Monday, September 26, 2005

Katrina Report Part One: "Thr Fruit of the Spirit is..Kindness and Goodness"

The photo feature of Blogger doesn't apprear to be working right now.

I'm still working on the pics I want to post here of Katrina's aftermath in the Mississippi towns of Gulfport and Waveland. They will be coming.

Meanwhile, I was once again pondering the nature of spiritual fruit. If you've read my blog in the last few months you know I have been preaching through Galatians 5:22 (the "Fruit of the Spirit"). Goodness, I think, comes back to what Jesus called the "first and greatest commandment" -- that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and that we love others in the same way we love ourselves. And kindness -- is that not just the doing unto others as we'd have done to us?

I have just returned from watching love in action in Mississippi. Here are just a few instances of goodness and kindness. I saw them:

...In the beautiful brown face and sparkling eyes of Jeannie Wallis, who has worked for weeks to clean up mold-damaged First Assembly of God church in Gulfport. Her warm smile was not dimmed, and her praise to God was still vibrant, even though she had only gotten about three hours of sleep each night since the day Katrina slammed into Gulfport. She called me a "powerful woman of God." She is the powerful one!

In the voice of Pastor Norlund who vowed to do whatever was needed to help hurricane victims, to be the hands and feet and heart of Jesus to the town of Gulfport--no matter how long and no matter how costly.

In the broad smiles, firm handshakes, and gentle words of two very young policemen from Ohio who had worked long days in Waveland, MS, and who didn't know when they'd get home. They smiled with genuine kindness anyway.

In the hands of my friend and former parishioner, Debra, who taught me how to do face painting so we could give little hurricane victims a few moments of normal fun. She tried hard to remember every child's name, cried when they weren't looking, and prayed for them when she could.

In J.J., a fireman from Utah turned temporary FEMA employee, who asked if I'd let him sit and talk with children for a few minutes as he,too, painted clowns and butterflies on the children's faces. He needed a break from misery almost as badly as the children did, I think, but he turned his own need into moments of joy for others. And he painted an impressive alligator! Then he let us put a KIDS ARE AWESOME sticker on his FEMA shirt, even though he said it was probably against the rules.

In the hardworking doctors and nurses at an impressive M*A*S*H type tent. They were distressed and weary but smiled with great kindness nonetheless. At the end of an exhausting day they still managed to joke with me when I asked to take their pictures.

In Misty, a tiny dynamo who supervised the volunteers at the large disbursement tent. She had been in Waveland for almost three weeks, and she still managed to direct us with energy and grace. I know she was exhausted and ill, but she hid it well and she toiled on, reminding us that we needed to "be very compassionate with these folks."

In the hard work of the people of Christian Life Church, Alabama, who were in Waveland first, before Convoy of Hope (or anyone else) arrived. They set up on the parking lot, and they did what they could with what they had, and they are still there.

In the cheery waves of national guard troops.

In an older woman whose name I never learned. She amazed me with her stamina and tireless work. She sang hymns and she smiled and she sorted clothes for hours. We had very few baby clothes to give away, but she somehow managed to find some newborn items for a sad-eyed but grateful pregnant woman who told me, "My due date is today."

In the waitress at the Gulfport "Cracker Barrel" who had lost her house, but who smiled and counted her blessings as she served us breakfast with paper plates and plastic forks.

In Thomas who cheerfully made the rounds of "Camp Katrina" all day every day to keep styrofoam coolers stocked with ice and bottled water--and who updated us with glee, and praise to God, every time someone else found a missing relative.

In Joan, who stood beside me and passed out band-aide tins and other first aide items to hundreds of weary and sometimes rude customers at the disbursement center. Joan worked long hours on her feet even though her toe was bleeding and hurting badly from a mishap with a pallet of supplies.

In the kitchen and the serving line at the "Waveland Cafe" tent. Church folks from many different denominations labored long hours in stifling heat and humidity to serve free meals to thousands of victims and volunteers alike.

Weeks ago at Jubilee A/G (my church) we prayed for the people of God to shine in the aftermath of the hurricane We were all shocked at the images we saw on our t.v. screens. At that time I didn't know that I would travel to the gulf coast and witness the horror of Katrina firsthand. We prayed for the Church of Jesus Christ to be His hands, his feet, his heart, his voice. I am rejoicing to say that I saw this happening.

The fruit of the Spirit is love...expressed through kindness and goodness. How rare that is, and how beautiful when found.

No comments: