ANYBODY HEARD FROM GOD ON THIS?
The other day, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe said only God could remove him from office. (In response, I suggested God should get busy with that task.) Now Catholic bishops in the area have said that God is offended by Mugabe and his antics (who isn't?) and will bring judgment on him. Once more, everyone seems to know what God thinks. If I were God's p.r. person, I'd be urging the Boss to hold a press conference to clarify things. (Which maybe is why I don't have that job.)
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THIS NOAH'S ARK HAS BEEN SAVED
It was -- and still is -- in a tough neighborhood not far from downtown. The pastor, Willie M. Walker Jr. (pictured here), tells me he could sit up on the roof of the church back then and watch drug dealers bribing cops on the streets below. The church, founded in 1947, was broken into 90 separate times since Walker became pastor a few years ago.
When Katrina hit, the wind, rain and flooding destroyed Noah's Ark. Walker later was honored for being an independent first responder and saving many people, but his church was smashed. So the few folks who were left began meeting in a Methodist church.
But eventually ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" heard about the church, and put its name in a stack of possible projects to help rebuild this devastated city. Finally, Noah's Ark rose to the top of that list, and this sprng the ruined Southern Baptist church was rebuilt. (For the Baptist Press story about the rebuilding, click here.)
As you can see from these pictures, it's a pretty addition to the neighborhood on South Saratoga Street, across from a cemetery. Notice the building behind the Noah's Ark sign. Much of the neighborhood looks like that.
Nowadays 60 or 70 people show up on an average Sunday morning and Walker and others at Noah's Ark are creating programs to help youth and to feed hungry people.
New Orleans is full of such rebirth stories, though, for sure, Extreme Makeover isn't part of all of them. But churches were among the first institutions to reopen after Katrina, and that has helped to bring people back to the city, which had a population of about 455,000 before Katrina and now is back to about 327,000, Mayor Ray Nagin says.
But the needs in New Orleans remain huge. Big parts of the city continue to lie in ruins, though it's quite inspiring to see what already has returned to full function.
"We're just blessed," Willie Walker told me.
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.