Christians always say that on a short-term missions trip you come back more changed than the people you helped. That only seems to be natural to me since as Christians we are supposed to constantly be changed and formed into the image of Christ. (Although this trip wasn't a missions trip, leaders at the church said the same thing to us.)
I wasn't shocked in the emotional sense when I saw the destroyed homes. Rather it was when I heard the stories of loss of family, friends and of the life people knew, that I hurt for these people. But the overall picture was difficult to grasp. The long-term affects on the city of New Orleans is great indeed. A whole city destroyed. Ghost towns everywhere. Scraps of houses. Economically, the material can all be re-built, but the real problem is that the people are gone. Some may come back, those who have no else to go are still there, but many cannot and will not come back.
In the midst of all this disaster, I was amazed to see what relief is being offered. One evening at the church, a lady shared a small story. The owner of the house she had worked at that day was a local artist. He had gone to a meeting of an artist committee in the New Orleans area recently in which they discussed Katrina. They agreed that for 9-11, the heroes were the fireman and policemen who risked their lives to save the victims. "Who, though" they asked, "were the heroes of Katrina? Who was stepping up and sacrificing?" The artist and other men discussed these questions and concluded that it was the Christians who were the heroes.
What an amazing thing to be said. God's people are following his call and showing His love to these in need. His body is acting as He would like it. I don't think that artist could have said anything greater. What a chance to impact. An impression with a lasting impact.
What was even more interesting was that from this story the pastor of the church began to explain his experience after Katrina. Right after the disaster had hit, a missionary was visiting him who had helped in the tsunami relief earlier this year. This was a huge blessing for the pastor. As they talked, the missionary shared that from the relief Christians have provided for Muslims that had been hit by the tsunami, Christianity has spread. The Muslim people saw that the Christians met their practical needs, where as Islam had done nothing to help them at all. These people, who hated Christianity, were suddenly open to hearing what Christians had to say.
Another lasting impression.