unexpected blessings

August 29, 2005

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It’s been an interesting week for me as I reflect on the 10th anniversary of when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. My mind is swirling with many emotions, some difficult to bring to the forefront, others reminding me of restoration and hope.

I fell in love with New Orleans (pronounced: N’awlins) late summer 2001 when I attended my first youth gathering as a high school student.

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Four years later, Hurricane Katrina made landfall and broke apart a city so full of life and flavor.

Today marks 10 years since Katrina hit the city of New Orleans. With this anniversary, many memories come to my mind. Although I was not in the city when the hurricane hit, so many significant events and happenings in my life took place as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

That summer before, I had done an internship at my home church with my DCE (Dir. of Christian Education). We had gone to a conference in Nashville and someone who spoke had shared an idea.

Three days before the hurricane hit, while many people were either escaping or stuck in the city, I sent my first email devotion in a series titled, “God’s Love is…”

August 25, 2005

God’s Love is…UNCONDITIONAL!

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

God claimed us as his own! We all make mistakes and fail, but God’s love never fails us!

The first five weeks of that devotion mentioned praying for those who had been affected by Hurricane Katrina. Little did I know that I would continue that devotional series every week for the next seven years.

I remember very vividly where I was when I heard the news. It was early in the first semester of my junior year of college. Soon after the events took place, they were organizing a meeting and inviting students to come and find out how we could help.

It was a blur, but myself and a few other interested student leaders talked with a DCE who was already in the city helping with relief efforts. He said to, “Come with humble hearts.”

The next 6 months were spent working with a team of adults and students to gather a group and prepare to go and serve.

In March of 2006 two dozen college students, a high schooler and a college prof headed from Nebraska to NOLA for a week of some of the hardest physical and emotional labor I have ever experienced.

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We slept on cots and took showers in trailers. We ate  well…really well! We threw away ruined belongings. We met a woman named Grace. We sorted pictures and books  that survived several months of standing water.

And three weeks after we returned from that trip, I broke  down in tears in the shower because I didn’t know how to  process it all.

Two years later, I had graduated from college and was working in Michigan. I joined a group of young adults to attend my 2nd relief trip. The city was continuing to be rebuilt, but still had a long way to go. Camp Restore had opened up and we had a great place to stay while we volunteered at a local church, sanding drywall and preparing pews for installation.

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Later  in 2008, I was asked to join the planning team for the 2010 youth gathering, which was to be held in New Orleans. Bringing youth back to the city was a great idea and I wanted to be a part of it!

We had several meetings in the city in the years leading up to the gathering and it was a great way to reconnect with the people and see the restoration that was continuing to happen.

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I have many friends who have been in the city this week, planning for next summer’s national youth gathering in New Orleans. I am thankful for the opportunities we have had to return to the city. Even after the devastation and loss of life that happened 10 years ago, the people continue to bring life and flavor to a vibrant city.

“God is NOW HERE.”

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