April 3, 2006
By: Rev. Alan Coe, Minister for Disaster Recovery South Central Conference
One of the most familiar stories from the life of Jesus is the story of the Good Samaritan. One aspect of the story is compassion for a person in need. In the story people pass by the person without offering any help. The Good Samaritan typifies who we are as Christians, showing our compassion to people that cross our path. If there is a need we try and fill it. The human dilemma is, at times we look the other way. It may not be intentional; sometimes it just happens that way.
Each day we go about our routines and sometimes God puts a person in our path we get nudged to help a person in need. One day recently I was outside in the yard where we have been residing. The house is in Kenner, a suburb of New Orleans and just a few blocks north of the New Orleans airport. This particular house did not flood. It is raised about three feet off the ground. Many houses on the street and neighborhood flooded, from a few inches to two feet. Our neighbor to the left had about two feet of water in the house. As the last few months have gone by we observed people working in the house, debris placed on the curb is the norm in New Orleans when a family cleans out a house and at times no one seemed to be home. A FEMA trailer arrived and people could be seen in the trailer. The family seemed to be progressing on the road to recovery.
On this day the young mother came over to us and asked what we do, seeing the UCC Disaster Ministry logo on the truck. After a brief explanation she asked if we could work in her house. Her grandmother who is almost 90 is living in the trailer. She and her three sons are living in the house. I asked if I could look in her house to assess the damage. She told me her story and how she came back and cleaned and scrubbed the mold off the walls. As I looked around I could see mold on the floor and in corners of the room. No doubt there is mold in the creaks and crevices hidden from sight, but growing. There was also a gaping hole in the kitchen ceiling from a leak in the unrepaired roof. As the woman showed me around the house her three sons were watching TV on a mattress on the floor. This young woman waits for her FEMA trailer with no place else to live but a mold infested house. She complained about a green mucus and cough. Her aunt is the person responsible for the house. She is living out of state but is expected that day.
Who is our neighbor and how do we help? Even though the work in New Orleans takes me to the far reaches of the city and some of the most devastated areas of the city, there is destruction and need next door. As I walked out of the house my thought was, this can’t be, but yet it is, in major metropolitan area of the United States. My next thought, how do we help? We can’t go in and clean out her house, she is living there. Do we have to wait until her trailer is delivered? Are there other options for her and her children? In the vastness of this disaster sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t.
This scene can be repeated by the hundreds and possibly thousands as people and families come back to the area. My neighbor will most likely be one of thousands that will be served by the Jefferson Parish Long Term Recovery Committee or JPUNC for short. Long term recovery committees are interagency-interfaith committees set up in each of the parishes affected to serve and meet the unmet needs of the people. The United Church of Christ, as a Good Samaritan is part of that response.