New Orleans at the Start of 2009

1) The population of the city proper, we’re told, is now 75 percent what it was prior to Katrina. This information is gathered from the number of households now receiving mail from the U. S. Postal Service.

2) Funeral services for Dr. Marshall Truehill, pastor of First United Baptist Church on Jeff Davis Parkway in New Orleans, will be held Saturday morning, January 3, at 11 a.m. at Christian Unity Baptist Church (corner of N. Claiborne and Conti Streets) where Dwight Webster is pastor. Pray for Marshall’s wife Miranda and their family. I’ll be speaking very briefly representing the churches and pastors of our association.

Two scriptures that come to mind for this faithful brother who devoted his life and ministry to being a voice for the helpless, the homeless, and the hopeless, are these:

“He judged the cause of the poor and the needy, and it was well with him. Is this not what it means to know the Lord?” (Jeremiah 22:16)

“God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love that you have shown toward His name in having ministered to the saints, and in still ministering.” (Hebrews 6:10)

Friday’s Times-Picayune carries a tribute to Marshall from columnist Lolis Eric Elie, who writes, “While the public housing debate was the most visible of Truehill’s battles, the very size of that fight tends to obscure the fact that his thirst for justice and reconciliation was part of a much broader humanity.”

Elie quotes Miranda Truehill, “He was a bridge builder. He cared about unity. He might disagree with someone on one issue, but he would work with them again no matter what.”

Jackie Clarkson, head of the New Orleans City Council, announces the council will honor Marshall at the beginning of its January 8 meeting.

3) Tragically, we live in a brutal city where people kill one another with regularity. On New Year’s Day, two murders were committed and another fellow was shot to death when he fired on police for no apparent reason. Family members of the 22-year-old shot by police say they can think of no reason for this, their son worked for a local telephone company, he’s never been in trouble with the law, there is nothing on him in police files, and he had a permit to carry a pistol.

I recall a line from gun-control advocates — that statistically, if you keep a gun in your home, the chances are it will be used on someone in your family rather than an outsider. My own perception is that something about owning a gun or carrying one on your person changes reality for a huge percentage of the population. In case you are wondering, I am a right-wing religious nut who is completely in favor of gun control.

Pastor John Raphael, of New Hope Baptist Church in New Orleans, has at times been an outspoken leader against the violence of this city. With the dawn of the new year, Brother John is stepping up his involvement. Friday’s Times-Picayune shows him with a hose and broom washing the blood of one of the killings from the family’s driveway. He keeps asking the citizens of this community,’Where is the outrage?’

4) I cannot begin to imagine how I would cope with the murder of one of my children. That’s why I hesitate to judge Susan “Willow” Schroeder too harshly. Back in 2001 when her son was murdered in the front door of her home, she stared at the blood staining the porch and entranceway. The next morning, she painted an angel over the stain.

Ever since, she has coped with her grief by painting. Friday’s Times-Picayune, in a front-page article, says Schroeder’s amateurish artwork now covers her entire yard, the sidewalks, and every inch of her home, inside and out. “Since the 2001 murder, most of her neighbors have watched the kaleidoscopic transformation with empathy for her inestimable loss. In a city that proudly embraces eccentrics, they say, the house fits right in.”

Not everyone agrees. Some neighbors call the house an embarrassment, a harassment, an abomination. One woman has gone to City Hall to enlist the help of officials. The Department of Public Works has ordered Mrs. Schroeder to repaint the sidewalk gray and remove items she placed there as a memorial, threatening her with fines of $100 per day. She is stalling, but officials say the fines will begin soon after a follow-up letter is sent.

5) Ever do this?

When our granddaughter Leah was down here visiting from New Hampshire a month ago, she kept commenting on the lengthy obituary in our paper, which frequently occupies two full pages with fine print. I would reply, “Well, it’s a large city.”

With the death of Marshall Truehill at a young 60, I decided to check the ages of everyone in this morning’s (Friday’s) obituaries. Now, several notices omitted the ages or birthdates altogether and I might have left out a few, but otherwise, it looks like this:

Those listed in the January 2, 2009, obituary in the Times-Picayune were ages 13, 17, 20, 24, 29, 31, 44, 45 (twice), 50, 53, 55, 56, 60, 66 (2), 67 (2) 68, 73, 76, 77, 78, 84, 85, 86, 89 (3 times), and 92.

Clearly, death is on the job in our fair city.

A critic once asked a pastor, “When are you preachers going to stop talking about death?” He said, “Just as soon as people stop dying.”

A father and his son were traveling down the highway when the little boy began screaming. The father noticed a bee loose in the car. The child was allergic to bee-sting and the doctors had said the next one might be fatal. As the dad slowed the car down and eased onto the shoulder of the highway, he reached out and grabbed the bee in his hand. He rolled down the window and opened his hand. As the bee began to fly away, the frightened child began crying again. The dad said, “Son, look here. I want to show you something.” He opened his hand and showed the stinger embedded in his flesh. “That’s one bee that can’t ever sting anyone ever again.”

The Gospels tell us when the risen Christ appeared that first Lord’s Day afternoon, the first thing He did was to open His palms and show the nailprints to the stunned disciples. He had taken the sting of death for them. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” And the answer comes, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (I Corinthians 15:55,57)

Death is still flying around. But for those in Jesus Christ, it can’t do you any permanent damage.

One of these days, you and I will be featured on the obituary pages, chances are. But it’s okay. Don’t panic. The Lord never intended these earthly bodies to fit in their eternal heavenly existence. He’s getting us ready for celestial things. “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” (II Corinthians 5:8)

3 thoughts on “New Orleans at the Start of 2009

  1. Death simply means that Im going Home to see my

    Lord and my loved ones and friends who preceded


    ”Hallelujah, I’m going home.”

  2. Marshall Truehill reminds me of the Mississippi reformer, John Perkins. His death has left a void in the leadership in the New Orleans and Greater New Orleans community.

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