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A. Ray Lee

Symbols of hope 

By A. Ray Lee 

Recently Hurricane Ida roared out of the Gulf of Mexico with 150 mile per hour winds and all but obliterated the picturesque fishing village on Grand Isle.  

From there it proceeded over the Louisiana bayou country before turning in an arching curve through Mississippi, Tennessee and adjacent states, drastically changing the landscape. 

Downgraded to a tropical storm, it continued to wreak havoc with rising waters and off-shoot tornadoes before reaching its climax in New York. There, it caused epic flooding, taking lives and leaving unfathomable destruction. 

Early estimates are that Ida caused more than $50 billion of property damage and loss. There is no way to place a dollar value on the as-yet-unknown number of lives lost and the physical, emotional and spiritual impact upon those who survived the raging winds and relentless waters.  

As the winds abated and the waters began to recede, physical relief and hope poured into the affected areas, compelled by the ethos of generosity and compassion deeply embedded in the spiritual DNA of the American people.  

Hope rode with the convoys of bucket trucks driven by utility workers. Hope was brought by volunteer disaster relief teams.  

Hope was strengthened by the faith of churches bringing clothing, water, personal hygiene items and a multitude of things necessary for normal living.  

Hope was in the hot meals served without cost by mobile kitchens and food trucks. It will continue to be seen for months in the material gifts and donation of funds. 

Ida brought back powerful memories.  

I was on a mission in Scotland 16 years earlier when Hurricane Katrina breached the levees surrounding New Orleans. The breach allowed unrestrained waters to surge into the city, causing catastrophic destruction.  

The BBC had given hours of news related to the storm. One segment featured pictures taken from a helicopter covering a section of the city showing no distinctive landmark other than a white spire reaching upward into a clear sky. This clip was run repeatedly.  

I recognized it as the steeple of the chapel at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where I had spent three years pursuing a theological education in preparation for Christian ministry.  

Despite the power of winds and waves, the steeple had firmly withstood the destruction wrought by the storm and stood as a symbol of hope.  

Today, it continues unmoved as a sentinel over a fully-restored campus. 

The journey through recovery and restoration for those affected by Ida will be long and difficult. They might not have a steeple pointing toward the heavens, but the memory of the presence and love of those who cared will forever remain as a symbol of hope.  

For those who of you who have come through the storms of life, whether they be like a hurricane or storms of the heart and soul, may you journey under the rainbow and promise given to Noah when he stepped forth from the ark onto dry land.