Tom Raddell, his son Zackary, and friend Tim McGreevy, arrived on Labor Day and stayed through September 9, ministering to the physical and spiritual hunger of hurricane survivors in Louisiana. Following is Tom's report on what God is doing in the south.
“Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on a pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca (weeping), they make it a spring.” (Psalm 84:5-6)
Never in all my life have I seen such devastation as in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It truly was the Valley of Baca, a place of weeping. But through precious saints willingly sacrificing to bring physical and spiritual assistance in the Name of Jesus, we were able to help transform people's hearts with the life-giving water of Jesus Christ.
Every day we would load up the Operation Save America RV with water, food, gas and personal and baby supplies. It's amazing that we fit over 150 cases of supplies every day in this vehicle! We left The High Place (a Christian retreat area) outside of Jackson and headed south into incredible wreckage.
Even though conditions were difficult because of the heat, no electricity and the uncertainty of finding gas, we pressed on in the name of Jesus Christ. There were times when our mornings started at 4:30 and we didn't get back until past midnight. Most of the precious saints we were staying with were refugees themselves from the New Orleans area. They would assist us by helping us load up the RV and many times joining us to help minister to the people.
One of the days we joined in with the local efforts in handing out food, water and ice to thousands. We worked with pastors, Christians, sheriffs, National Guard, the Army, and prisoners (yes, they were even using the prisoners to help pass out supplies). We had incredible opportunities to minister and to pray with folks as we passed out supplies. We had the privilege of praying with people as they asked Jesus to be Lord over their lives.
“Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and to bring to your house the poor who were cast out. (Isaiah 58:7)
Another day we traveled to within a few miles of New Orleans to drop off food and materials. Leaving part of our team to pass out supplies and minister, I drove a couple to check out their apartment for the first time. It was heart-wrenching to see the roof ripped off of their apartment and to help them carry out the few belongings that were salvageable.
Navigating through incredible debris, uprooted trees, downed power lines and wreckage, we made our way to check on our good friend, Pastor Bill Shanks of New Orleans. Pastor Bill's house weathered the storm well, with some minor roof damage and a yard full of branches and debris.
Pastor Bill shared with us that Katrina means purity. He stated that God was purifying `the land. “Gone were the casinos, the prostitution and porn shops, gone were the abortion clinics, gone were the palm reading and voodoo shops. Gone is the decadence parade, one of the largest homosexual parades in the nation, but also gone were the churches that were called to be salt and light and stand against wickedness.”
“For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants. You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any strangers who dwell among you (Leviticus 18:25-26)
Leviticus 18 warns God's people not to commit sexual immorality (prostitution), not to sacrifice your children to Molech (abortion), not to lie with an man as with a woman (homosexuality), not to profane the name of God (practicing voodoo), and not to defile yourselves with animals. You are not to do these things, nor allow anybody who dwells among you to it, lest the land vomit you out. I didn't truly understand what God meant by the land vomiting out its inhabitants until I saw the aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina.
But God's plans are perfect and His judgments are just. After seeing such incredible destruction I was personally amazed that the death count was so low. I could only attribute that to the mercy of God.
“So pursue them with your tempest and terrify them with your storm. Cover their faces with shame so that men will seek Your name, O Lord. May they ever be ashamed and dismayed; may they perish in disgrace. Let them know that You, whose name is the Lord, that you alone are the most high over all the earth.” (Psalm 83:15-18)
It is God's heart and desire that through the devastation of this storm that we would seek to know the Name of Jesus Christ. That is why it is imperative that we continue to minister not only to the physical needs but to the spiritual needs as well.
God has opened the doors for incredible opportunities in ministry in the Mississippi and Louisiana in the months and years ahead. We need to press forward and call the Church not to miss this opportunity to proclaim the Name of Jesus Christ.