We met Red and his wife Melissa today. Red was self described as "bad people." He had tatoos up and down his arms, earrings in his ears, and it was obvious that he and his wife had trouble. We went by to tell them about the 4th of July picnic tomorrow, and like so many other people in the area, we began to hear their story. Thirteen of them had gathered in Melissa's aunt's house, including children. They didn't have anywhere to go outside of the area, so they had to stay in Waveland. These are poor people, and all they really have is each other. They gathered together on Sunday night, and Monday morning the waters started to rise. Within 20 minutes they rose from knee high, to several feet over their head. People were drowning all around them.
Red got everyone in the attic, lifting older ladies who could not help themselves and pulling children up. He broke a hole in the roof and got them all up on top of it. As the waters continued to rise even higher, everyone had to swim for a higher building. Melissa couldn't swim, but she just started kicking her legs and swinging her arms and somehow made it. There was a man across the street who got his mother-in-law and wife on the roof, but his mother and he drowned. Red and Melissa saw him disappear.
As we kept talking about their ordeal and the subsequent days of misery after the water went down, Red made the statement, "I don't know why God let this happen. Nothing good has come out of it. Nothing is any better. Did He save my life just for this mess?" Red does not have a personal relationship with Christ, but he believes that God exists. Both his mother and his wife, Melissa, have cancer. He was really discouraged as he spoke to me about what happened with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. As I began to share the gospel with him, he couldn't accept that God could forgive him, or that God could do anything with a scoundrel like him. Remember, Red is "bad people."
For so many folks down here, their lives have become like the picture of the steps here. After Hurricane Camile in 1969, they called these steps, "Steps to Nowhere." They are steps that go up to where homes once stood, but now there is just empty space. That is how so many lives are. Ask Scott, the guy we met yesterday, who is suffering from Katrina fatigue - he is overwhelmed with sadness from the loss of the storm, but he gave his heart to Christ while he slept under the stars in his tent in the weeks following Katrina. But, he is still so lonely. Through the work of the ministry of Christians down here and through places like Pathfinder Mission, we are providing people "Steps to Somewhere." That Somewhere is actually a Someone who loves them so much that He gave His life for them. We are reminding people like Red, Melissa, and Scott, that Jesus loves them and we do too.
Red did not receive Christ today. He just couldn't accept God's love and He couldn't believe that His life could change. He couldn't understand all of the suffering from the storm or the suffering in his family with his mother's and wife's cancer. He said that if he had one wish, it would be to trade places with his mother and take her suffering. I was able to relate to them about cancer because of Caelan, my son. I was also able to tell him, that while he couldn't take his mother's suffering, that Jesus loved him so much that he took Red's place to take his sin, suffering, and pain. Red couldn't accept it. I'm praying for him and I hope you will too.
God is at work in Hancock County. He is touching hearts and changing lives. He is bringing hope in the midst of despair. He is doing work right out in the open, and He is doing secret work that no one can see. Hearts are so open. We talk with each person we meet for so long. They want to laugh, share their stories, and hear about why we have come. They want to hear about Jesus. They all want to pray. But, there are so few volunteers in comparison to the still present need. Judy, a lady we met this evening is waiting for another church group to come and help her with work she cannot do. Charles and his wife so desperately need another FEMA trailer so they can bring their family back with them. They need a pod to put their stuff. There are STILL people living in tents all over, waiting for a trailer. They are all thanking the churches, declaring that if it weren't for the Christians, so many more people would have died. They are waiting for you to come because they cannot put their lives together by themselves. They are waiting for someone to tell them how to build their lives on the Rock and to show them how. Please pray, send, and come down yourself. I'll set you up with some really needy folks.
Tomorrow is our 4th of July party. Please pray that people that we have invited come. Please pray that we are able to speak into people's hearts and spread the Joy that we know in the Lord. We'll be home tomorrow.