I just returned at 4 a.m. from ground zero on the Gulf Coast. The devastation was total.
I’ve been so encouraged by the sacrificial response of many Christians. At the same time yesterday at the largest church in Gulfport, all I saw were suburban white folks in dress shirts and ties doing business as usual with God. Two miles away their brothers and sisters in the Lord wandered the shattered remains of their hurricane-stricken homes. It was surreal.
I saw such a contrast in the life of my good friend Marty. He dropped everything in his life and, towing his camper behind him, drove down to New Orleans to help.
Hurricane Katrina represents the greatest opportunity of our generation to mobilize an ingrown church for radical outreach. We don’t have all the answers and if we wait to get them before we engage, we’ll miss it. It’s a messy situation. We have 70 staff on site at resettlement centers in Baton Rouge. This week, many have contracted a virulent virus as they touch the displaced. Our expectations are being dashed daily.
Compassion can’t be black and white and it is inevitably messy. In the life of Annie —- it was messy. She needed to get to Corpus Christi. She didn’t trust anybody, least of all our AIM staff. We talked to her for the better part of a day. Elizabeth Scaife talked with her for six hours. Finally she agreed to go. We bought her a Greyhound ticket to Houston. AIM staff member Cesar Gonzalez drove to Houston from Mexico to pick her up. He then drove her down to Corpus Christi.
Annie said, “I’ll never forget you guys.”
This was messy compassion at work.