Sunday, April 15, 2007

New Orleans Being Redeemed

My friend, Kathryn Taylor, is one of our ministry's leaders in New Orleans. Kathryn, along with a team of staff and interns, relocated to New Orleans this past fall with the dream that God could somehow use them in the lives of the city's residents and college students to make a real difference. Many individuals, myself included, have traveled to this great city since Hurricane Katrina to help rebuild homes and to share the love of Jesus with interested individuals.

However, most of us have been visitors. We went down there for a few days or few weeks, put in some hard work, talked to some people and went back home. Kathryn and her team moved their belongings and their families to New Orleans to not do ministry as visitors, but to do it incarnationally by becoming a resident themselves.

Kathryn recently expressed some of her thoughts on what God has been teaching her during this process and I thought it would be worthwhile to share them with you (with her permission). Here you go:
"Today I participated in the Crescent City Classic - the most attended and most known race in New Orleans. I say participated because even though I had good intentions of running the race, after a month of visitors, spring break, regional visits and planning, I was wiped out. It was all I could do to walk the 6 miles.

Lately I've been feeling the New Orleans "funk". It's this feeling you get when you've not had a break from the city for weeks on end. No matter how much you love this city, it's still a hurricane devastated old city and you need a break every once in a while. My last exodus from the city was in February. March was a full month and an exciting month but at the end of it I felt worn out and very down. It was funny how participating in a race reminded me of how much I have grown to love this city.

The race started down in the French Quarter. Twenty thousand people lined up to run and walk. Many people were in costume (of course they were, it's New Orleans). I ended up doing the race with my friend Melanie. It was fun to walk through some of the beautiful neighborhoods of New Orleans and talk about life and the gospel.

I've watched this crazy phenomenon in New Orleans. American Christianity was divided right after the storm - some believed that God was judging the city and some believed that God was going to open the door to missionaries who would "save" the city. I was in the second camp, but now I even realize how self-righteous and self-focused that attitude was. By God's grace, I've fallen in the love with this city. I no longer want to "save" it, I want to be a part of the redemptive thread that God is weaving in the city of New Orleans. All around me there is pain and suffering. I am no longer an outsider to that. I am sad when I see the pain of my neighbors (not the neighbors who necessarily live on my block, but the neighbors as Jesus described them). I am convicted at my lack of action, my commitment to my own comfort rather than to serving those around me. I am in love with the city - I walk down the street and I am thankful I live here. I love the history, I love the culture of celebration, I love the people and the food (well, not the crawfish). I love that I see the good in this city along with the bad. It's interesting to see what God is doing in this city - it seems that he's bringing a new kind of missionary to the city....not some one who is here to change the culture, but to embrace all that Christ would embrace in the culture and be a light to the city through loving the city.

I don't know what I used to think about New Orleans.....probably that it was a hopeless city, a place that God didn't really care much about. I must say, living in New Orleans has given me a greater picture of the celebration that awaits us in heaven. I cannot help but believe that God is crazy about this city - that he desires to redeem it! I really believe that God is using the devastation of Katrina in a way that most of Christianity never dreamed would be possible. All around me, I meet Christians who have moved to New Orleans and have fallen in love with this city - they love the being part of the culture, the life and the pain of the city. It seems that God has put his heart in their hearts! We're not here to "save" a city, we're here to live the gospel.

It seems like in Christianity we sometimes focus so much on 'getting saved' and living for heaven that we miss the in between. I am thankful to be brought to a place where I daily see the tension of reality and hope. I believe that living in New Orleans has taught me more about the heart of God than any place I've ever lived. New Orleans is changing and shaping me more than I am changing and shaping it."
Thank God for those that have sacrificially given of themselves to share Jesus in word and deed with the people of the Gulf Coast. Continue to pray for them...

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