FIRST-PERSON: Two sisters

DRY CREEK, La. (BP) -- Two bad sisters named Katrina and Rita brought destruction and hard times to Louisiana in 2005. However, there's a story worth telling about two sisters in Dry Creek where I grew up and how the hurricanes brought about forgiveness and reconciliation.

Both sisters grew up in the Dry Creek community of Beauregard Parish. I don't know why or when they fell out with each other. They hadn't spoken in years. One still lived in Dry Creek while the other was in Lake Charles. That distance of 55 miles might as well as have been 5,000.

Their estrangement broke my heart because they were the granddaughters of one of my childhood godly mentors. He was a man of forgiveness and integrity who likely wouldn't have allowed this feud to continue.

The week of Hurricane Rita, things began to change for the sisters. The Lake Charles area faced a mandatory evacuation order. Even though the storm would also strike Beauregard Parish, the Dry Creek sister planned to stay. So, she picked up the phone and called her long-estranged sister. "Where are you going for the storm?"

Silence on the other end of the phone. "I really don't know. I just plan to head north and find a motel."

The Dry Creek Sister was emphatic. "No, that's not what you're going to do. You and your family are coming to Dry Creek and stay with us."

The Lake Charles sister didn't argue. I wonder if she'd been hoping for this very call, and I wonder if the Dry Creek sister had been looking for a reason to reconnect. I sense that God had been doing a Holy Spirit softening of their hearts.

You will never understand Rita and our reactions to it if you ignore her bad older sister Katrina. The aftermath of Katrina affected everything about how southwest Louisiana readied for, and reacted to, Rita.

So, these sister hurricanes, forever linked together in the hearts and minds of Louisianans, brought about a reunion of two families, two sisters, two hearts.

The sisters spent the two weeks after Rita visiting, catching up on a decade's worth of stories, laughter and even sorrow. Like a ripple effect from a strong wave, the sisters' reconciliation spread among cousins, nephews and nieces who'd taken sides in the feud.

I'd like to have been there to have watched it unfold in the days when Dry Creek had no electricity and precious little water or food. I have a feeling that the joy of being together again nullified the hardship they faced.

The two sisters got me thinking about forgiveness, such as the exhortation of Ephesians 4:32 to "be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ."

Forgiveness is a gift we give others and, in the meantime, we receive so much back. Forgiveness brings freedom, and freedom brings peace.

Now, forgiveness isn't about forgetting. Rather, forgiveness is saying, "It just doesn't matter." It is the heart-thought that, if possible, is even better than forgetting.

Rita in 2005 resulted in a reconciliation that was beautiful and lasting -- a relationship where two sisters said, "What happened in the past doesn't matter now. Now is when you need me, and I will be here for you."

As I think about the two sisters, it's a good time to do inventory in my own life. Who is there out there that I need to pick up the phone and reconnect with?

I often visit those two sisters who are now buried side by side in Dry Creek Cemetery. To my knowledge, they maintained a close and sweet connection until their deaths.

Now, the dead can no longer speak physically, but if they could, they'd say, Do whatever it takes to make it right.

Curt Iles, a Dry Creek native, now writes from Alexandria, La. The author of 13 books, he can be reached at www.creekbank.net. For a Baptist Press feature about Iles' three years of work in central Africa with the International Mission Board, click here.
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