KATRINA 2005-15: 'Test of our faith'
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first of a series of articles and columns this week in Baptist Press marking the 10-year recovery in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast from Hurricane Katrina. Fred Luter, whose column appears today, is pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, which was flooded by the levee breaks in New Orleans after Katrina. Luter also was the 2012-14 president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
It was a test of our faith. It was a test of our belief. It also was a test of our willingness to come back and rebuild.
It took us two and a half years to get back in the church here (Franklin Avenue Baptist Church New Orleans). In the meantime we worshipped at several campuses -- First Baptist Church in New Orleans, Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge and First Baptist Church in Houston.
Before Katrina we were the church gathered. After Katrina we were the church scattered.
Now we are back. However, there are a whole lot of folks who are still displaced and would love to come back home but have not had the opportunity.
I have great hope that things will continue to grow and our city will continue to be impacted and grow. We will never be the city we had before. But I think God has great plans for us in the city of New Orleans.
Always committed to returning
Once we saw the devastation in the city and our church, it was horrific. I was determined from day one that I was going to come back. We have been such a vital part of our community that I could not see us not coming back. Franklin Avenue has been a beacon of light and hope. If there was any chance the neighborhood would come back, Franklin Avenue would have to come back.
There was never a doubt at all we wouldn't come back. But I didn't know it would take us so long.
One thing I vividly remember when I was living in Birmingham and coming back and forth every week to the city. One of the members had put a cardboard sign in front of the church: "Pastor Luter, where are you?"
That brought tears to my eyes. To see that person concerned about her pastor and whether or not I was doing well was one of the stories that always sticks to me.
Proud of Baptist response
After the storm, one of the things I was most proud about was the response by our Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams. I brag about our disaster relief efforts. There are not a lot of organizations that have been able to do what we were able to do successfully.
Our teams came here, not knowing what was going to happen and what they were going to be confronted with. They went to every area of the city and not to help out just Southern Baptist churches. They helped anyone who needed to be helped.
The Times-Picayune ran an editorial at a time when the rebuilding process was going slowly. The editorial said that if Southern Baptists would have been responsible for rebuilding the city, it would have been rebuilt by now. That made me so proud.
I want to thank all of those who came across the country to help us out here in New Orleans. We would not be where we are without the assistance and prayers.