Genesis 1:2 recounts: “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
Here in New Orleans nearly 10 years ago, shapes were buried in the water; large colorful forms distorted by shimmering waves lined the neutral ground of West End Boulevard for miles.
Ahead was the ribbon of Interstate 610 with the facilities of First Baptist New Orleans just beyond. We would soon set down the helicopter on a section of the parking lot that had emerged from the flood. Eleven days after the storm the church facility was an island in the sea.
To the right was the 17th Street Canal that failed in the storm. Lake Pontchartrain lay behind us to the north. To the left, looking east, the city of New Orleans glistened in the floodwaters as far as the eye could see.
A parade of military helicopters thumped the air along the perimeter of the south shore of the lake. Enormous bags of sand swung beneath them, part of a futile effort to plug the hole in the levee and stop the sea’s invasion of the city.
“Cars,” I said to myself and then to the pilot over the headphones. “Those are cars beneath the surface.”
In 10 days West End Boulevard would finally be dry. In six months its entire three-mile median, almost a thousand feet wide, would become a dump site segregated into ruined appliances, trees and vegetation, furniture and household goods, and the debris of gutted houses — insulation, sheetrock and lumber. The piles would be 30 feet high stretching from side to side and running the entire length of the median.
I followed two soldiers with lights on their M-16 rifles. Electricity would not be restored for months. They entered every room in the church facility before they gave me permission to retrieve the things I needed. We found two dogs in the preschool area with their food scattered in the lobby. Someone who slept on my office couch had scrawled a thank you note and left a telephone number on a chalkboard.
Half of my staff did not return. I know they did the right thing. Half of the congregation relocated permanently. I thought about it. But I strapped myself in literally and figuratively when we lifted off the parking lot for the return flight back to Texas.
The Spirit of God hovered over the floodwaters on that day so filled with shock and awe. Anticipation rattled around in my soul, though I could not identify it on the helicopter flight. I was overwhelmed, but God was up to something. I was tumbling in the hurricane, but God, who rides upon the storm, was about to create something out of the chaos.
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: Baptist Press
David Crosby is pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans.