Sunday, August 29, 2010

Five Years Later

If you had asked me five years ago where I would be today, New Orleans would not have been on my list of possibilities. That's because five years ago today the room that I'm sitting in was underwater.

I loved New Orleans growing up. We came here as a family when I was in high school and I made another trip here with friends in college before Katrina happened. I remember being enthralled with the city's French background because I was learning to speak French at the time. I remember loving the music and wishing I could play clarinet like that woman in the street. I remember getting recruited to my school early on by missionaries who got their degrees here and my dad who thought it would be cool to have a daughter who lived in New Orleans. My thoughts were "Sure, if I end up doing the God thing I'll definitely think about it." I also remember looking at my college roommate the day we found out the city flooded and saying "I guess I'm not going to school there after all."

I'm ashamed to say that I did not help to rebuild New Orleans. I didn't help to rebuild a home or work with disaster relief. Instead, I tried my best to ignore New Orleans. I didn't want to see one of my favorite cities in such a bad state. It worked for a few years. Then, God had something to say about it, as he often does.

The fifth anniversary of Katrina went by relatively quietly in my world. I got up and went to church where no mention of the hurricane was made. I went to work where none of my customers said one word about it. The only time it crossed my path was while reading the Sunday edition of the Times-Picayune. It talked about the unsolved murders that took place around the time of Katrina and how the city's civil system fell apart. It also talked about the state of the city today.

If I had to choose a word to describe New Orleans now, it would have to be 'hopeful.' The city is rebuilding. Five years later, people are still returning. The population is reaching pre-Katrina levels in all areas of the city expect for the Lower 9th (but I wouldn't want to live in an area without a police substation or nearby hospital either). Tourists are coming back in greater numbers each year. New Orleans now has a better education system, a better levee system, and a Superbowl trophy won by a team that was as down-and-out as the city they call home.

The pictures that have been playing on the news are not New Orleans anymore. They are important reminders that help those who lived through Katrina grieve and remember. But that was the past. It's time for the future. There is still rebuilding to be done, and the people still have that so-what-we're-not-perfect attitude, but there is an abundance of hope.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

And Life Keeps Happening

I want to say that I'm surprised that I haven't written anything since my birthday, but I'm not. I can say with honesty that my long absence has been for a good reason: I've been busy. I took three online summer classes in June and July, which took the majority of my writing energy with them. This semester will be more about reading and interacting, so there is a good chance I'll get to write more about things I'm passionate about. I hope I do. There are ideas in my head that I don't always feel safe (would that be the right word?) expressing at school but still want to put out there for discussion. Nothing against my school, but they are who they are. I knew that going in.
I have five classes this semester. My first class of the week is a college ministry class having to do with discipleship. I know. I know. I got the correct sequence messed up: take college ministry classes then become a college minister, but I've always done things my own way. Less than a week into the semester and I've already read an entire book for the class, I Once Was Lost by Don Everts and Doug Schaupp. I'll probably write a lengthier book review of it later, but for now I'll say that it wasn't a bad read and had many good things to say about leading young adults in their faith pilgrimages.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have two classes: Personal Evangelism and Ethics. I can already tell that I'm going to like Ethics. I never took an ethics or philosophy class in college (I don't know how I got around that) so that will be relatively new territory. I'm going to be honest and say that I'm not as excited about my other class. I have a deep-seated tension about the methods we are going to be taught and sent out to do in the city. Jesus is not a vacuum cleaner and I'm not a very good cold-call salesman. It doesn't help either that my very knowledgeable and Christ-loving professor sounds like a guy straight off of TBN. His words are helpful but his style of speech makes my cringe. On the up side, I think I'm going to be on an evangelism team with others from my church, so it won't be as bad as I've been imagining in my head all summer.
My other two classes are Old Testament and Community Ministries. My OT class is a hybrid which means that most of it is online but we meet in the classroom once a month. It's good for my work flexibility and not having information we read simply repeated by a professor twice a week. In my community ministries class, I got roped into a group project having to do with campground ministries. When I saw our list of choices, my first thought was "anything but campground ministries please" but that's what everyone else was excited about. After the others agreed on the topic, they decided to ask me what I thought. My words might have been "I'm down" but my face probably clearly expressed "I want to knock you down." Yet another way that God reminds me that life is not all about me and what I want.
So, there's what's been going on. Hope all is well with you.