My friend and brother in Jesus, Robert C, sent me an email yesterday. Robert lives in New Orleans and is one of the elders at the Carrollton Avenue church. Robert was reminding us of a date we both knew well... how on August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina had slammed into the Gulf Coast with unprecedented fury and devastated the city of New Orleans.
Robert also recalled how in the hours immediately following the storm landfall I had tracked his family's evacuation exodus from New Orleans... desperate to confirm that my friend and his family were safe. He went on in his email to thank me and the SoHills church for the ways in which we had helped his church family at Carrollton Avenue get back on its feet.
As I read Robert's email, I thought back to our youth group days at the Central church in Birmingham, Alabama--and how God was bringing Robert and I together for His purposes: our co-teaching the 7th-8th grade Wednesday night class at Central during our college days, SALT talks, Susan and I helping Robert and his wife Myrna move to New Orleans (and recalling how the two of them only planned to be there a "few years"), TIME (Teens In Mission Experiences) trips to New Orleans.
All of those life events pointing us to Katrina... the storm that took New Orleans to its knees. And the way in which God revealed Himself more powerful than any storm or its devastation by reawakening churches like Southern Hills to what it really meant to be a sister congregation to a church in a storm-wracked city.
I replied to Robert that any blessing that I or Southern Hills had been to him or Carrollton Avenue has been magnified by God a hundred times over to me and the Christians here in Abilene. Every time I have visited New Orleans since the storm, and have witnessed the re-born Carrollton Avenue church (and now alongside it, Hollygrove) my faith in God's possibilities for the church has been renewed. Every time, post-Katrina, I have sat alongside the Carrollton Avene church in worship I have experienced the sweet sense of what a truly diverse church can look like.
Yes... God is good.
August 29, my dear wife's birthday, now carries for me a double reminder... the gift God gave me when he placed Susan alongside me, and the date that a terrible storm deluged a city and a people that I care deeply about. My life will never be the same as a result of either of these events. And for that I am profoundly thankful.