Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Evacuation to Houston Increases

This morning when I opened my email at church there were numerous pleas from members of the congregation for prayers for missing family members along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

We also heard news reports that 23,000 people stranded in the Superdome in New Orleans are being evacuated to Houston's Astrodome. That's TWENTY THREE THOUSAND people. How are they going to handle the logistics of this, we wonder? What will those people do once they get to Houston? Calls to the Red Cross about how we can help went unanswered--you just can't get your call to go through. I imagine their phone lines are overwhelmed by people looking for lost relatives and friends.

Shelters run by the Red Cross are filling up. So far the ones that have been opened are on the far east side of our area and none around us. However we are getting reports of more evacuees arriving to stay with family and friends here.

At our staff meeting this morning we discussed some of the problems involved in trying to organize help. We can and will refer the congregation to the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Fund and the Red Cross as far as donations are concerned. But everyone wants to get involved personally in helping--not just in sending money. The aid agencies are so overwhelmed right now that it's impossible to discern what would be effective and useful.

Just after the staff meeting we met the aunt of one of our church members who was volunteering for our school that morning. She just arrived from Biloxi, where she expects that her home sustained major damage. She has no idea when she will be able to return.

The public schools in our area have announced they will enroll the children of those who fled the storm area. Our preschool director pointed out that they will have to waive the usual requirements of having shot records, birth certificates and other documents usually required to attend school because these people have lost these documents and won't be able to replace them for a long time.

Another member called in to say that if anyone is going to pick up relatives in the affected area, to be sure to take cash with you. Since there is no electricity the ATM machines don't work and credit cards can't be charged and verified. He said that merchants weren't accepting checks either because they can't deposit them and get them credited in some areas.

The local program that provides temporary housing for homeless families in churches just accepted five families from New Orleans who found their way here and have nowhere to go. At least this network of churches will be able to help.

El Jefe noted that many of the people who have had to relocate will probably never return to New Orleans if it is going to take several months before they can return. They will have to find work where they are in order to live and then may not have the resources to return later even if they want to. New Orleans may be a much smaller city for quite some time to come once it is restored.

We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.


Purechristianithink said...

It's wonderful that your congregation is so eager to help in all kinds of ways. Let us know what Lake Chapel does. Seems this would be a good time for a church with that much space to step up to the plate in a major way . . .

Songbird said...

I heard someone in the Houston Press Conference (a good-looking Judge?) say that they would be reaching out to the "faith-based community" for help.
It's beautiful to hear of openness and willingness to help.

Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

Is there anything that we can do to help ya'll in the efforts that you are doing?

Quotidian Grace said...

Thanks for the kind offer. I think the best thing you can do right now is send contributions to your church's denominational disaster assistance fund or the Red Cross. There's a lot of confusion here--people are going to the Astrodome with donations of water, food and clothing and being turned away because the Red Cross is not yet ready to receive the donations.