A Song for Family & Friends Waiting for Rita

“God Moves in a Mysterious Way”
By William Cowper (1731-1800)

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

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Watching, Waiting, Praying


Hurricane Rita

I was scheduled to preach at First Baptist Church DeRidder, LA Sunday morning. But as of this morning, those plans have been cancelled because of Hurricane Rita.

DeRidder is my hometown. I spoke with my parents this morning, and they are going to stay there until the storm is over. My dad is the principle of Singer High School, and FEMA has just made his school into a shelter for those fleeing to the north from south Louisiana. So he has to stay in any case to supervise that facility.

DeRidder is far enough inland that it should not get the destructive winds and flooding that will hammer the coastal parishes. Nevertheless, the outer bands of these kinds of Hurricanes are highly tornadic, and the folks in DeRidder and the rest of southwest Louisiana are taking this storm very seriously. Add to that the fact that evacuees are streaming through, and you can see that the situation is serious indeed.

They and I would appreciate your prayers.

God is good all the time. Everything that He does is wise, right, and good. We will be looking to Him as our strength and help.

Psalm 107
23 Those who go down to the sea in ships,
Who do business on great waters;
24 They have seen the works of the Lord,
And His wonders in the deep.
25 For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind,
Which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths;
Their soul melted away in their misery.
27 They reeled and staggered like a drunken man,
And were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
And He brought them out of their distresses.
29 He caused the storm to be still,
So that the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad because they were quiet;
So He guided them to their desired haven.
31 Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness,
And for His wonders to the sons of men!

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What Do They Know That We Don’t? (Part 2)

Scene from John Roberts’ Confirmation Hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Recent discussions of Judge John Roberts reveal that he is not an altogether satisfying choice for those who occupy places at both ends of the political spectrum. Liberals have been in a tizzy since his nomination, fearing that he will perhaps be in a majority that could overturn Roe v. Wade. Even some conservatives have had persistent questions as to Roberts’ conservative bona fide’s (which I wrote about two months ago here).

In particular, conservatives have been questioning what kind of a conservative justice Roberts will prove to be. Is Roberts the kind of conservative who will conserve the judicial status quo (in deference to the legal principle stare decisis), or is he one who will conserve the Constitution according to the framers original intent even if it means overturning long-standing precedent?

It is clear that the conservative base that re-elected George W. Bush expects conservative justices according to the latter definition. Thus a bevy of well-known religious conservatives have lauded John Roberts’ (see article in CT) as an originalist. For example, both James Dobson and Tony Perkins have expressed their approval of John Roberts.

Nevertheless, a handful of conservatives such as Fred Barnes and Ann Coulter have suggested that Roberts may be so beholden to precedent that he would not overturn Roe v. Wade. The ambiguous responses that he gave to questions during his confirmation hearing have only reinforced such suspicions.

Edward Whelan has written an interesting piece for National Review Online titled “Abortion & Precedent: What John Roberts Really Said.” Whelan argues that Coulter and friends have misunderstood Robert’s intentional ambiguity on the Roe v. Wade precedent.

Check out Whelan’s article. I hope he is right.

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Let’s Hope He’s Wrong

Charles Krauthammer predicts that as Chief Justice John Roberts would vote to uphold the infamous Roe v. Wade precedent. Krauthammer also makes the unintelligible claim that Roberts will be a “traditional conservative” who will move the court to the “left.”

If Krauthammer’s definition of “traditional conservatism” includes upholding Roe and moving the Supreme Court to the left, then I’m afraid Krauthammer is losing touch with what conservatism is.

“Roe v. Roberts” – by Charles Krauthammer

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Lawlessness and Terror at the Convention Center

We passed this police car which was abandoned right in front of the Convention Center. It’s dilapidated condition stands a symbolic reminder of the inadequacy of the force that was left to guard the Convention Center when nearly 20,000 people were stranded there.

As I wrote in my previous post, I spent the majority of my time in New Orleans working at the Convention Center. The rubble left behind there that I witnessed told a terrible and tragic story.

