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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

It seems like too little . . . . These repeated words reflect the recent experiences of Amy Dean of Charlotte, NC, who traveled with four other women from her church to visit and work in New Orleans through the organization Churches Supporting Churches. Rev. Amy Dean is co-pastor of Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte. Park Road BC has become a partner of Corinthian Missionary Baptist Church #2 in New Orleans. You and your church can be part of rebuilding New Orleans by partnering with a church in New Orleans through this program.

The following is a report on Amy's New Orleans trip.

We’ve just returned from New Orleans. The weather was perfect – beautiful sun, no humidity – a rarity in that neck of the woods. The French Quarter is alive and well, though “well” is a relative term here. I’m not sure wellness has ever been a part of life on Bourbon street! But if by “well” I mean that shops are open and restaurants are serving and booze is flowing – then Bourbon Street is definitely well. But all is not well in New Orleans.

LeDayne McLeese Polaski, Wendy Watson, Lorie Gabriel, and I had a few great days in the Big Easy. We have stories share and pictures to show (be sure and make reservations for our last regular Wednesday night supper on June 6 and plan to stay and hear our full presentation), but in the meantime I’ll share a few of my highlights:

  • The Lower 9th Ward is no more. We worked within spitting distance to the new levees – even walking up on them. And where hundreds of houses used to sit – now there is nothing but cement remainders of front porches and a few houses that were made out of brick or stucco. A few good minded folks are planting sunflowers and cypress trees to help draw the lead out of the soil, but it seems like too little. One man was cutting his grass where no house stood. And the dilemma? Should the land be used as wetlands or return to the people for whom it is home? And who gets to make the decision?
  • We were a part of hosting a street party for this section of town. We cut green, red, yellow, and orange peppers and onions to make some kind of good New Orleans feast. People began to gather to eat and get some furniture or clothes and to celebrate life. And if you are apprehensive about how to start a conversation all you have to say is, “Where were you during the storm?” And then all you have to do is sit and listen. So we heard maybe 20-30 individual, personal stories of folks that stayed on their roof or brothers that fought off alligators, but it seems like too little.
  • We worshipped with Corinthian Missionary Baptist No. 2. As we noted, it was the shortest 2 ½ hour worship service we have ever attended – and we mean that very seriously. Pastor Johnson just about preached up a storm and the choir sang their hearts out and Lorie sang the old spiritual “Give Me Jesus” until all that was left for the people to say was “My, my.” They hosted us to good, home-cooked New Orleans cuisine – apologizing all the while that “their best cooks had not returned home yet.” We broke bread around their tables and held their babies and learned some new names, but it seems like too little.
  • I would have expected this part of the city to look as it did 6 months after the storm. But after almost two years, this was not what I was expecting. And this is just one of the popular locations – perhaps the most noted location. What about all the other neighborhoods? And all the other neighborhoods that have been destroyed by tornados since Katrina? Whatever we do and wherever we go simply seems like too little.

But we did not return with a defeatist attitude. We returned energized and excited and grateful to have gone to see for ourselves and to offer a little sweat of our own on the place. I was particularly struck on Saturday morning as I was sledge-hammering some signs into the ground and just about throwing myself on the ground with every swing. We started laughing so hard and I became aware as I heard my own laughter ring through the emptiness of the neighborhood that the air there has not heard very much laughter in the last 2 years. So we left a little sweat and some laughter and a few hugs, and strangle it didn’t seem like too little at all. It seemed just about right.

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