Niki and your journey to Mississippi and your story of obedience and submission is truly inspiring to me. You touched so many lives over the past year through your presence and the work of you hands. I want to tell you of one more life you have touched as well, my story.
When Katrina hit New Orleans and the gulf coast, I like most Americans was glued to the television, wondering what would happen next. In this age of reality television, our culture seems to be enthralled with disaster scenarios. I went to bed the evening the hurricane hit expecting to see a disaster the next morning. However, the morning after the storm the news coverage stated that the damage was minimal and that New Orleans escaped disaster. There was no coverage of the devastation elsewhere along the gulf coast. And, if I am truly honest, I was a bit disappointed at this news. A small part of me was hoping to see the disaster scenario which was hyped over the airwaves. I’m sorry to say that my attention immediately turned away from the gulf coast and life went on.
As the levy system failed and New Orleans started to fill up with water, I quickly turned my attention back to the disaster. I experienced feelings of anxiety and excitement as I watched the disaster unfold. However, as the days progressed, my excitement and anxiety soon turned to anger. I became angry at the new coverage for their coverage at the Superdome and turning the tragedy into a race issue. I became angry at the people of New Orleans who brought out the worst in American culture. The entitlement attitude (at least the coverage I watched) produced feelings of embarrassment, frustration, and anger in me toward the people of New Orleans. Where was the neighbor helping neighbor stories which Americans pride themselves on? I was also angry at the federal, state and local governments for being slow to respond to the crisis and appeared to be completely incompetent. I was angry at the insurance companies when I heard stories of how premiums throughout the country were going to increase to pay for Katrina. I wanted to know why I should have to pay for someone else’s troubles. Finally, I was angry at myself for feeling this way. I knew this was not the Christian response and I felt guilty and angry about the whole thing. I was quickly turning down the road of cynicism and had begun hardening my heart.
I kept this anger bottled up inside for a couple weeks. During this time, I went through my normal day like nothing happened all the while the anger consumed my thoughts. I was even able to have rational conversations with people about the disaster but didn’t talk to anyone about my feelings.
Melanie suggested we donate some money to help the victims. We had done the same the year before to help the tsunami victims but this time it was different for me. I did not want to give anything. I was angry and not interested in helping Katrina victims. I justified it by saying that I wouldn’t ask for help if I was in their shoes so they should not expect me to give to them.
About a month after the disaster, I received a letter from you explaining your plans to move your family to Mississippi to help rebuild. I remember reading the email and thinking to myself “WOW, this is truly amazing. I would never have the courage to do something like that. I wonder who he sold Niki on the idea.” I began to visualize what a sacrifice you were making. Your obedience and submission convicted me and the disaster immediately became personal. I finally saw my feelings for what they were, selfish, self centered, egocentric, and insensitive. Very much the opposite from a Christ centered person. When I saw my feelings for what they were, immediately my feelings changed to that of compassion, empathy, and understanding.
While I was not able to give my time, I was able to give financially to help the rebuilding effort. In fact, I have found that giving freely of the gifts God has given me has come easier to me now and has changed my whole vision of giving. My heart has changed and I ma the better for it. I want to thank you for being that catalyst to allow the Spirit to change me. If it wasn’t for your obedience, I may still be stuck with a hardened, cynical heart. I am truly in your dept.
Your brother in Christ,