God appointed a time for everything under the sun, the writer of Ecclesiastes said. “A time to mourn and a time to dance.” Hurricane Katrina was certainly a time to mourn.
Five years have come and gone since the storm rearranged my life and the lives of millions along the Gulf Coast. On this anniversary, I will remember Katrina’s losses – especially the 1,836 who died. To ignore the pain so many experienced would cheapen the healing God has given. I probably won’t dance. If I do, it will be in a “second line.” I will, however, celebrate God’s work of healing in my life. That healing involved Faith, Hope and Love.
Katrina hit on Monday and by Thursday I was working hard for New Orleans Seminary, writing articles about our plans for the future. I had no time to process the events. No time to worry about the implications of this historic storm. Saturday morning reality hit me like a ton of bricks. I worried about the future.
That Sunday, I walked into a church service with a load of cares. It felt like Kimberly, Jonathan and I were all alone in the world. God began speaking to my heart when we sang “Blessed by the Name.” When I sang the words “You give and take away” I knew everything was going to be okay. I decided to lean on my faith. The healing started there. Faith in Jesus was the foundation, the bedrock, of the healing process.
After God reminded me that He was still in charge, I began to hope. At first, hope was fleeting, not a constant reality. As I worked to help the seminary recover, hope began to take hold. I couldn’t help but hope. My work depended on it.
Hope made a real difference in my personal recovery. Artists thrive on hope because we believe our work can effect change. When I began to hope, I experienced a brand-new wave of creativity. I started painting again. I had always loved to draw and paint. I even studied art in college, but I had stopped painting before Katrina. I just couldn’t find the time. After Katrina, I couldn’t NOT paint. I had to. Katrina-inspired artwork flowed freely.
Creativity emerged from the aftermath of Katrina. Artists, writers and musicians in the city responded to the crisis by creating. That creative spirit stretched to ministry as well. Christians in the city have been coming up with great ideas to make this city better. Hope is powerful stuff.
Faith and Hope took me far down the road to recovery, but it was Love that accelerated the healing process. Love came in the form of service to others. Through my work, I told lots of people’s Katrina stories. Each one of those articles was a tiny act of service. Once we made it back to New Orleans, the serving really began.
Over the past four years I have done it all. I’ve gutted homes and built new ones. I’ve ministered to the elderly and fed the homeless. I’ve tutored inner-city children and I’ve welcomed internationals to the city. The more I served the less I thought about my own problems. I found real joy in helping others. The pleasure, and the blessing, of service has been all mine.
Jesus’ Great Commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” really sum up the way I found healing from the pains of Katrina. When you face your darkest hour, I recommend this to you: Trust in God, embrace creativity and find a way to serve others.