The thousands of people who were turned away from the shelter at the Superdome were directed to the Convention Center just ten blocks away. The place descended into a dark hole of misery and lawlessness. The Washington Post has done a fine bit of reporting on what actually happened there. The piece is titled, “It Was as if All of Us Were Already Pronounced Dead.”

The military police that I talked to confirmed what the Post reports in this article. When they went inside the convention center they found bodies that had been brutalized and murdered.

No doubt, we have only begun to hear the terrible tales that will surely be told about the infamous Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

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Criswell College Students Go into the Aftermath of Katrina


Preparing food for the Salvation Army Mobile Canteens at 3:30am.
Photo by Josh Ramsey.

We parked our Canteen truck right next to the tents where military vehicles were dropping off and processing evacuees in front of the now infamous Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. This was the site that saw thousands of New Orleans residents stranded without food and bathrooms for days after the levees broke. It became a den of misery and lawlessness.

A Military Policeman informed me that when the army arrived, they found dead bodies inside the Convention Center—bodies that had been brutalized, some apparently mugged and others raped. It is places like these where the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) has been providing disaster relief to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The work I was doing was part of the SBTC’s partnership with the Salvation Army. The SBTC and the Salvation Army have set up a staging area in Baton Rouge, LA that is providing disaster relief to those who are in the wake of devastation caused by the Hurrican. A group of Criswell College students (led by me) recently joined in that effort.

The SBTC partnership with the Salvation Army in Baton Rouge requires SBC volunteers to load and to man Salvation Army Mobile Canteens. Canteens are trucks outfitted to transport, to prepare, and to distribute food to victims of disaster. The SBTC staging area in Baton Rouge prepares approximately 20,000 to 35,000 meals per day to be distributed by disaster relief volunteers. On Saturday alone, the so-called “bologna brigade” made 20,000 bologna sandwiches to be distributed to victims.

I helped to man a Canteen that provided relief inside the city of New Orleans itself. I found that the catastrophic impact of Katrina was not adequately depicted by the pictures I had seen on the television. Rancid flood waters covered huge swaths of the city, and innumerable buildings lay in ruins. An on-the-ground view of the landscape revealed the sheer scope of the disaster, and it was indeed devastating.

My partner, Mark Bjornholm, and I spent the majority of our time in New Orleans feeding evacuees and rescue workers who were holed up at the Convention Center. A week ago, there were tens of thousands waiting in line to be evacuated. When we served, they were arriving sporadically, and there was no line for them to wait in. The ones who came to our truck were the last hold-outs. One military man told me that these were the ones who would have stayed even longer, but their food, provisions, and will to continue had finally given out.

All the evacuees who arrived at our station looked bedraggled and depressed. And who could blame them? They had lost everything, and now they were leaving home behind. We gave them a meal and a word of condolence for their lost city. And we prayed for them.

We fed a bus driver named Terrence and his family at the evacuation site. Terrence was able to hold on to his job after losing his home and all his belongings in the hurricane. Now he, his wife Raquel, and his three children (Caitlyn, 11yrs; Corey, 11yrs; and Cayla, 7yrs.) have made Terrence’s bus their new home.

Other Criswell College students who manned Canteen trucks made it outside of New Orleans proper and into some of the suburbs that were ravaged by Katrina. Johnny Guthrie and John Ailie went into Kenner, LA where residents were still living with standing water and without power. All of the residents, afraid to come out of their homes for fear of a forced evacuation, were relieved to see the Canteen come rolling into their neighborhood. Guthrie and Ailie reported that the people they served said that the SBTC/Salvation Army truck was the first disaster relief team that they had seen, and this nearly two weeks after the storm. Ailie told each person that he fed, “We’re here to serve you and to serve Jesus Christ.”

Even though the Criswell College students’ primary task was to distribute food, they also found time to distribute the Gospel. In just two days, students estimated that they had made 67 Gospel presentations, given out 119 Bibles, and handed out 1,126 tracts.

