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Love Will Lift New Orleans Again

I got up at around 5 am, got ready for school, and ate breakfast. My parents drove me to town, and I got on the bus. 
Today was the day. Field trip to New Orleans!

New Orleans was huge, like Mobile, in a lot of ways. I would find out later that this was due to French influence, but today, I was only interested in seeing lots and lots of animals. We visited the Audubon Zoo, where for the first time I saw bears, elephants, and other creatures not native to our area. At the Aquarium of the Americas I saw an albino alligator, a stark white reptile with dark red eyes. I was told that there were only five of them in existence, all in New Orleans.

Thirteen years later, last Sunday, August 28, 2005 I awoke to find out that a category five hurricane was headed for New Orleans. This time, I was over 450 miles away; however, I knew that New Orleans was below sea level, and I knew that poor people would be affected most. While my parents tried to convince my family near Mobile to evacuate, I tried to bargain with God: If God would spare New Orleans, I would shave my head. If God would spare New Orleans, the hurricane could speed toward my community instead, where there was a lesser threat of flooding and a better chance of evacuation. If God would spare New Orleans... a flawed attempt on my part to control nature of my own will.

For whatever reason, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans anyway. It also wiped out almost every small community and vacation spot that I've ever been to on the Gulf Coast. Perhaps there was no reason, it was just random devastation that defies any logic or reasoning. Nevertheless, like many people, I began looking for politicians to blame, I wondered why relief efforts were taking so long, and I questioned why God had allowed this disaster to happen. 

It's hard to believe that only one week has passed. While government officials may still hear from me, I haven't found any reason to be angry at God. Despite my grief (and because of it) I kept praying. Prayer, I found, was my only option as I encountered something that was beyond my control.  And there is still so much to be thankful for. Hundreds of thousands of people survived Hurricane Katrina. (Among them were two of my friends attending seminary in New Orleans.) Thousands more have been plucked from the waters, and as help has finally arrived, thousands will soon be able to have the luxury of a hot shower, or a drink of cold water, or a change of clothes. New Orleans, the city that gave us jazz, blues, rock, and albino alligators, will rebuild.

However, there is still much left to do. If you're reading this, you may have already donated money to the Salvation Army or Red Cross, and unwillingly donated money to your local gas station. Nevertheless, please do not give based on your emotions. Aid organizations will be dealing with Katrina for a long time, and it's important to give appropriately and plan your gifts to help in the long term. The Salvation Army may be providing food and clothing for months to come. Habitat for Humanity's involvement, for example, will be equally important, and even more long-term. Please give, but when you do so, give wisely.

God is our refuge and strength, 
    an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way 
  and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam 
 and the mountains quake with their surging. 

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, 
  the holy place where the Most High dwells.

God is within her, she will not fall; 
  God will help her at break of day.
(Psalm 46)

Freddie Odom


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