I drove to the Ninth Ward, one of the hardest hit areas in New Orleans. Fifty square miles of this section were under water for two weeks. Thousands of homes, covered with a gray dust, stood empty in the surreal, ghostly environment. Not a human was in sight until we spotted a gentleman sweeping his sidewalk. We stopped the car and approached him. He stared at us in disbelief. When I told him we were with the Billy Graham ministry, he smiled and, in a soft voice, said, “Thank you for coming.” He told us that his home was paid for and that he just wanted to clean it up and move back in. This is how he was dealing with his stress. The realization that this would probably never happen was to be saved for another day. “I wish I could just see some green again,” he said. “Everything here is brown and dead.” I looked up and pointed to the very top of a shrub where a few leaves were green and shining in the afternoon sun. The man began to weep. We asked if we could pray for him. He said, “I am a born-again believer, and I believe in the power of prayer. I would be honored.” The three of us locked arms around each other and thanked God for life in a place where, days before, death had flowed in the floodwaters in front of his home.–New Orleans
Ten chaplains attended the weekly Bible study for the New Orleans Police Department aboard the Carnival cruise ship Ecstasy. They had many opportunities to pray with police officers and share the Gospel, and two police officers accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Chaplains distributed Bibles and literature to the police officers, and stuffed animals and toys for their children.–Aboard the cruise ship Ecstasy, New Orleans
One man said he had been in jail and was just released three weeks earlier. “I have been running from Christians for 30 years,” he said. When I told him that we had come to offer hope, he said, “There is no hope here.” The conversation went on, and I told him that the Lord knows where he has been and what has happened in his life, and also that He loves him and is waiting for him. The man broke down, got on his knees and prayed to rededicate his life to Christ.–Port Arthur, Texas.
An older man talked about the destruction he had seen after Katrina and said that previously he had only seen such horrors when he was part of the Normandy invasion during World War II. He shared some of what he had seen in Gulfport, Miss., and spoke of his church, which had been washed away, and of friends who had lost everything. We prayed for him, and he rededicated his life to Jesus–that he might be used to help in whatever ways he could in this present-day horror.–Gulfport, Miss.
We drove into an area that was completely wiped out. No people were in sight. We thought we saw movement, so we backed up. We found a man named Fred, who explained that this is where his home used to be. I embraced him as he cried. After Katrina, Fred was the first person back to his neighborhood, and he had been sleeping in his truck on the slab where his garage used to be. He had spent many days looking for items from his home, and he showed us the few things that he had found blocks away. After listening to his painful story, I asked if I could share with him how he could have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He said, “Yes, I would like that very much.” After I shared the Good News of Jesus’ life, death, burial and resurrection, Fred gladly put his faith in Jesus alone for his salvation.–Pass Christian, Miss.
I spoke with a woman who said she had lost everything but her life after Katrina. Reflecting on this, she concluded, “It’s just stuff. If I want more stuff, it’s just a shopping cart away.” Many of the survivors we talked to realized God and people are more precious than any of the “stuff” they owned and, for some, it took a disaster to put things into perspective.–St. Bernard Parish, La.