By Debra Whittington: QCS columnist
“Go to now, ye that say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain’: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:13-14).
Our world as we once knew it will never be the same due to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina that struck the Gulf Coast two weeks ago. Day after day, I watch in disbelief as the media shares stories of massive destruction resulting from the hurricane. There are times when I feel as though I can’t watch anymore when a story of a survivor is inserted and hope is once more restored.
Mark and I traveled through Louisiana on our way to New Orleans a little over a year ago to catch our ship for a Bible Study cruise. I was amazed at how much water surrounded the city of New Orleans. As we traveled I-10, we drove on bridges for mile after mile over rivers, lakes, and swamps. New Orlean in 2004 was a carefree city that lived up o its name as “the big easy”.
As a small town woman, I was overwhelmed by the sights and sounds as we walked through the famous French Quarter. Doors of bars were open and people were standing in the doorway with drinks in hand, and this was all before noon. We walked past voodoo shops right next to Krispy Kreme. The people acted as if there were no tomorrow.
We saw another side of New Orleans later that day as we took a tour of the city and its outskirts. We passed by small houses in a poorer section of town that despite their lack of resources reflected the pride of their owners. As we traveled on, we went by numerous schools and churches that had stood for generations. It was entirely different from the image of New Orleans that I always associated with Mardi Gras.
After visiting New Orleans, we traveled north into Mississippi where we stopped in a small café for breakfast. There was a group of people in there that you could tell were regular customers and who reminded me of people who frequent the restaurants here at home. The food was so good; I had never tasted biscuits any better, anywhere.
When the cook walked out of the kitchen and sat down in a booth for a break, I just had to go over to her and compliment her on the meal. She just smiled and thanked me. She was so humble and sweet that I had to fight the urge to reach out and give her a hug.
All of this reminiscing is for a reason. Our first-hand encounter with the region and especially the people gave me a slight understanding of what the Gulf Coast and New Orleans is like. As we watched news reports, we commented to each other that we had visited the places where the reporters now stood. What were once places bustling with people and commerce were now underwater or merely a shell of what they had been.
Unlike the thousands of volunteers who are now in the region, I am unable to go. Still, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways that I can help. We can all help. First off, all of us can pray for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Let us also pray for the volunteers, many from this area who are there right now. Even though two weeks have passed, these people need our prayers for months and years to come as they rebuild their lives.
Next, we can give. Through our local churches we can give money that goes directly to relief organizations of different denominations that were already established in the area before the storm hit. There are other good organizations that are helping as well, such as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. Any amount will be greatly appreciated.
Finally, maybe now is the time to reflect on our own lives. In the passage in James, the people thought that their lives would go on as they always had. The sad truth is our lives are like a vapor that is here today and gone tomorrow. There is no assurance that we will have a tomorrow. What do you need to do today before the storm of tomorrow strikes?