Thursday, September 29, 2005

Looking Through a Window

Looking Through a Window

Earlier this week Angela and I went to the cinema and saw a beautiful and magnificent movie called “March of the Penguins,” a fascinating documentary which closely tracks the life of a group (flock? tribe?) of penguins for a year, one feature of which is their 70-mile pilgrimage from the ocean to a winter mating ground, a trek that can take them up to a WEEK to walk. And you thought you had a difficult time in traffic evacuating Houston last Thursday.

But enough of this. I have put my family’s 13-hour drive to Austin in 106 degree heat completely behind me. I have reframed it into a thoroughly enlightening experience inasmuch as I now strongly suspect that the small town of Bellville, 40 miles west of Houston, which served as the locus of a 5-HOUR traffic bottleneck the likes of which no penguin would ever tolerate in Antarctica, is Satan’s dwelling place, aka Hellville.

September was a month dominated by hurricanes: Katrina at the start and Rita at the end. Now that it is “over” (obviously not for the people in hard-hit areas or for those evacuees trying to find housing, but for the average citizen who is now returning to the normal rhythms of his/her life), I would like to share some of my observations.

Perhaps foremost in my thoughts has been the whole notion of “security.” We strive very hard for security, and naturally so. We assume that a financial savings cushion, prudent planning, and wise action will help us avoid many pitfalls, and usually they do. But not always. If you were in the hurricane’s direct path, you were in the hurricane’s direct path. Period. If you sat in traffic long enough, whether in a Lexus or a Pinto, you ran out of gas. Period. If you are diagnosed with cancer, you are diagnosed with cancer. Period. There is a randomness to life’s events that cannot be totally factored out. Sometimes things happen.

I recall thinking how “secure” my life is (on the surface) with regular and nourishing routines and relationships and seldom a crisis worth mentioning, and looking around at the people in the cars surrounding me and seeing a glimpse of what happens when life’s bottom begins to fall out, and realizing that such a time is really when we rub up against the raw reality of faith and hope and dependence upon God and trust in his promises. And keep in mind that I am inside an air-conditioned car thinking this; I am only slightly inconvenienced; I have not lost anything or been displaced or even remotely experienced hardship. It is as if I am looking through a window into another room and knowing that someday I will find myself in that room and that is when certain faith claims that I make confidently now will be refined one way or another in the fire of that predicament

Which leads me to another observation. If you find yourself in that room wouldn’t you want people looking through the window from the other side to open the door and come alongside you there? We must continue being alert for opportunities to help even as we return to our “normal” lives, because had we been hard hit we would not want people who were not hit to consider the event over.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Saints Won

The Texans got clobbered in their first game of the season. Please send an offensive line to David Carr and Dom Capers ASAP. Red Cross has declined to intervene. The situation is urgent.

But seriously, there is a far more important and urgent disaster to which we are responding and that is hurricane Katrina and, specifically, the needs of the evacuees displaced in its aftermath. I want to give an update on where things stand with WHCC’s efforts and urge everyone to continue praying, volunteering, and donating as you are capable.

I have said before that we have had a two-pronged response but it really has been three. First has been our direct support of the Impact Church of Christ near downtown Houston with gift cards, supplies, and (perhaps most important) volunteer help. Your response has been TREMENDOUS in this regard. Please continue to check WHCC’s website and read the periodic emails that Matt Springfield (who coordinates this) sends out for the latest needs in this effort.

The second prong has been our evacuee housing effort. Our Transition team (i.e., helping people transition out of shelters) of Paul Vanderlinden, Charles Bellomy, Adam Venette and Mike Grosko worked countless hours over the last two weeks setting up a temporary housing plan whereby WHCC classrooms were converted to “apartments.” They have been in constant dialogue with local churches currently serving as shelters and with others in our area (Bear Creek Assistance Ministries, etc.) advertising our availability and researching how we can best offer our services. What they found is this: because things have evolved so quickly, and shelters are emptying so rapidly, the great need now is for assistance in moving to an apartment, with all that entails (money, furniture, etc.) and in finding employment. The Transition team is now focusing on that form of assistance. Let me thank everyone who was ready to spring into action to assist in our 24-hour a day housing ministry. Stand down, but stay tuned!

The third prong is especially inspiring because it represents individual Christians putting their faith into action and seeking out opportunities to help evacuees. Dozens of WHCC members have been involved in ministering to folks in many and varied ways, including “adopting” a hotel where evacuees are staying, inviting evacuees to stay in their home, and helping folks find and move into new housing. We want to improve how we communicate these efforts so people wanting to volunteer can link arms with those already involved. At present, call the office or check the website for details.

Long after David Carr and the Texans regain their footing and begin winning game after game (amen?), we will want to continue being attentive to the needs of the good people in New Orleans whose lives have been shattered. And let me say that I have been so inspired by the extraordinary efforts so many people at WHCC have made in the aftermath of Katrina! You are wonderful people.

The Saints won on Sunday. Double meaning intended.