Katrina The Perfect Storm

I’ve heard it said that, “As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual.” Applying that statement to the displaced American victims of Hurricane Katrina, as its winds blew and the waters flooded, I cannot help but feel that the wind of the Spirit was ALSO blowing as the flood of Christians and potential world-changing survivors has now been scattered all over the nation.

What Satan intended for evil, God will use it for good. How can I be so sure? Because, throughout Church history – and even in my own life – we can see that the devil ALWAYS shoots himself in the foot.

Examples? When the Jerusalem Church was scattered through persecution, I’m sure many believers wondered how it could have happened. Things were so good, after all. The Church was flourishing and multiplying. Later, along comes this trouble-maker named Saul from a place called Tarsus. Where the Church was concerned, this guy was public enemy #1. Then he has a personal encounter with Jesus while en route to rounding up a bunch of Christians and taking them to trial, and winds up ultimately writing 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament. But right after Saul (who was also called Paul) had his encounter with Jesus – an encounter that left him blind – a believer named Ananias was instructed by the Lord to go to and lay hands on Saul and restore his sight. It’s very likely that Ananias was one of those displaced Jerusalem Christians who had to flee the persecution of Rome. He had been strategically placed near Saul’s spiritual “Ground Zero” by God for this incredible purpose.

Despite his initial fears, Ananias ministered to Saul as a new convert. He healed Saul’s eyes. He instructed Saul, confirming that the Jesus seen by Saul on the road was indeed the Lord. He comforted Saul, addressing him as a Christian brother. He baptized Saul, formally incorporating him into the body of Christ. Finally, Saul became fully restored as he gobbled up some groceries. In all, Ananias’s ministry models for us the supportive, restorative role the Church is to play in the lives of strangers, regardless of their past reputations, or our fear of them.

DISPLACED PEOPLE ARE NOTHING NEW

Reaching out to displaced people is nothing less than to connect with other human beings for a Divine purpose. Did you know there are currently 50 million or so such people in the world, displaced because of natural disasters, drought, war, famine or persecution? It is in reaching out to these people that we allow ourselves to experience transformation.

Besides Saul, there are some other Biblical examples of people who were forced to leave their homes. Their experiences were probably much worse than those of the evacuees of Hurricane Katrina. For example, because of drought, Naomi, a Moabite, goes to another land. Because of a famine, Joseph’s family eventually evacuated to Egypt. Because of systematic extermination of all 2-year-old children by Herod, Mary and Joseph fled to Africa. Yes, Jesus Himself was an undocumented refugee! Stories of God’s people taking flight are central to our Christian tradition.

Today, the response to these poor, displaced Americans who are being unceremoniously shuttled off to strange communities has been a compilation of extreme hospitality and compassion, and outright rejection. An emotional roller-coaster for sure. Clearly, the Biblical mandate to The Church is to welcome the stranger, to treat the foreigner as one of our own, to extend kindness to the sojourner. That’s it. No finger pointing. Nothing but hospitality.

Will it be easy? Surely not. But God’s grace will prove sufficient as always. Getting involved with other people’s lives and struggles can be tough. For those who step out of their comfort zones in order to “reach out and touch someone,” though not all your experiences will prove joyful, they WILL be transforming.

For YOU as well as for those you assist.

THE PURPOSE-DRIVEN REFUGEES

Have you listened to the televised interviews with these evacuees on the news? Time and again, overwhelmingly, they are giving praise to God and expressing their unwaivering faith and trust in the Name of Jesus. Tonight, I watched in awe as, on two separate occasions, young teen girls, attending new schools after being displaced, wisely declared that they will be stronger people for having experienced what they’ve gone through. How could this NOT be true? Folks, they saw the glory of God. They were witnesses to His mighty hand snatching them from the jaws of Death. Their lives are forever changed.

They can give public testimony – a witness – that they know God EXPERIENTIALLY. They can be world-changers as a result. Ten, fifteen years from now, I’d like to see where the Kids of Katrina will be. I’ll bet they’ll be changing lives.

