Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Dorothy's Not In Kansas Anymore

(Bunny and Dorothy)

I love New Orleans. I hate New Orleans.

There are places here, sacred places - where for generation after generation people have come and worshiped God. You can see it in the silent indentations on the kneeling rails behind the pews. Worn over many years, they speak of devotion - of faith over time. It shouts to you in the architecture - in the art that fills the churches. If you walked into some of these houses of worship, never having owned a Bible, I could lead you through the story of Christ's birth, life, death, and resurrection just by drawing your attention to the walls and windows. The love and devotion that went into creating each of those spaces, even when worshipers and choir are absent - truly sing  praises without words. I am in awe of what God has done through them - is doing through them. Those places - I love. I feel at home there, even though I'm not of their "stream" of Christianity. I may be a second cousin twice removed to them, but it still feels like home to me.

There are places here where the sacred and secular clash. The plaza in front of St Louis Cathedral for example is sometimes filled with people trying to make a buck by telling fortunes. It always bothers me that the light of Christ can't seem to make it outside the cathedral doors to make a difference. Then there's the street people. Some are purposefully making themselves noticed by painting themselves silver, or gold, or wearing Uncle Sam outfits, or anything they can use to catch your eye. Others bring the sounds of music to bear to try and eke out a living, dollar by dollar as they sing and play.

I know it's part of the local color. I know it's not New Orleans without them. But the precipice they seem to be backed up against seems so near, and their fall from making a living to not so in view, that they bother me a great deal. I love New Orleans. I hate New Orleans.

And yet... every time we come here, Bunny and I are placed in the path of someone who grabs our hearts. Every time God places us in close proximity to someone who needs to know they are more than part of the background for us tourists. Someone who needs to know that they aren't forgotten. That God cares. We failed miserably last year when God placed a young man in our path. Bunny and I had both been praying that if we got the opportunity - we would not fail again.

This time it was Dorothy. She met us near the Cafe Du Monde and offered to take our picture together. So then Bunny suggested we take hers. That's her in the picture above. After I did that, Bunny started talking to her and it was then we heard of her poverty and homelessness. Dorothy said that the clothes she had on were all she had. That she was staying at a mission just down the street from where we were.

She was hoping for help to pay for a night at the mission. Quick prayers. More talk. Then a walk by me to an ATM. We talked for a few more minutes as we walked, but eventually we decided we should trust Dorothy and give her enough for two nights. The look in her eyes was one of deep relief and thankfulness. She hugged Bunny, and then Bunny started to cry. She came back and hugged her again.

I had carried a coin in my pocket since last year's trip. One side was crosses and the other side had this verse on it:

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
Isaiah 43:1 (NIV)

I gave it to Dorothy, telling her that God had not forgotten her - that she was His precious child and He would see her through this place she was in. She turned around and started to walk , and then she hugged me - hard. We all shed tears as God drew near in that moment.

I think people have a deep seated need to know that they aren't forgotten - that they matter to someone. So God put us in NOLA last week to deliver a message to one of His daughters named Dorothy. We'll never forget her and hope to one day see her again - if not in NOLA - in heaven. Would you pray for Dorothy - for all the "Dorothy's" right now?

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