Bill Davenport, the director of SBTC disaster relief and leader of the staging area in Baton Rouge, said that his biggest concern is that after the media-hype of Hurricane Katrina dies down he will be left with all the food, equipment, and provisions for relief, but no help.

Needless to say, there is much left to do in New Orleans and in the outlying areas that are sheltering evacuees. And there remains a huge question as to what the impact will be when Hurricane Rita reaches the Gulf Coast this weekend. My hope is that whatever the disaster, God will send more workers out to embody the Gospel in disaster relief efforts.

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More Scenes from New Orleans

Band of Cobelligerents: Denny, Mark (SBC), George, and Mike (Salvation Army). These are the four who manned our Canteen truck. Denny and Mark are from Dallas, TX; George and Mike are from Ohio. It was a real pleasure working with these guys.


The filth and stench outside the Convention Center was unbelievable.


Terrence and his family came through the line at our Canteen truck. Terrence was able to hold on to his job after losing his home and all his belongings in the hurricane. Now he, his wife Raquel, and his three children (Caitlyn, 11yrs; Corey, 11yrs; and Cayla, 7yrs.) have made Terrence’s bus their new home.


USS Harry Truman docked at the Riverwalk which runs alongside the Mississippi River in New Orleans.


It was eerie to see that the Mississippi River Bridge going into New Orleans was deserted.


Denny in front of the Canteen talking to an immigration officer.


Evacuees arriving at our position in front of the Convention Center.


It was our pleasure to serve members of the 82nd Airborne stationed inside the evacuation site.


Flooded street in New Orleans.


Pure D nastiness.


This is a view of downtown from I-10 looking south. We could only drive so far north before having to turn around because flood waters had cut off I-10.


Here we are making nice with the guys who are now running the streets of New Orleans. They weren’t forcing evacuations, but boy is it intimidating to see these guys rolling down the streets of the neighborhood in their armored vehicles.


What can I say? I just like Humvees.

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Scenes from New Orleans

These are two signs I found on a building on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans. The sign on the left is the initial warning to looters that the owner left. The sign on the right is the update on his status as of September 4.

Evacuees being unloaded from a military personell truck near our Mobile Canteen unit.

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Going to New Orleans

Dear Readers,

I won’t be blogging for the next few days because I’m going to New Orleans. I’m leading a group of students from the Criswell College to a staging area in Baton Rouge where we will link up with Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief. We will man a Salvation Army Mobile Canteen and will be responsible for distributing 300,000 meals per day in New Orleans.

The last several days, I’ve been blogging a lot about the political side of the Hurrican Katrina tragedy because I think the news coverage has been reflexively condemning of federal authorities. I am happy to say that I think that that tide is turning. In any case, I am hoping to have something very different to write about when I get back. I hope to tell some of the story of our trip after we return because I don’t think that I will have access to the internet while I am there (and I don’t think I’d have time to write anyway).

I would greatly appreciate your prayers.

Sincerely,
Denny

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State of Louisiana Prevented Red Cross from Providing Relief to New Orleans Superdome

This is an unbelievable story being reported by Major Garrett of FOX News. The following is from Hugh Hewitt’s website:

“The Fox News Channel’s Major Garrett was just on my show extending the story he had just reported on Brit Hume’s show: The Red Cross is confirming to Garrett that it had prepositioned water, food, blankets and hygiene products for delivery to the Superdome and the Convention Center in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, but were blocked from delivering those supplies by orders of the Louisiana state government, which did not want to attract people to the Superdome and/or Convention Center. Garrett has no paper trail yet, but will follow up on his verbal confirmation from sources at the highest levels of the Red Cross.”

You can read a transcript of Hugh Hewitt’s interview with Major Garrett here. According to Garrett, the Red Cross is unequivocally confirming his story.

If this story is accurate, it changes the entire political calculus. It would show that the tragic aftermath of Katrina was not due to a failure of federal authorities, but to a failure of authorities in the State of Louisiana.

(HT: Justin Taylor)

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