Just Do What You Can

Fall finally arrived in New Orleans Friday. My system for identifying the return of our favorite season is simply the first day the temperature does not get out of the 70s. It was a glorious day. And yes, Friday the 13th. Unlucky? Back in 1962, April 13 was a Friday when Margaret and I tied the knot at West End Baptist Church in Birmingham. Pretty good day, if you ask me.

Friday, Shannon called our office. She identified herself and said she was in a hotel downtown. “I’m leaving town later today and I didn’t want to leave without doing something to help New Orleans. So, do you know of a church where I could volunteer for a couple of hours? I’ll take a taxi.” I thought for a few seconds. Fridays, most churches pretty well have their stuff done for the weekend and may not need any help. Shannon said, “I’ve called a long list of churches and no one needs me.” Then I thought of the perfect answer.

Shannon took a taxi across the river and worked in the offices of Operation NOAH Rebuild. Office manager Dianne Gahagan said, “We can always give a volunteer work to do. It might be running the copier or collating material.” Shannon assured us she would love it.

Interesting lady, I think you will agree.

Thursday, a phone call came from Lori in North Carolina. After Katrina, she had personally assisted several of our residents during the evacuation and was continuing to help them. One particular lady, she said, has moved back to New Orleans and it’s not working out. With the decline in business here, the woman cannot find work in her field and can’t support herself. She’s lined up a place to live in Baton Rouge and Lori called to see if I can find a couple of guys with pickup trucks to move her next week.

Friday, Lori sent a note listing precisely what items the lady wants moved so we can see that two pickup trucks should get the job done. Then I received a call from a friend in the offices of the Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge. Lori had called Donald Davis saying that we were going to be moving the woman to B.R., and she would need their help in finding work for the lady.

I told Don that while I do not know Lori personally, if I ever get in need, I want this lady as on my team.

Lori’s pastor, Dr. Dixon Free, had suggested that she call us. I assured her that Dixon is a dear friend and that in fact, I recommended him to that church in Lincolnton perhaps 10 years ago. When I pastored the FBC of Charlotte in the late 80s, Dixon led the nearby Pritchard Memorial Baptist Church. I still recall the ads they ran in the paper announcing his arrival at that church. “Free Love!” “Free Speech!” My wife loved Pritchard and Dixon so much, she would have joined there if I had let her.

Lori and Shannon. Two women who are determined to make a difference. One has only a couple of hours and the other works the phones. Both are on our team and we are blessed.

A prayer request…

Pray for the schools of New Orleans, and in particular the John McDonough High School. After a student beat up a security guard there this week, another student was arrested the following day for an altercation with a guard. And this is with metal detectors and 30 security guards everywhere. Obviously, this is one of those problems which more patrols and regulations is not going to solve.

Anyone who has ever experienced the tyranny of public high schools–some, not all, thankfully–understands why some parents home school and others mortgage the house to enroll their children in private schools. But for the vast majority, those options are not available. Many parents send their kids off to school in the morning with only a prayer that they will survive the day and a dim hope that they will learn something in the classrooms. Pray for the teachers. Ask God to send a new spirit of love and peace in these buildings, and to protect His children.

John Brock is retiring Sunday. After many years of pastoring the Roseland Park Baptist Church in Picayune, Mississippi, John and Katherine are hanging it up. I’ll be there for the 10:30 morning service to say a few words of love and appreciation to this seminary classmate of mine, then the entire community will descend en masse Sunday evening for a reception. I’ve drawn sketches of them, with John saying something like, “Dear Lord, I’m retired!” and Katherine saying, “Oh Lord, he’s retired!”

I’m now at that age where so many of my longtime buddies are retiring, if not from the ministry, at least from the day-to-day grind of the pastorate or staff position. Gene and Dorothy Henderson, Larry and Sandra Black, Wilson and Charline Henderson, and now the Brocks. How does that old line go–“All great men are dying and I feel faint myself.”

The Lord Jesus used a great line about the woman who anointed Him with the costly perfume, one which I would apply to Lori and Shannon and these longtime friends of ours: “She hath done what she could.” (Mark 14:8) That’s all He asks of any of us.

Next Sunday, October 22, I’ll be preaching at Old Union Baptist Church near Nauvoo, Alabama, just a few miles from where my folks live. One year before I arrived on earth, that would be 1939, my mom gave birth to a baby boy who lived only an excruciating day or two. He was never given a name and was buried in the cemetery at Old Union. So, it’s a special place to our family.

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