I witnessed something amazing and beautiful Wednesday night. It was just one more reason to love this city. Here’s what happened.

We took some of the children from First Baptist Church (grades 1-6) to Central City to help with a ministry that provides a meal for people in the neighborhood. What a night.

Central City is one of the more impoverished areas of city. Crime is a real problem there. I don’t usually hang out there and our kids don’t hang out there either.

Pastor Ed Scott is trying to start a church to reach the people of the area. Each week our church takes food to Taylor Playground and Pastor Scott preaches while 100 or so people eat.

We took the kids from our missions education program there with hopes of building relationships with the children from the neighborhood. We didn’t know what to expect, we simply told the kids to be nice and try to meet some of the children.

The playground consists of a couple of large fields, a children’s play area and a covered basketball court. Just across the street is a line of once-beautiful houses now falling and fading into various stages of disrepair. We had to step over discarded tires and trash to enter the park.

We quickly drew a crowd of children. Our kids did a great job of being friendly. They didn’t see the differences – ethnicity or social and economic status – they just saw other kids (I pray this will always be the way they view others). And they played. I played too. We took a break for a quick Bible story (David and Goliath) and then we played some more.

This time the game was elbow tag. We asked our kids to team up with a kid they didn’t know. Teams of two then locked arms for the game. The mechanics of the game are not important, but the picture of these kids (some from First Baptist Church, some from Central City) arm in arm will stay with me the rest of my life. It was beautiful. It was one part “I Have a Dream,” one part “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” one part Galatians 3:28, and one part Revelation 7:9-10.

Until the recent oil spill in the Gulf, our city and region had been on quite a roll. The Saints, once the laughing stock of the NFL, won the Super Bowl. We celebrated the win right through Mardi Gras Day. Tourism spiked after the Saints’ win. We also elected a new mayor – Mitch Landrieu. We just call him Mitch as if we know him personally. He won by a landslide with strong support from all segments of the community. Things have been looking up. We have had reasons for hope!

But for me, seeing those kids arm in arm having fun was something special. My heart overflowed with hope. Man, it was beautiful.

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