by The Reverend Bill Keane
The caravan meandered in slow procession through the dirty streets barren of life. White vans accompanied by an SUV, and military escort fore and aft, negotiated the New Orleans neighborhoods of moldering grass and rotting trees.
Houses and cars bore striped tones testifying to receding water levels – strata of the diminishing deluge laying bare the enduring destruction underneath. Tropical temperatures and humidity created a cauldron of advancing decay, with dwellings once fit for humans now a welcome environment for lingering poison and burgeoning disease.
Arriving at the designated address, armed service personnel secured the area and ensured the structure to be entered was relatively stable and safe. With impervious gowns and gloves, people resembling aliens stepped out upon the hostile landscape, furtively advancing up the rickety steps of the crooked porch.
Spray-painted markings at various heights on the front wall bespoke the tale of previously heroic, yet fruitless visits. However, this time, with Katrina’s flood completely faded away, educated eyes pierced through the foreboding darkness, discerning anthropoid shapes amidst the mud-caked furniture. Indeed, there were two individuals inside awaiting this rescue turned recovery. Nameless citizens, their demise irrefutably declared the manifest frailty of the levees that had once held them secure.
With professional competence and remarkably compassionate expertise, the remains of the man and woman were reverently secured and emplaced in their temporary vessels. Slowly carried from the house, the bodies were brought to rest in the motorcade where the chaplain offered prayers far too paltry for lives so courageously lived and reluctantly surrendered.
With no documents or ID’s on their person, the deceased couple lay in anonymous respite, until it was observed that a mangled and twisted sign stood off to the left of the L-shaped structure from whence they had come. Blistered black paint against a beaten and bleached chipboard revealed that it was a Baptist church, with attached parsonage, where these reposed faithful took their last stand.
Surely as the waters had risen and the earthly end drew near, petitions such as had never been offered in that sanctified space must have shot skyward against the roar of the raging torrent. While the initial onslaught may have been endured, it was clear that the presumed pastor and his wife did not survive the unrelenting flood. Yet, within this unimaginable death they would be saved by the One they had followed and proclaimed in life. Engulfed by toxic slime, and untouchable with unprotected hands, these steadfast apostles were long ago covered by the Cross of Jesus Christ.
Thus it came to pass that a pair of all too delicate disciples, solemnly removed from a destroyed and decaying house, found shelter in the eternal abode of God. The deep mire had done its worst. The souls once faithfully preaching the Gospel were silenced by a terrible storm. Yet it was their Lord Who would ultimately have the final word.