Katrina Journal
Slidell, LA — September 2005

The Week’s Hot Meals:

During the day and especially during meal service time, I would keep my eyes open for Hispanics coming around. Too many of them had little to no English skills and there weren’t many of us around who could speak to them in Spanish.

One of the groups of Hispanics coming through was from Atlanta, where they work for a tree cutting service. The boss had sent them down to Slidell to get work. We talked a little, but I did not get a lot of details. I don’t know where they were sleeping, what kind of pay they were receiving, or any of those particulars. What I do know is that they had been working on roofs in the hot Slidell sun for a week without a regular meal. They were subsisting on things like cereal bars. They were very glad for a change of diet, even if it were not the fare of tortillas, chicken, rice, and peppers they were used to eating back home.

This crew of Hispanics was not the only group of hungry people coming through the line. There was the family who had not eaten in two days. There was the woman who came for lunch after working to restore her house an hour away in Waveland. There was the man with a family of nine who were sleeping on the floor, as they had no furniture in their current living quarters, no food, and no means to prepare any.

Our serving line was scheduled to shut down after lunch at 1pm, but one afternoon we still had food to serve. One of the Red Cross drivers had not shown up for the lunch run, so the food earmarked for that run was added to the meals served at the church. As the number of people finally tapered off and the servers were closing down the line, a mother with six children showed up with seven hungry bellies. Though it was almost three in the afternoon, they had not yet had anything to eat all day.

On Thursday after I arrived in Slidell, I had the opportunity to go out on one of the Red Cross vehicles. We drove through one of the neighborhood routes, half of our trip under the guidance of one of the local residents who would lead us to the hungry people living around her. She called neighbors out for their meals and led us to families who were unable to come to the door of the vehicle.

At the end of our route, we pulled into a local church parking lot where there was at least one family camped out under a carport. We handed out nine meals there before one of the men mentioned another family of five living nearby. He had been taking them food and water. As we were going to have to leave in response to curfew issues, he volunteered to take food to the family for us. We loaded him down with extra plates of food, handing out the last of the 250+ meals with which we had started the route.

As another of the Baptists volunteers and I mentioned Jesus’ words of having “food to eat you know not of,” we spoke of fasting as well. The Red Cross driver asked us what we meant. I shared that fasting is a much broader concept than simply not eating. Fasting is about setting aside our own personal needs to focus and commune with God, in some cases meet the needs of others. We had worked long and hard that day, putting in over 15 hours by that time. Not having a meal left over for ourselves just did not matter, for we had been afforded the privilege of sharing meals with others whose needs were greater.

The driver responded with the fact that she was unable to fast, due to a medical condition. At the same time, she and some other friends left home on these call-outs asking God to use them however God would desire. Later as we prayed together, we thanked God for the opportunity to serve, giving feet and hands to the message of grace in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

—©Copyright 2005 Christopher B. Harbin

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