Katrina Journal
Slidell, LA — September 2005

Maria's Story

Her name is Maria, but that was a while in coming. I tried to talk with her, but was unable to communicate at first. She did not expect Spanish to come out of my mouth. With my red hair and beard, people often expect only English from me.

When she first came through the feeding line at the Virginia Baptist disaster relief feeding unit in Slidell, LA, I tried to talk with her, but she was too distraught to hear me. After she got her plate, I spoke to her again. This time she recognized the Spanish.

A native of Peru, Maria told me a little of her story. She has been living in Crossville, TN, for four years, looking after an elderly woman. Maria speaks no English. She had come down to Slidell on a visit and become stranded. She had no transportation, no money, could not communicate, and had no way to get home.

Someone locally had taken her in, but she was struggling to find a way to get back home. I looked around and found another Baptist volunteer, this one from First Baptist Church of Morristown, TN. I asked him when they were leaving and if there were room for an extra person on board. Thankfully, there was room on the bus carrying both male and female volunteers. I returned to Maria and told her the news. A bus was leaving for Tennessee on Sunday morning at 7am. If she could be in the parking lot on time, they would take her back to Tennessee and see that she got home.

Maria was thrilled! She had arrived expecting a hot meal, but had not counted on a ride home. We talked briefly about Godís provision, grace, and love. She left to prepare for her return to Tennessee. That was the last I saw of her.

I had told her to check back with me in case travel plans changed. I was expecting to confirm details with her on Saturday evening. She did not appear. I did not see her on Sunday morning, but I was busy pulling cases of canned and frozen foods for the kitchen workers. It wasnít until Monday evening that I heard more from Maria.

She had made it on the bus. One of the Tennessee volunteers informed me that she had arrived on time and they had taken her with them. I donít know that I will ever see Maria again. We had only that one encounter while we were both in Slidell.

I donít know much more of Mariaís story. I donít know how she managed to return to Crossville, but that was not my responsibility, anyway. I was just an instrument. There were others that God used to get her on her way. I did my part, and they did theirs. Likely, I will never see Maria again. If I do, I would probably not recognize her. The important thing was that when our paths did cross, God was in our midst, taking care of one lost sheep in the midst of the crowd

ó©Copyright 2005 Christopher B. Harbin

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