RESCUED, RETURNED, REBUILDING, REASSURED
I HAVE BEEN A LIFELONG RESIDENT of New Orleans, and my wife and I have lived in our home in the Lakeview neighborhood for 25 years. We have always stayed in our home when hurricanes have threatened the city, and we did the same for Hurricane Katrina. Our staying was not an act of stubbornness, but based on past experiences of being cared for and protected by God.
The night before and the morning of the hurricane, I spent a lot of time praying and reading from the Bible and Science and Health. From childhood, my mother taught me the importance of prayer, of trusting in God to meet our needs. Throughout my life—as a child, in school, and in business—God has been there as an ever-present help in all areas of my life.
The hurricane had just about passed the city on August 29 when my wife noticed that water was flowing into the house from under the kitchen cabinets. We both immediately began collecting those items we were most concerned about saving and carried them upstairs. We saved family photos, important papers, artwork, some family furniture, and other miscellaneous items, and worked in the water until it got chest high. We retreated upstairs and watched over the next 24 hours as the water rose to within two inches of the second floor.
Throughout the entire time, I kept in mind the Bible passage that says, "All things work together for good to them that love God" (Rom. 8:28)—and from our experience it's clear that everything did work together for good. At every step, we were blessed with good from every source. For me, the love of God is an understanding of God and our relationship to Him, rather than a blind faith. When we love and understand God, then God enters into every phase of our lives. We can feel His presence even when we're surrounded by trouble, and I believe God never abandons us in times of need, or takes us halfway.
The day after the flooding, we were rescued from our balcony by a neighbor with a boat and were taken to a neighborhood school, where we were planning to stay with our dog, cat, and a few personal items. We did not know that there had been a failure of the levee built by the Corps of Engineers, which protects New Orleans from Lake Ponchartrain.
Before we could settle in on the second floor of the school, we were found by a man who had boated in to look for us at the request of our daughter's father-in-law. With his help, we managed to get to dry land, and this man took us to the airport garage where he and his wife gave us their own car and told us to go, and to bring it back in two weeks, or six months—whatever we needed.
We stayed with friends in Baton Rouge for two weeks, and were welcomed to stay as long as we wanted. About this time, we contacted a friend in Mandeville, Louisiana, about 25 miles from New Orleans, who offered to let us stay at her house while she was job hunting in Houston. She said we could stay as long as we needed or until she sold the house. My wife and I immediately told her we wanted to purchase the house sight unseen, feeling that this was God's provision for our next steps.
At no time did we ever fear for our lives or feel in danger. Because of our trust in God, we knew we were cared for by a power beyond our own, and that we would be OK. It would have been so easy to feel sorry for ourselves and get bogged down in the loss of our home and all the awful things that happened all around. But years ago when I took Primary class instruction in Christian Science healing, I learned that our thinking determines our experience. "Hold thought steadfastly to the enduring, the good, and the true," Mary Baker Eddy encouraged in Science and Health, "and you will bring these into your experience proportionably to their occupancy of your thoughts" (p. 261).
We felt we had a choice: to wallow in self-pity and become depressed with our prospects—to let darkened thoughts control our experience—or to look for the good God is always giving, knowing that through God's loving power all our needs would be met. We chose to look for the good.
Although we knew that somehow our needs would be taken care of, we had no preconceived ideas as to how they would be, or what form this would take. And that approach of not outlining the future was important in letting God take control and guide us. Step by step, day by day, we've been taken care of, as we have been all of our lives. We received financial assistance from unexpected sources and eventually felt led to get a building permit to restore our home in New Orleans. My office, which received some flood damage, has been repaired, and I am back practicing law in it. Our adult children in the New Orleans area have also been cared for—they've received the assistance they needed, and are planning on rebuilding. Again and again, God proves His presence in our lives.
New Orleans, too, is beginning to rebuild, and with support and love will move forward and become a better and more beautiful place to live and visit. Recently the entire Christian Science Board of Directors visited the branch churches of The Mother Church in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast area. Their presence and willingness to listen let us know that we are loved and supported by the prayers of Christian Scientists worldwide.
A hymn reminds me:
God is working His purpose out
As year succeeds to year,
God is working His purpose out
And the time is drawing near;
Nearer and nearer draws the time,
The time that shall surely be,
When the earth shall be filled with
the glory of God
As the waters cover the sea.
(Arthur C. Ainger, Christian Science Hymnal, No. 82)
Though the waters may have covered New Orleans for a while, the fact remains that this area is filled with the glory of God. All is well wherever God is. No matter what may have happened in the past, we now have the opportunity for a new beginning. We can start by being grateful for all the blessings we have received—"and thus be fitted to receive more" (Science and Health, p. 3).