FIRST-PERSON: An update on New Orleans

TAYLORS, S.C. (BP)--Words cannot express the depth of emotion that I have felt recently, having returned from a trip to New Orleans and surrounding areas.

Like many people, I had seen media reports on the damage of Hurricane Katrina. However, I quickly realized that there is no way to see the absolute scope of devastation without visiting there personally. Literally, mile after mile of devastation greets any visitor.

I was there at the invitation of David Crosby, pastor of the First Baptist Church of New Orleans. (By the way, that church has maintained a 10 percent giving level to the Cooperative Program, even during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina!) David and I have known one another for many years. While there, I spoke at the First Baptist Church of Covington, La., which is under the capable leadership of Waylon Bailey. I also was privileged to speak to the many leaders of the greater New Orleans area. Pray for them as many in their congregations are experiencing an ongoing lassitude.

But in the midst of the horrible devastation, there were bright spots. As we drove around the city, we first came to a place where a group of youth from the First Baptist Church of Smithville, Mo, were cleaning out a flooded home. What a tremendous spirit these students had. I commented on the fact that many students across the nation were at the beach while these students were spending time in a hot, humid, non-air-conditioned flooded home.

Yet another bright spot was seen at a sight where Baptists are leading the way in rebuilding homes. Fortunately, they are building raised level homes! The North American Mission Board’s Operation NOAH is involved in doing more rebuilding than any other group. Please remember that much of this is because of the Cooperative Program. There is still a need for an ongoing flood of volunteers, contributions and prayers for the churches and people of New Orleans.

Yet another bright spot was visiting the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Under the capable leadership of Chuck Kelley, God is using this wonderful institution in that city. During Katrina when all was dark, the light from the steeple gave indication of a hope that is continuing even to this day. Through the help of Southern Baptist volunteers and Cooperative Program support, that school is doing very well. Their campus is being rebuilt and is very beautiful. Thank God for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Chuck Kelley, and all the staff, faculty and students who are working hard to make a difference.

As I said earlier, emotions filled my heart as I traveled through the city. I believe that Southern Baptists have a singular opportunity to make a difference in reshaping a city for the cause of Christ! While our church has been involved in ministry along the Gulf Coast as well as in New Orleans, we pledge to continue that great effort. Would you help be a part of shaping a city for the cause of Christ?


Frank Page is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C. Visit his website at www.sbc.net/PresidentsPage.

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