Friday, December 30, 2005

On The Bus

It’s Friday morning, if my memory serves. Time tends to blur in the whirlwind of activity that is this mission trip. I’m sitting on the bus, awaiting departure for another day on the roof on Magnolia Street in Biloxi.

Yesterday morning the bus took us along Highway 90 and the Gulf Coast between Gulfport and Biloxi. We pulled out of the church parking lot with a steady hum of morning chatter. As we turned onto 90, that hum disappeared as an “awe-ful” silence descended over the bus. Although I’d been to Louisiana earlier, and had seen the destruction in Slidell and in St. Bernard, I suspect that this was the first time many on the bus had seen the effects of the power of Katrina.

Even for me the sights were often overwhelming: hundred-year-old oaks toppled like bowling pins; piles of rubble that once were mansions; 3 story stairwells leading to nowhere; high rise hotels and casinos with the first two floors reduced to empty concrete caverns; and of course, the photogenic floating casinos on the wrong side of the street.

The silence on the bus was punctuated by occasional exclamations of surprise or amazement at some particularly striking example of Katrina’s fury. These sights provoke difficult and perennial questions for Christians: Was Katrina evil? If so, where was our God? If our God is all good and all powerful and in control, what happened on the Gulf Coast on August 29? Is what we are doing here an “act of God” or of selfless good, or merely an inadequate response to much deeper problems of poverty and inequity and injustice in the richest country in the world?

I wish I had answers. I hope we as a country continue to be willing to ask the hard questions and struggle to find those answers, wherever the search may lead.

The bus turned off Highway 90 and drove the few blocks to the poor neighborhood behind the expensive beachfront. The morning chatter resumed and we piled off the bus to start another day on the roof on Magnolia Street.

Dan Terpstra
Group Golf – Team 2


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