And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new” Revelation 21:5
Inertia is the tendency of matter to remain at rest if at rest, or, if moving, to keep moving in the same direction, unless affected by some outside force. Katrina changed the direction of Baptist life in New Orleans.
The flood destroyed homes, displaced residents, and devastated our city. Our Baptist community followed the example of the Samaritan by giving time and resources to bring comfort and healing to the victims of the storm. We mudded out the homes of our neighbors. We cried together. We shared what we had with them. We prayed and praised God together.
Love was redefining us. Our Baptist community came to believe that it could rebuild the ruins, raise up the old foundations, repair the broken walls, and restore the streets and dwellings. To best achieve these outcomes, the churches of NOBA resolved to restructure and reorganize around the vision of expanding the kingdom by (1) meeting community needs for the glory of God and in the love of Christ, (2) strengthening our churches, both old and new, and (3) starting sustainable churches.
NOBA is still pursuing this post-Katrina heading. By dint of hard work, support of sponsor churches and ministry partners, and the favor of God, 10 churches that were planted before the flood or in the aftermath of Katrina have persevered into healthy, growing, sustainable churches. These churches have either affiliated, or will soon affiliate, with NOBA.
An additional 15 church plants and mission churches have launched over the past several years, and they, too, are contributing to the growth of the kingdom across the six parishes of NOBA. Over the past year, another handful of church planters has started new works in the city.
Following Katrina, 10 of our sister churches realized that it would be difficult for their diminished congregations to regain their former witness and influence within their respective communities. Led by godly wisdom, these congregations either merged with, or transferred their assets to, a sister church or church plant. In each case, the result has been a healthier church with a more vigorous witness and brighter influence for the gospel within its community.
Katrina seriously impaired access to health care across the flood zone. The hardest hit community was the Lower 9th Ward. There was no hospital, clinic, dental office, or pharmacy in this part of town. In fact, there wasn’t even a grocery store, police station, or fire station. But there were people.
NOBA launched Baptist Community Health Services in this severely underserved community. Today, BCHS provides full-service primary and preventative health care and behavioral health service to the Upper and Lower 9th Ward. BCHS chose the Lower 9th Ward because the need there was the greatest. A patient recently shared with us this community perspective: “The city hasn’t returned full services to the Lower 9th Ward because the population hasn’t fully returned. For the same reason, groceries, businesses, and other services haven’t come back. But Baptist Community Health Services came to us when we were at our worst. That means a lot to us. We remember.”
BCHS has intervened in the lives of many individuals over the past 16 months. With the addition of behavioral health services this year, BCHS was able to provide integrated care for a patient expressing suicidal ideation in May and another patient expressing homicidal ideation in June. While these patients visited BCHS for routine medical issues, like women’s health and heart disease, time spent addressing their global health revealed acute life stressors, loss, and despair needing immediate attention. Because BCHS is within walking and biking distance from both of these patients’ homes, our doctors are able to follow up with them regularly to provide appropriate care.
This “all-in” commitment to provide quality healthcare to our neighbors in the Lower 9th Ward led the city to choose BCHS to be the healthcare provider in the recently completed Sanchez Community Center. With the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission (NORD) space already in operation, the Sanchez Center draws kids and adults alike for summer camp, basketball, water aerobics, and exercise classes.
This center is positioned to be a beacon of wellness and a prototype for other community centers. BCHS is excited to be the medical and behavioral health care provider collaborating with NORD, WIC, Healthy Start, and the Senior Center to optimize the health of our community members.
With great compassion and competence, the churches of NOBA are meeting a host of critically important needs across our community, including foster care, addiction recovery, transitional housing, job training, re-entry ministries, childhood hunger, after-school mentoring, crisis pregnancy, and human trafficking.
Katrina took lives and changed lives. It changed the way we see our neighbors and our community. It clarified the way we see Jesus. It redefined the way we do ministry. It revealed, yet again, the preeminence of the gospel.