“On Sunday, there was a special team that worked the children’s parades. The pre-teens did dramas that were a hit with the crowds bringing many observers to tears.”
-Pastor John Elliot on ministry efforts this week in New Orleans
“Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more…” Romans 5:20
While many residents are still trying to get their lives back to some normalcy after Hurricane Katrina, the first post-Katrina celebration of Mardi Gras was under way as the city tried to cheer itself up. Much like New York continued after 9/11 with their New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square, Mardi Gras took place in New Orleans, ending with Fat Tuesday last week.
Mardi Gras has routinely drawn more than 1 million people, and has brought about $1 billion into the local economy. For the first time in 150 years, this year’s Mardi Gras was scaled back from its usual 12 or so days to eight. Many of the parade routes were changed as well to channel processions away from lingering Katrina eyesores. The crowds were much thinner this year, with more than half the population still scattered across the country and just a fraction of the city’s hotel rooms available for tourists.
Foursquare ministry teams were in the heart of New Orleans touching lives with the gospel and bringing the love of Jesus to anyone who was willing to listen. Local residents said this year’s pre-Lenten celebration had brought people together in a special way after the shared tragedy of Katrina. Nevertheless, the festivities continued with the typical debauchery. Ironically, as our ministry teams began to talk with people, a storm began to blow into the city.
Base camp Coordinator John Elliot, from Gulf Coast Foursquare Church, reports, “We had over 200 street workers serving in the rain for the first hours of the outreach as a northern weather system was blowing in. The volunteers felt that if the partiers where out there, then they should be too. The rain broke in the early evening and we were able to work under clear skies until midnight.”
Pastor John continues, “I was so proud of our youth who worked as hard as the adults serving the people in need of Jesus Christ. We passed out about 15,000 tracts, performed dramas, encouraged members of our team to preach, and led praise and worship amidst the revelers on the street. On Sunday, there was a special team that worked the children’s parades. The pre-teens did dramas that were a hit with the crowds bringing many observers to tears.”
There are still many unknowns as New Orleans tries to rise from the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. Before the storm hit, the U.S. Census Bureau recorded the population of the metropolitan area of New Orleans at about 1,340,735 and the city limits at about 484,674. However, the current total for the entire metropolitan area is now standing at 929,554 and only 150,000 residing in the city. An estimated 128,000 owner-occupied homes had major damage by the storms and 210,000 more received minor damage. $2 billion has been dispensed to hurricane-hit residents, but officials say the long-term needs in rebuilding the region and aiding residents will cost hundreds of billions of dollars.
The Foursquare Disaster Relief Task Force continues to serve in the efforts of relief, recovery, and rebuilding in Louisiana and Mississippi. Hundreds of volunteers from dozens of Foursquare churches are partnering with us and our base camps to support the release of the gulf region to the hope of God’s plan for the future. We encourage you to join in the effort.