Four years ago today was one of the worst days of my life, and I was safely a thousand miles away. Hurricane Katrina drove my hometown of Biloxi, Mississippi, virtually off the map. The houses of family and friends: gone. Church buildings I'd heard the gospel in, and preached the gospel in: gone. Most of the landmarks of childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood: gone. And thousands of my fellow Mississippi Gulf Coastians (and New Orleanians): devastated.
That's been four years ago now. Most everything that can be reconstructed has been. You can't rebuild a beachfront antebellum house or a hundred year-old church. Instead, old Biloxi is now dotted with (even more) casinos, (even more) Waffle Houses, and Wal-Marts and Bed, Bath, and Beyonds.
With all that, there seems to be a roughness there I never knew before. The confluence of coastal Cajuns and old southern European families and Vietnamese immigrants with the Deep South manners and rhythms of Mississippi made for, it seems to me, a certain kind of unique sweetness. The Coast seems more rugged now, more weary, more grown-up in the most tragic sense. The Coast (and New Orleans) seems more like William Faulkner than John Kennedy Toole these days.
Four years later, I realize today I'm most thankful for the pastors who stayed, when their tithes and offerings were gone, their people scattered, their neighbors in crisis. Four years later, I'm praying for more gospel churches on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and in New Orleans. It's my favorite place on earth, but there's a deep brokenness there.
Jesus of Nazareth, however, can drive voodoo spirits into the sea. And he can turn back the sea itself with a cleared throat. In the years after the aftermath of Katrina, I pray his voice is heard there, in some ways for the first time.