Tuesday, speaking at the associational leadership planning conference in Alexandria, I began my remarks with a story of our grandson Grant, who turns 12 on May 30. Grant was 3 and a half when this conversation occurred.
He and I were goofing off at the church playground when I decided to see if he knew the four seasons of the year. I said, “Grant, what do we call it when the weather is very hot, too hot to go outside and play?” He said, “Summer.” “Right. Now, what do we call it when the weather starts getting cooler and the leaves turn brown and start to come off the trees?” He thought for a second, then said, “Fall.” “Good. Now, what do we call it when it’s really cold, too cold to go outside and play?” He said, “Winter.” “And what do we call it when the grass turns green, the birds come back, and all the flowers start to bloom?” He paused a moment, then brightened up and said, “Allergies!” A genuine New Orleans kid!
Some of the conditions we have traditionally associated with this city, allergies being one of them, are returning. We have a crime wave going on, with the latest murder being a woman walking the track at LaFreniere Park at 9:30 pm the other night while her son was jogging being abducted and found the next morning. Thursday morning’s paper says the prime suspect is a foreign construction worker who quickly borrowed his boss’s pickup truck and departed for parts unknown. Several murders a night is becoming the norm, just like the old days.
And political corruption. The uncle of former Mayor Marc Morial has pleaded guilty to swindling the Regional Transit Authority with which he previously had a management contract out of over a half million dollars. He will be required to repay the money and spend some time in jail, although a sentencing date has not been set. Thursday’s newspaper features an editorial and letters calling for the resignation from Congress of William Jefferson, our local U.S. Representative who is looking more and more like he’s headed for the federal pen, if the reports in the news media are to be believed. Whether he abused his congressional powers to feather his own nest or not, it appears that he took hundreds of thousands of dollars from investors to bribe African officials in countries where their businesses were trying to get established. Either way, it’s all illegal. Editorial cartoonists are having a field day with the ninety thousand dollars the FBI found stashed in his freezer, wrapped in aluminum foil and sealed in Tupperware. One day earlier, an investor had given him a hundred grand in a briefcase to purchase a few officials in Ghana or somewhere.
I’m not judging the man, merely reporting that this is the story against him in the news and thus far, he has refused to present any other interpretation of the events. People sometimes say, “He’s innocent until proven guilty.” Analyzing that, it makes no sense. If I take a gun and hold up a bank and flee, I am guilty whether it’s proven or not. Only in the court of law must I be treated as innocent until proven guilty. Big, big difference, but one which most people never think about long enough to catch.
All of the above, the crime and political corruption and everything else, are reminders of the great need to pray for New Orleans.
I was delighted to read that when students return to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in the fall, there will be good news awaiting them. Since the Cooperative Program of the SBC went over its budget by something like 12 million dollars this year, a large portion of that has been given to NOBTS to assist in getting up and running again. Among the blessings will be a financial stipend given to each returning student who was on campus last year when Katrina hit, prorated depending on marital status and whether the family has children. Each student will be given a break on tuition. Furthermore, students who take jobs in the community will find wages higher and jobs more plentiful.
President Chuck Kelley says correctly that all of this will encourage our students to return. When they get here, they will find a city that has never needed them more than it does now.
As one of our workers said this week, the prospects for evangelism have never been brighter. People have never been more open to the gospel. “Like a ripe peach ready to fall into your hand,” is the way South Carolinian Steve Gahagan put it Wednesday.
We pray this city shall never revert to “normal” again. We’ve had all the normalcy we can stand. We’re ready for New Orleans to live up to the “New” in its name.
Tuesday in Alexandria, we passed out cards to each person asking them to print this in their church bulletin, to share it with their classes and pastors. We call it…
HOW TO PRAY FOR NEW ORLEANS
People tell us “We’re praying for New Orleans.” We thank them, then say, “Could we please tell you how to pray for this city?”
Please do not pray a stingy little “God bless New Orleans.” Pray big. Pray like this:
“FATHER, YOU LOVE THIS CITY. JESUS DIED FOR THIS CITY. YOU HAVE MANY PEOPLE HERE. SATAN HAS HELD IT LONG ENOUGH, LORD. TAKE IT BACK. DO A NEW THING HERE. A GOD THING. A BIG THING. FOR THY GLORY.”
I love to quote John Newton who had this to say about such praying:
“Thou art coming to a King.
Large petitions with thee bring.
For His grace and power are such
None can ever ask too much.”