Thursday, September 08, 2005

the charlotte coliseum

It has been a full week---the year is beginning for many groups within the church, we are embarking on a needed campaign to secure funds for debt, parking, missions, etc, and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is occupying our minds. In most of our waking moments our eyeballs are glued to the television screens as we see individuals pulled into helicopters, politicians posturing in ways that I don't need to elaborate on, and ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Our church will "adopt" three families in the next two days. Because of a few dedicated people, that vision of hospitality is coming together, and I know our folks will respond. They always do.

There are approximately 300 or so residents from New Orleans living in the Charlotte Coliseum. The Charlotte Hornets, an NBA team, once played there. Then the owner moved them to New Orleans. It is a bizarre world.

A new arena is being built, uptown, for the Bobcats. And so the coliseum is somewhat vacant, and serves now this purpose, to provide shelter and safety for evacuees. I felt led to drive over there. When I say I felt led, there was a sense that I should do this, and the sense did not go away. In good traffic it takes 15-20 minutes to get to the coliseum. I arrived and was met in the parking lot by a gatekeeper. I told him I was a clergy, and pointed to my hospital badge, which of course had nothing to do with the coliseum or their work, but the guy seemed content and waved me through.

My thoughts as I parked were simple ones: "first do not harm". These people have been through so much. I had heard that pastors were needed there, but wasn't sure where I had heard this. In a normal week I would have stayed at the office. I am so far behind on this week's sermon that it is no longer funny. But then it is not a normal week.

I walked into the entrance, they scanned me, and again waved me through. Once inside, there were simply masses of people. Some were waiting in an intake area. Others were meeting with medical folks in public health. I walked farther in. There was a section for cots. I walked farther: there was a children's play area, with a couple of clowns performing, one of them in the spanish language. There was food all around, and people were milling about. At times it was difficult to distinguish those helping from those being helped. It was, on the surface, one community brought together by a tragic set of circumstances.

I walked a little farther in and saw a sign for a chapel. I followed it. I entered, and there was a woman and two men. They were african-american ministers, and they were very friendly. I introduced myself. "You can join us", they said. And so I did. A stream of folks came in, to pray. Individuals, couples, a woman with a young child, some very devout, others bewildered, some in tears. We would form a circle, each time, and one of us we pray. Then we would hug them,if they wished (most wanted this). Some would reflect on where they had been, or what the future might be, or what God was saying to them through all of this.

The time to leave came, and I made my way out. In a real sense I did not want to leave. God's presence was there, in these children who had survived the storm, and crossed over to the other side. Many of them had offered prayers of thanksgiving that they were among the survivors. Others wondered what that meant.

I am grateful that somehow, for some reason, God led me to that chapel. There I saw the human face of Katrina, and touched the hands of those that are being lifted up to God for hope and out to us for help.


Blogger the grateful ed said...

Amazing. I had no idea. Kathleen, my favorite wife, said that they ought to open up the old coliseum. Well, they did. I'm in Florida watching Ophelia wander around but I'm coming home to Rock Hill and will be looking forward to seeing you soon. Your blog is my fave and I look at several every day. I need lessons. I just posted my first piece and will probably figure out how to make my cool like yours in say, 50 years.

Ed Kilbourne

3:53 PM  
Blogger ken carter said...

ed, thanks for your comment, ministry and friendship. you would be a "natural" at this.


7:01 AM  
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