Even though it’s been one year since Hurricane Katrina furiously assaulted the Gulf Coast, parts of the battered region look as if the storm came ashore only days ago.
Many areas along the 90 miles of the splintered Mississippi coast are beginning to rebuild, but the broad swath of destruction is still obvious for miles inland where wind and tidal surges destroyed or damaged almost everything.
In Louisiana, the recovery is proceeding at a much slower rate, and many structures across New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, St. Bernard Parish and Plaquemines Parish are virtually obliterated. More than 250,000 people have been displaced by Katrina, and their return is uncertain.
In the midst of this turmoil, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team has worked almost nonstop for the past 12 months, personally sharing God’s comfort and hope. More than 1,300 chaplains, working in teams, have visited homes and neighborhoods, praying with the devastated victims. We’ve also been able to work with first responders and schools across the region.
More than 2,000 people have made decisions for Christ, and tens of thousands more have been encouraged in their faith. Our work through the Rapid Response Team and the relief efforts of Samaritan’s Purse prepared the way for a two-day Celebration of Hope this past spring at the New Orleans Arena, where more than 30,000 people came to hear the Gospel.
When a disaster like Katrina strikes, we go in the Name of Jesus Christ, put our arms around those who are suffering, and tell them of God’s grace and strength to see them through their trials.
I don’t understand all the reasons for suffering, but I do know that we have a Savior who Himself has suffered on our behalf for our sins. He has felt and experienced pain, sorrow and grief, and He invites us to come to Him so that we can “receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, NIV).
The Bible says that the devil, like a thief, comes to steal, kill and destroy but Jesus has come that we might have life, and have it to the full (Cf. John 10:10). Even when a storm like Katrina takes away every material possession, Jesus gives abundant and eternal life to those who call on His Name and take refuge in Him.
Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NIV). This is the enduring, sustaining hope of the Gospel that we share–the Good News of a Savior who has triumphed over our sin, the world, the flesh and the devil, and who invites us to share in His victory through faith in Him.
Our Rapid Response Team will continue to minister in Christ’s Name in shattered towns and communities across the Gulf Coast in the months to come. Many residents still feel a great weariness of soul, but we thank God for the opportunity to share the love of our Savior, knowing that “nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Cf. Romans 8:39).