Of course, it’s not like the storms are lining up in the eastern Caribbean waiting for midnight so they can start their westward trek. It’s only a date on the calendar, yet June 1 has loomed large in the minds of New Orleanians for nine months now, ever since Katrina sashayed through and left us on our knees.
This week so far has been spent in meetings. Monday was Memorial Day. Tuesday, Freddie Arnold and I had separate meetings with the summer intern with the Baptist Message, our state paper, followed by an all day session with several leaders from our North American Mission Board and the state convention, plotting ways and means of doing evangelism in this hurting city. Wednesday, our pastors and church leaders–some 90 of them–spent the day at Oak Park Baptist Church hearing Bob Vickers and Donna Long explain the processes of writing grant proposals to be submitted to big charitable foundations around the country. The afternoon was primarily given to helping the pastors apply for their share of the $20 million available for churches from the Bush-Clinton-Katrina Fund. Bob and Donna–and their families–are in our city for several of these lengthy seminars. Their organization goes by the dual titles of Artful Askers and National Bridge Alliance.
“You’re only going to get 35 thousand dollars at the most,” they kept telling our leaders, “and that isn’t much.” We had asked them to spend the bulk of their time helping our guys complete the Bush-Clinton applications, which they did, but they kept insisting there is a lot more money, bigger money, out there to help the churches if one knows where to go and how to ask.
I did not sense a lot of enthusiasm in our pastors about applying with other charitable foundations for grants to fund their programs, but if two or three churches benefit, it will have been worth the effort and investment. We were the guests of the Louisiana Baptist Convention today. And of the wonderful people of Oak Park Baptist Church, as usual. Running the sanctuary air conditioning the entire day is not cheap, and today was a hot one. In fact, when I was driving across the river shortly after 9 am, the thermometer was almost hitting 90. And it’s only May. A good group of volunteers at Oak Park turns out every Wednesday to prepare and serve lunch for our pastors and other leaders. At the same time, a church group from outside our area had arrived this week to do work at Oak Park. They’re staying in the bunk beds the church has built on the third floor of their ed building just for this purpose.
The front page of Wednesday’s Times-Picayune shows an exciting concept that is being presented to the city, a plan to revamp much of the heart of the business district. People who have attended events at the Superdome know how the Hyatt Hotel is connected to the dome by a short walkway, and the hotel is part of an upscale shopping facility known as the New Orleans Centre. Neither the hotel nor the shopping center have reopened since Katrina, and today we found out why.