[Hurricane Update] News from New Orleans

January 11, 2006

A message from Rev. Alan Coe, Minister for Disaster Recovery South Central Conference

The New Year has come and gone, the celebrations have ended and Mardi Gras season is beginning in New Orleans. It is different this year though. How would I know that, never having lived or been to Mardi Gras before? One word, Katrina.

I have been here now for two months as UCC Minister for Disaster Recovery. I now actually make it through some days without taking a wrong turn. The recovery efforts are taking shape but are still in their infancy, not only with the UCC recovery process but the entire region. If you live away from the area it doesn't seem that way. What is seen in the media is a city on the rebound, a city full of life and things back to "normal".

I see things a bit differently than the media. I see pain, loss and heartache on the faces of people. Just today I went to a house to meet the owner. He is a man, in his mid thirties with a wife and at least one daughter he spoke of, maybe more children. Very fit, very friendly but yet as we stood outside his house, he couldn't go in. A man in his prime, unable to move. In the almost five months since the hurricane nothing has been touched in their house. The furniture sits in places it doesn't belong, at angles that aren't normal. Mold covers most everything in the house leaving a gray tint to the entire house. That scene is repeated by the thousands as houses still sit untouched. Many homeowners are still living far away, like another woman who is flying in from Seattle in a couple of weeks to meet with us to go through her house and her mother's for the first time.

Last week there were two groups here with about 40 volunteers in total. One day we all worked at Beecher Memorial UCC. This church was just like the house I spoke of, about 6 feet of water sat for two weeks in the church after the hurricane. The members have mostly relocated, at least temporarily, to other parts of this and other states. Clothed in all kinds of protective gear we worked through the daylight hours beginning the laborious process of bringing life to an uninhabitable place. Starting from the door and slowly working our way back the task begins, taking things out of the church, hymnals, pews, office equipment, the organ, piano, refrigerator, everything. The windows are opened so fresh oxygen can begin to replace the dank odor of mold. It takes a lot of emotion, a lot of strength to hold back the tears. At one point as I watched people from two parts of the country, North Carolina and Massachusetts working side by side helping their brothers and sisters in faith, tears welled up in my eyes. This is what we are to be about, healing. Yes, for the moment it is physical sweaty, dirty work, but for eternity it is kingdom work, compassionate souls working together to bring life out of death and destruction. This is the gospel my friends.

I am doubly blessed. I see Christ at work every day. I see it in the people who come to give of their time and talents. I see it in the eyes of the homeowner, so grateful to have help. What I see is hope in their eyes, a hope that does not disappoint.

Rev. Alan Coe
Minister for Disaster Recovery

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