Thursday, September 01, 2005

A Sojourney

The Russian novelist, Alexander Solshenitzi, once told a journalist that “It is impossible for a man who is warm to understand one who is cold.”  Mr. Solshenitzi should know, he spent years exiled to the barren wastes of Siberia.  However, as he sat by his fire years later, he found that he could no longer really feel the cold as he once did.

I know that if you are reading this right now, you most likely have a warm home to sleep in, and you have electricity, and you can go take a nice, hot bath if you wish.  I have spent my day working for people who have nothing: absolutely nothing but the clothing that they have on their backs and a few odds and ends stuffed in a suitcase.

The refugees keep on piling in.  When I spoke with the director today at lunch, he said he had no idea how he would feed the people lunch tomorrow.  I volunteered our Church and told him we would make it happen.  I can’t have 300 hungry bellies on my conscience all day when it is in my power to do something about it.

It is numbing work.  It is stressful.  The head of the Red Cross here in Plaquemine is already wearing out.  He is a man with a lot on his mind.  By the way, he is a volunteer who took vacation to come here.  He is a normal guy with a normal job doing an extraordinary work.

The thing that strikes you the most are the children.  They play as if nothing in the world is wrong.  Some of them seem to be having the time of their life.  After all, they just found a hundred new playmates.  But the eyes of their parents tell a different story.  They are tired: the kind of tired that is just the other side of despair.  It’s when you have lost hope and the tired settles straight in the bones.  It’s the kind of tired that a person has when he is too heartbroken to worry about how he is going to feed his kids, and where he is going to go, and if he could even get there if he thought of someplace.  It’s the kind of despair that makes a grown man wish he could go home to momma instead of being someone’s daddy.

Tonight as I was organizing the setup time with the Red Cross volunteer, I found out that there was a four year old boy orphaned in a neighboring city.  His parents were gone, and he was alone.  I volunteered my home.  My wife and I waited for two hours at the shelter waiting the ride with the sheriff to get Colt.  We could not imagine sending a four year old boy into the midst of 300 strangers to sleep on a floor with no one to tuck him in or change his clothes or feed him.  After two hours they informed us that we could not take him.  We came home and I cried.

I have heard a lot of people say in a very upbeat way that God will turn this to good, and I believe it.  They say that God will bring glory to His great Name from this, and I believe it.  They say that someone out there needs to hear the comfort of the gospel.  I tell you the truth, tonight that someone is me.  

Tonight I need to grab that good news with both hands and ride it into the sunset.  I need to know that beauty will come from ashes.  I need to know that my efforts are not in vain, and that tomorrow’s gumbo will make a difference, and that little Colt is under the care of my Father.  I need to know that the light of the gospel will pierce the veil of darkest despair.  Tonight, I am glad to know that I have a great High Priest who knows what it is suffer.  Tonight, I am glad that there is one exception to Mr. Solshenitzi’s rule.  Jesus suffered, and He never forgets.

Lest you think I shall utterly despair, let me say that tomorrow, God willing, I will wake up at 6am to begin cooking gumbo and rice for 500 people.  Five hundred people who have lost everything.  Five hundred people who are dependant on the kindness of strangers for shelter and their next meal.  This reminds me of the saying of Jesus that goes, “Whatever you did to the least of these my brothers, you did also to Me.”  If that is true, and I believe that it is, tomorrow I will serve my Lord 500 meals.  That’s just the kind of good news I needed to go to bed with, and that’s the kind of good news that makes me look forward to the dawn.

8 comments:

ColinM said...

Brad,

We can open our home to a family. What should we do, or who should we contact?

Anonymous said...

There is a new website called shareyourhome.org.

Sojourner said...

Colin,

Right now, I have no idea. One thing is certain about a disaster: It's a disaster. It is taking time to set up things and get organized. I have a couple at my house now that we are taking to the airport to go back home to Cleveland. They moved to New Orleans about a month ago. Can you imagine?

ColinM said...

I can't. They don't have to count all things as loss, all they have to do is see they have actually lost all, save One.

JIBBS said...

Pastor Brad

I simply cannot sit here any longer and do nothing. I work for FedEx and we DEFINITELY have the resources to provide for you. My plan is to call my manager immediately and demand that we start a drive to collect all the necessities possible. I'm sure they will help. I'm sure FedEx will ship everything we can for free. At least I pray they will. Time is of the essence, so I need to put a battle plan together ASAP. First, is the town you are in accessible from any nearby big cities? If so, which ones? I may need to make special arrangements to deliver anything we have. Second, could you please email me all the things you really need? madebigman@juno.com

Also, is money directly for your church out of the question? Is there even anywhere to buy basic groceries like bread and milk? I'm not sure if we will raise cash funds or not, but just in case, I'd like to know. If not, we maybe could send a check to your church simply to offset costs in some way when the time comes.

I hope to get this all organized in one day, so that by tomorrow stuff will start rolling in.

If need be, do you have volunteers who could pick up the supplies at a FedEx location?

sorry for all the questions, but I want to be prepared with a lot of info for my manager when I make the proposition. I will call him immediately after I hear back from you.

Keep up the Lord's work.

Sojourner said...

JIBBS,

Is there a large city nearby? Yes, Baton Rouge is right across the river.

What do they need? It seems that the most urgent needs (Red Cross speaking) are linens, diapers, baby food, etc.

You can give money to my Church designated for 'benevolence fund'. I am talking now with the local Baptist Association to see what the needs are here and where the needs are most urgent.

JIBBS said...

Okay

I just spoke with my manager. He is on the horn as we speak with the PacNW managing director to see what we can do. I hope they will approve us doing something here at the local level. My manager said FedEx is supporting Red Cross on a national level (financially and with freight transport), so he wasn't sure what they do for us. Pray they will support this. Do you need other items like new/used clothing, toiletries, canned food, etc?

JIBBS said...

Good news and bad news. Bad news is that the station in Baton Rouge is non-operational right now. We are having a tough time getting freight to them. Everything is being trucked in so it is taking much longer than usual. However, I am going to do some research on other stations near your location that are operational. If all else fails, you might have to send someone to pick up what we can send. Hope that works.

We have been instructed to give cash donations to the Red Cross instead of raw materials. However, our local station manager here in Tacoma has authorized our station (about 75 employees) to collect only the items you desperately need (that way it will be maximum usefulness). It won't be much, but it will be something.

I plan on asking for:

diapers
baby food/formula
linens/blankets
new/used clothing

If there is anything else you would like me to add to the list, please let me know. Thanks.