Devastation, a war zone, unbelievable; all of these words came to my mind as Donnie Cook and I drove as part of a convoy through the greater New Orleans area on our way to Belle Chasse, Louisiana . At one point the lead car led the convoy the wrong way, and for once I didn't mind being lost because we had opportunity to see the effects of Katrina and all of the flooding up close, instead of seeing it at a distance from the interstate.
As we had entered New Orleans we had to show our Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief (OBDR) credentials to the authorities in order to make it past the check point. The vibrant, ever busy city I had learned to love as a summer missionary the summer of 1991 was now a ghost town. The city known for tourism, jazz, and parades was now full of military convoys, utility trucks, and trash. The trash was of every size, scattered newspapers to overturned cars, broken glass to boats of every size that had run aground throughout the city.
We slowly made our way southward the ten miles from New Orleans to Belle Chasse on highway 23. Cimarron County residents Donnie Cook, Jay Newton, and myself, joined thirty-two other men of Northwest Oklahoma who served either on the OBDR feeding unit or the chainsaw crew. The feeding crew fed from 3,000 to 9.000 people daily while the chainsaw crew attempted to help the residents of Belle Chasse get rid of the many trees that had once beautified the area, but now littered yards and hindered cleaning efforts.
Donnie and I , both of Keyes FBC, served with two other men on the warehouse crew which was responsible for receiving and inventorying all of the food, water, and ice that was used for feeding the community. Jay Newton, of Boise City FBC, served on the sanitation crew, which was responsible for sanitizing all of the containers and utensils used for cooking and feeding.
The work was exhausting, but rewarding. We met people who were so grateful for the food, water, and ice and who could not believe that people from Oklahoma would sacrifice a week to help people they had never met. We were often asked, “Why are you here?” to which I would share, “We are here to let people know that we love them and Jesus Christ loves them.” Not only did we share physical bread with Belle Chasse, but we also shared about the “Bread of Life”, Jesus Christ.
I have many memories of my trip from September 23 to October 1, 2005 . The one I want to conclude with is the smiles of the people of Belle Chasse. For a month I had been watching news stories of Katrina's victims and had hear a lot of sadness, a lot of discouragement, and a lot of blame, but I had not heard of much hope. While I was serving in Belle Chasse last week I saw a lot of smiles, because I met a lot of people who have hope. Smiles of appreciation for the help and smiles of people who know that even a category five hurricane can't take away the hope we have in Christ Jesus.
Written by: Bro. Jay E. Sparks , pastor of FBC, Keyes
Revival services will be held October 16-20, 2005 at the First Baptist Church of Keyes. Gary Woodson, of Wagoner, OK, will be the evangelist for the week. Services will be Sunday morning at 10:45 a.m. and Sunday through Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m.
Boise City News