1. Oehme Knepper, Jennifer Cathleen

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I had the privilege of traveling to Biloxi Mississippi in January 2007 for an adventure that involved learning to hang drywall, operate a screw gun, and hammer nails without smashing fingers, and by far the most important, learning that I have much for which to be thankful.


Words cannot describe the desolation and destruction that still remains from Hurricane Katrina. The aftermath 2 years after the original storm remains a vast spread of wreckage with no apparent relief in sight. Twelve feet was the height of the tidal wave that stole lives, homes, hopes, and dreams. Now a towering 12-foot slab of granite stands as a dedication to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The storm left uncertainty, doubt, reluctance, and abject despair, as evidenced by the increase in suicide rates over the 2006 Christmas/New Year holiday season.


Driving the Gulf Coast, I see the beach to my right and destroyed buildings to my left. Suddenly, I see an enormous, beachfront high-rise building with pristine lawns. Looking back, I see where a gas station once stood.


The irony of the entire situation is overwhelming. The difference and disparity between those who came out of this hurricane "on top" and those still fighting to regain some sense of normalcy is gaping. People remain homeless while casinos and luxury hotels arise on the landscape. The recovery graphically illustrates the division between the "haves" and the "have nots."


My experience reinforces that Christians are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus who said, "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, [horizontal ellipsis] I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:35-40). How should we describe "the least"? How should we respond? I envision this verse saying, "For my home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and you cared for me [horizontal ellipsis] by hanging drywall, painting, showing compassion, offering an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on, seeing my healthcare needs and meeting them."


Hurricane Katrina has offered us an opportunity to show love and compassion to people who have been living in a trailer for the past 2 years, who have been rejected by the insurance companies due to a clause that provides for flood insurance not hurricane/storm coverage, and who feel abandoned by their government. Let's continue to look at the victims of this natural disaster as Jesus looks at all of us-with love and mercy despite our sin (Luke 6:27-36).