Friday, September 09, 2005

Katrina Brings Career Changes and New Neighbors

Like everyone I know in the Houston area, I've been doing what I can to help Hurricane Katrina victims. It's been amazing to see the outpouring of help and love that's occuring on a daily basis.

I've had the opportunity to volunteer at Second Mile Ministry, getting to meet individually with some of the folks who come through to receive food, clothes, and even gas vouchers. I get to hear their stories, learn about those who have offered them a place to stay, and talk to them about their plans for moving forward. And best of all, I get to pray with them.

While most left before the storm, several were in New Orleans during and after the storm. Many have told me stories of escape and survival that can only be attributed to God's hand. One family had not had a car until three days before the storm -- they were able to escape with other family members "because God provided us a car." One grandmother with an infant grandchild told me about the priest who gave them a key to the Catholic school across the street. They weathered the storm in the school, then returned to the school when the levee broke and ended up spending two days on the roof before the Coast Guard rescued her along with many neighbors.

Several have told me stories of complete strangers coming up to them and offering them housing, and then taking care of every need.

Virtually every person I've talked to has lost all of their physical possesions except what they were able to bring with them. If their homes were not flooded, then it seems that a tornado associated with the storm wiped their possessions out.

Yet to a person, they are optimistic in the face of having their lives redefined. They are getting their children into school, finding long term housing, and finding jobs. Traumatized? Yes. Defeated? No way.

While Second Mile is a faith-based organization, everyone who needs help in our part of town is being referred to us, and there is certainly no requirement that those receiving help be people of faith. Yet, to a person, in talking to them, they have expressed strong faith in God and his providence. While my job has been to encourage and help them, I've been on the receiving end of seeing faith in action and a spirit that lifts me up.

Every single person I've talked to is making a career change of one type or another as part of moving on. Most are planning to work in the Houston area. Some already have job offers.

I'm glad to have them as new neighbors. Houston will be a better place because of them.


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