Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Second Christmas; Post-Katrina

Throughout the last few months many of you have asked how things are developing here in Slidell. As we approach our second post-Katrina Christmas several items stand out:

1. While much progress has been made, hundreds of homes remain unlivable.
2. The business community is recovering nicely, but still suffers from a severe lack of workers.
3. Evidence is piling up that a large segment of the population mis-used their FEMA and insurance monies.
4. The temporary spiritual awakening is coming to a close. People still appreciate the efforts of churches to help in the restoration, and they still will listen to our story with courtesy, but they seem to have fallen into spiritual dullness.
5. Human personal needs are accelerating at an alarming rate.
6. Believers are growing weary of bearing an increased ministry workload due to more unchurched in the area, and fewer Believers.
7. Ministry teams and work groups seem to no longer sense an urgency to minister here.
8. Financial resources in the churches are dwindling, even as the demands are spiraling. Food, diapers, blankets, and personal care items are in continual demand; and the sources for such items seems to have almost dried up.
9. The inability or unwillingness of officialdom in New Orleans to effectively handle crime and political malfeasance seems to be affecting the willingness of people to commit to helping the North Shore, which has dealt very effectively with those issues, as this area is usually lumped in with New Orleans in the minds of most people throughout the country.

Is the situation hopeless? Certainly not! However, we are standing at a critical juncture. The true test of the will of a people is the ability to function efficiently and effectually in the midst of continuing adversity. Baptists are known as "People of the Book". They have always felt it to be a Biblical mandate to do good whenever it was within their ability to do so. Baptists have stood strong against the evils of the last century by denouncing Fascism, Nazism, Communism, Racism, and Liberalism. They have immersed themselves in the culture in such a way as to affect change. They have sacrificially given their sons and daughters to fight for freedom around the globe, to serve as missionaries to spread God's Good News, and to feed and clothe those ravaged by disaster.

The problem we Baptists seem to face is a kind of innate impatience which manifests itself when there is no measurable progress. We are not very good at "staying the course". We easily become disenchanted with projects which show little discernible progress. We appear to look for "instant gratification" and expect those we help to immediately demonstrate some sort of self-sufficiency. This attitude is demonstrated again and again by Baptist agencies and individual churches who desire such progress as will "justify" their continued support of a particular project. Little thought seems to be given to the fact that myriads of small almost indiscernible victories usually lead to large victory celebrations in the indeterminate future.

I'm often reminded of my friend, Samuel Babu, who I met in Hydrabad, India. Samuel was visited by a man from Nashville, Tennessee during the early 1970's who was leading a WIN (Witness Involvement Now) Clinic. That man shared Christ with Samuel, but Samuel did not receive Christ at that time. However, Christ's Holy Spirit eventually drew Samuel to Christ. That man never knew that Samuel became a Believer. Samuel has led thousands to faith in Christ, and that man probably would think his visit was in vain. However, when that man steps through the pearly gates to begin his first ten thousand years with The Lord, untold numbers might greet him and say, "Thank you for going to India, and to the home of Samuel Babu."

We Baptists need to rediscover the art of going where God says go, and trusting Him for the results. We need to be prayerful in our commitments, and we need to stay the course until a definite word from God tells us to change course. That is certainly true of Southeast Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Promises of support and help which never materialize, or which are discontinued when higher profile opportunities arise create an opportunity for the Evil One to seize the moment and disparage the entire body of accomplishment, leaving immature and growing Believers with a jaded and disillusioned perspective on the value of commitments.

Perhaps, the geographical location of Southeast Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast leads most to think those areas are part of the Bible Belt and therefore filled with mature believers. In fact, the area from Bay St. Louis, Mississippi through Louisiana via I-10 to Orange Texas bears little similarity to the traditional Bible Belt other than geographical proximity. The overwhelming preponderance of citizens of that area are old line Roman Catholics with a smathering of Island Voodoo, and other mystical religions thrown in. Their heritage is French, Creole, German, Acadian, Spanish, and Caribbean Pirate. They are intensely loyal to family ties, and often remain suspicious of outsiders. These are the people who have been impacted by the outpouring of support by Baptist and other Christian churches over the past year.

We must NOT grow weary in well-doing. Who knows but that the very next person reached for Christ will become the Samuel Babu of Southeast Louisiana. Who knows but that untold numbers will greet you and say, “Thank you for going to South Louisiana.” Please take this Christmas time, the time of selfless giving and re-evaluate your commitment to this region for Christ's Sake.

© 2006 Mike Rasberry

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