I am constantly haunted by the story of one of the women we met on our first trip to New Orleans, when everything was fresh, when YOAM was still operating by faith and not in our own confidence that we knew how to handle hurricane relief. As we worked in her chilly home, wrinkling our noses against the lingering smell of mold and mildew, racing the sun each day so we would have light to rebuild her shell of a house, her son poured out her story.
Being in her nineties, his mother had chosen not to evacuate. New Orleans is situated on the coast below sea level; floods and hurricanes are just part of life there. Why should Katrina be any different? By the time she realized how different this hurricane was, there was nothing left to do but board her windows and pray.
Darkness fell on her home, and the water began to seep under her door. Little by little, it rose, until it reached her in her kitchen. She lifted her feet onto her chair with her, but still the water levels clamored higher. As they traced their way up the legs of the chair, she made the decision to move on top of her table, bringing the chair with her, and there she stayed, with nowhere left to go.
She didn’t know what was happening outside. She didn’t know that already people were starting to loot. She didn’t know that the levees had given way and the lower Ninth Ward had been wiped from the face of the planet. She didn’t know that many people were floating down streets whilst sitting upon their rooftops. She didn’t know that the lake between the suburbs and New Orleans proper had emptied itself upon neighboring Slidell. All she knew was that if she could make it on top of her table, she could buy herself some more time to pray.
I remember her son talking about how she knew she was either going to make it through, or be praying as she met Jesus. Even typing about it, I cry.
This woman sat out the wrath of Hurricane Katrina in her rocking chair on top of her kitchen table and prayed. She said the water stopped just below her nose. And it stayed there for minutes… hours… days… Who could tell? But there she sat, her ancient body perfectly perched on her rocking chair so as not to move a fraction of an inch, and she prayed.
And she made it through.
So we could rebuild her home to hear her story of profound faith.
We have so far to go as we make changes in YOAM and take on our first recovery effort outside of New Orleans, but I have faith. Even as the flood of planning and financial commitments starts to rise, I will pray, and have faith. Will you join with me?
Love and Peace,
35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
-Mark 4:35-41 (NIV)