they understand that their future must be built on a solid foundation with proper walls of protection, both literally and figuratively. They are not in a hurry. There are not anxious for tomorrow. There is no racial strife or class conflict. Peace and love have overcome destruction and division.

Larry Stockstill, pastor of the one of the largest churches in Louisiana and a partner in PRC Compassion, said, “We need people to come together with no logos and no egos.”

The faith community in the New Orleans area has quietly and effectively begun coming together to heal their city. Despite their low-lying geography, they are poised to construct “a city set on a hill,” to be a light, and to show the world the power or unity, grace and love.
 

 



Author: James Robison

Word Count: 525

About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, an international humanitarian aid ministry; host of the television program, Life Today; and author of The Absolutes.

Media Contact: Randy Robison, editor at jamesrobison.net

Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.

 

 

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