My contention? Though we may be reaching out and helping these people, just as Ananias reached out to Saul, it was Ananias – no, it was you and me – who actually needed what God had to offer us through HIM! As the Lord said to Ananias when he protested, “reminding” Him of the reports of the harm Saul was doing to the Believers in Jerusalem, “this man is MY CHOSEN INSTRUMENT….”

If God can use Saul…Paul…to literally change planet Earth, He can surely use these displaced Americans who have been tossed about, tattered and torn by Katrina. If that’s the case, and God is surely able, Hurricane Katrina may well turn out to be the perfect storm.

As Christ Himself did when He revealed Himself on the road to Emmaus, let’s reveal Christ to these strangers as they arrive in our towns, schools and church bodies.

READ ‘EM & REAP!

Following are just a FEW verses having to do with strangers, foreigners, sojourners, homelessness, fatherless, widows and the like. There are quite a few more. Do a Word study. I wound up with 4 pages!

And she (Moses’ wife Zipporah) bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land. Exodus 2:22

One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you. Exodus 12:49

Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Exodus 22:21

Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Exodus 23:9

And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God. Lev. 19:10

And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. Lev. 19:33

But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. Lev. 19:34

And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God. Lev. 23:22

Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the LORD your God. Lev. 24:22

And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee. Lev. 25:35

One ordinance shall be both for you of the congregation, and also for the stranger that sojourneth with you, an ordinance for ever in your generations: as ye are, so shall the stranger be before the LORD. Num. 15:15

One law and one manner shall be for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you. Num. 15:16

He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. Deut. 10:18

Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Deut. 10:19

And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest. Deut. 14:29

And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates. Deut. 16:14

Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite; for he is thy brother: thou shalt not abhor an Egyptian; because thou wast a stranger in his land. Deut. 23:7

Thou shalt not pervert the judgment of the stranger, nor of the fatherless; nor take a widow’s raiment to pledge. Deut. 24:17

When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands. Deut. 24:19

When thou beatest thine olive tree, thou shalt not go over the boughs again: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. Deut. 24:20

When thou gatherest the grapes of thy vineyard, thou shalt not glean it afterward: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. Deut. 24:21

And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the LORD thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you. Deut. 26:11

When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled; Then thou shalt say before the LORD thy God, I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all thy commandments which thou hast commanded me: I have not transgressed thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them. Deut. 26:12-13

Cursed be he that perverteth the judgment of the stranger, fatherless, and widow. And all the people shall say, Amen. Deut. 27:19

If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever. Jer. 7:6-7

The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy: yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully. Ezek. 22:29

And it shall come to pass, that in what tribe the stranger sojourneth, there shall ye give him his inheritance, saith the LORD God. Ezek. 47:23

And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart. Zechariah 7:10

And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts. Malachi 3:5

For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. Matt. 25:42-45

And I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers. Exodus 6:4

Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Exodus 22:21

Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Exodus 23:9

But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. Lev. 19:34

Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Deut. 10:19

For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding. 1 Chron. 29:15

The LORD preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down. Psalm 146:9

And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. Isaiah 61:5

And it shall come to pass, that ye shall divide it by lot for an inheritance unto you, and to the strangers that sojourn among you, which shall beget children among you: and they shall be unto you as born in the country among the children of Israel; they shall have inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel. Ezekiel 47:22

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2

Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers. 3 John 1:5

OTHER RELEVANT PASSAGES:

THE STORY OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN (the Samaritans were strangers in the land of Israel):

And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. Luke 10:25-37

NOTES!

1) The strangers in the land of Israel were expected to observe the laws of God. They were not given equal status in dealings directly with sacred things such as the Temple.

2) The Jews were often given into the hands of strangers for slavery and punishment by God when He was displeased with them.

3) God did not want the children of Israel to embrace customs and beliefs of strangers, but rather for strangers to embrace the ways of the Jews. Thus, we believe, the open immigration policy required by God Himself does not mean that Americans need to surrender America’s great ideals and customs to a tide of foreign peoples. But Americans must persevere in a very generous and open-hearted treatment of all foreigners, at all times. This nation’s prosperity and survival depends upon faithfulness to this central command of God. These people may be nothing less than “Grace-Growers” in our lives.