God's Love Becoming Flesh on Desire Street
- Chuck Colson Chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries
- 2005 27 Sep
While politicians in Louisiana and the nation's capital continue their nauseating blame-game over Hurricane Katrina, Christians around the country are in the nitty-gritty details of compassionate action. Pastor Mo Leverett of New Orleans is among them. He and his family made it out with just the clothes on their backs, but immediately turned their attention to helping others get basic supplies and shelter.
Mo's selflessness is not surprising given that fifteen years ago he and his wife moved to the neighborhood of the Desire Street housing projects, one of the toughest and poorest parts of New Orleans. Some called the move foolishness, but then that's often the response to incarnational ministry.
Mo began his outreach by volunteering as a football coach at a local high school. From the start, he had a vision for seeing Desire Street transformed by the Gospel into a renewed and desirable place to live. By August 2005, Desire Street Ministries included a church, a school for 190 kids, after-school programs, and the beginnings of an urban institute for training new leaders. Then Katrina hit.
Before the waters rose to the ministry's roofline, Myron Celestine, the Desire Street Academy's basketball coach, loaded eleven of his players into a van and drove them to Atlanta. A local Christian family is housing them along with eleven more. About one hundred staff members, their families, and Desire Street families evacuated to a Christian camp in Mississippi, and one hundred more went to a Christian ranch in Dallas. "Our army of incarnational staff is totally woven into the fabric of the neighborhood like surrogate parents; everybody grabbed kids and families that needed to get out," explains Mo.
Hundreds of churches are now helping meet their basic needs. Meanwhile in Destin, Florida, the ministry's Director of Development and former Heismann-trophy winner, Danny Wuerffel, is trying to secure a campus for Desire Street Academy to resume classes as a boarding school. And Mo and others are partnering with relief agencies for long-term rebuilding. Mo knows that God was there in the storm and will be there in the recovery work.
Hurricane Katrina has pulled back the curtain and shone a spotlight on the ugly drama of poverty, race, and class issues in the United States. Sen. Obama (D-Ill.) spoke out on the floor of the Senate after the disaster and said, "I hope we realize that the people of New Orleans weren't just abandoned during the hurricane, they were abandoned long ago—to murder and mayhem in the streets, to substandard schools, to dilapidated housing, to inadequate health care, to a pervasive sense of hopelessness."
While his statement may apply to much of New Orleans, the people touched by Desire Street Ministries know that they were not abandoned. The love of Christ came to them in the flesh of Mo, his family, and his staff, and after the storm in churches across this country. So while that spotlight shines on the problems, it should also illuminate the solution.
Desire Street Ministries is still trying to locate over half of their students. If you're in an area with evacuees, you can help by posting a flyer in a shelter near you. Call BreakPoint (1-877-322-5527) for more information.
Copyright (c) 2005 Prison Fellowship, BreakPoint is a production of The Wilberforce Forum, a division of Prison Fellowship: 44180 Riverside Parkway, Lansdowne, VA 20176.