The Son of Man will put the sheep (good people) on his right and the goats (bad people) on his left. “Then the king will say to those good people on his right, ‘Come. My Father has given you great blessings. Come and get the kingdom God promised you. That kingdom has been prepared for you since the world was made. You can have this kingdom, because I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was alone and away from home, and you invited me into your home. I was without clothes, and you gave me something to wear. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you came to visit me.’ “Then the good people will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food? When did we see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you alone and away from home and invite you into our home? When did we see you without clothes and give you something to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and care for you?’ “Then the king will answer, ‘I tell you the truth. Anything you did for any of my people here, you also did for me.’”
– Matthew 25:33-40
Four years ago today, Hurricane Katrina severely damaged a huge swath of the United States coastline and close-inland areas from Louisiana to Florida on the Gulf of Mexico.
Hundreds of thousands of residents in cities, unincorporated communities and single, free-standing residences became victims in the span of a few hours.
A whole large city, New Orleans, reeled for months on the brink between survival and terminal decline.
The once-picturesque Mississippi coastline, populated by family residences, neighborhoods and historic communities, staggered.
The larger cities of Biloxi, Gulfport and Pascagoula reeled with damage, while smaller communities like Waveland were virtually wiped out.
However, it quickly became evident that human compassion – an enormous outpouring of relief supplies, financial assistance, and back-bending volunteer labor, could begin putting pieces of shattered dreams together again.
The largest and most efficient assistance in the initial response came from the private sector, especially faith communities across North America and not insignificant aid from beyond the U.S.
The well-organized relief agencies of the religious community – Catholics, Jews, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Latter Day Saints and many others – in all the diversity characterizing American religious life, poured thousands of volunteers and massive, strategically targeted resources into the needs of victims.
Most impressively, a major presence and active rebuilding assistance continues.
Government, which has more money than anyone, has provided billions for long-term capital projects throughout the region, but the people-to-people assistance will always be identified with the faith-at-work efforts that developed into a vast network of new friendships and relationships across artificial barriers.
Life as the Coast had known it before Katrina – a life rebuilt after Hurricane Camille in 1969 – is far from “normal,” but it is filled with hope and fierce determination.
Great disasters, perhaps more than anything other than widespread war, make millions understand why Jesus of Nazareth said to his disciples, when you have helped them, you have helped me.
NEMS Daily Journal