Katrina Journal
Slidell, LA — September 2005

A Sign of God's Love:

During my last evening in Slidell, I was working under the Red Cross supplies tent, arranging snacks and drinks to be picked up by personnel making runs in the ERVís (Emergency Response Vehicles) or given to folks coming through our feeding line.

As I was rearranging some of the stock, I noticed a boy about my eldest sonís age (7), standing in line for a meal with his mother. Perhaps the most striking aspect of this lad was the fact that he had only one shoe. His clothes were clean and well-kempt, down to his white socks, but only one foot sported a shoe.

His mother approached the cordoned off section of the tent to gain my attention. My eyes perked up as she began signing to me as she spoke. I donít know much sign language. I have just enough to use a little sign as needed. We began conversation to ascertain her needs. She reported that she did not need a meal, but they did need some food and other items at home. (The television had been reporting the fact of the cooperative effort between Virginia Baptists, Red Cross, and Grace Memorial Baptist Church, but being deaf, she had just stumbled on the information almost three weeks after Katrina hit.)

I fixed her son, Matthew, up with some snacks and gathered a couple of cases of the water she was requesting. As I loaded things on a dolly to take to her car, I took them over to the 6,000 square foot tent on the church parking lot. I told her about the clothing and shoes that were available. Unfortunately, there had not been enough volunteer hours to get all the items sorted by kind and size, but shoes were at least being matched into pairs.

Stowing the water in the truck of her car, we talked a little more and searched through for an appropriate pair of shoes for her son. I went over to the volunteer in charge at the tent and introduced her. As it turns out, she also knew a little sign language. We hunted a while for shoes, but could not find anything that would fit and meet with her sonís needs. A pair for the husband was also unavailable.

I took them over to the church fellowship hall, now being called Grace-Mart, as it was being used as a distribution center for bedding, toiletries, canned goods, diapers, and cleaning supplies. I found one of the teens I had met briefly before. I pointed at her accusingly, and told her I had a job for her. She approached in mock fear to find out what I needed. She brightened in pure joy when I informed her that Matthewís mother was deaf, and began signing and talking with her excitedly! With a quick interview to determine her needs, she was off to have someone bring a load of needed supplies for the family.

I donít know how many of the volunteers in Slidell that Monday knew sign language. I have to confess that I am not very proficient. What I do know is that of the three people this woman needed to converse with, all of us had at least some experience with sign. She could have gotten through and received all the help she needed, even if no one at Grace Memorial had known the first bit of sign language. Then again, God graciously prepares to meet our needs in a much more personal manner than that. The experiences of many in the parking lot of Grace Memorial Baptist Church will be memorials to Godís abounding grace. For me it was one more reassurance of Godís provision and mercy—a sign of Godís wonderful love.

ó©Copyright 2005 Christopher B. Harbin

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