FIRST-PERSON: Remembering the great storms
TAYLORS, S.C. (BP)--I have been privileged to travel to many churches, speak to many groups, and see God at work in many places as Southern Baptist Convention president. For this I will be eternally grateful.
There are places, however, in which a special burden has been laid upon my heart. In the last several months I have traveled and have seen the devastation caused by Hurricane Rita. The people of southeast Texas continue to struggle to see their area rebuilt. To date, there are still approximately 60,000 homes which need to be restored. Please do not forget these dear people as you ponder volunteer ministries, and most of, all prayer support.
Recently, I was invited to speak to the Louisiana Baptist Convention as well as to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. In both of those instances, I was blessed to be a part of God’s work, God’s movement, and God’s blessing. How we thank God for the great leadership of David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. How we thank God for the wonderful leadership of Chuck Kelley Jr., president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. In both entities, God is doing a wonderful work through his dedicated servants.
To be honest, however, the trip to Louisiana left me with a renewed passion of the great work needed to be done there in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Many people in that area of New Orleans are experiencing deep depression because of the slow pace of recovery. In most places, it seems as if nothing has changed since the week after the hurricane. In fact, that is true in most areas. Southern Baptists have joined other benevolent entities and are doing a powerful work in rebuilding homes and restoring lives. In fact, that was the only spot of hope that I saw outside the churches in which I spoke!
As I talked with Franklin Avenue Baptist Church Pastor Fred Luter, he shared with me that only one fourth of his congregation has been able to return. As I spoke with David Crosby at the First Baptist Church of New Orleans, he told me that his church had suffered a loss of approximately 40 percent in attendance. In fact, Dr. Crosby told me, “You are now in the largest ghost town in America.” Many people have not returned. However, those who have are experiencing needs beyond our imagination. In some cases, basic city services have yet to be restored.
To the people of New Orleans, as well as southeast Texas, I speak a scriptural passage, “Brothers, do not grow weary in doing good” (2 Thessalonians 3:13).
To the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention, I remind us of the admonition of Jesus who said, “I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me” (Matthew 25:40.)
May we ever be aware of the opportunities before us. Natural disasters will come again. Let us be at the forefront of ministering. However, when the initial relief work is done, let us not forget that the recovery goes on sometimes for many years.
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.