24 October 2006

The Gospel In New Orleans.

Fr. Jerry Kramer sends this update from the Church of the Annunciation in New Orleans (via ACN-SE):

17 October 2006 AD

Dear All,
Thanks for your continued prayers and support; we need greatly. On a personal note, Stacy and I were finally able to see a tropical disease specialist this past week. Lots of blood work, etc. going off to the CDC in Atlanta. We've both lost ten percent of our body weight (in my case a good thing but Stacy at 94 lbs not good). Apparently something interesting and resilient followed us home from Madagascar. Stacy has mainly GI issues and my issues are related primarily to chronic fatigue.
On a brighter note, after 13+ months the Kramers finally settled with our insurance company. We bought our home in June 2005 and evacuated August 28th. Hope to be back for Christmas; we now have a temporary power pole hooked up. Our neighbourhood, Broadmoor, is making steady progress. About 1,500 of our 2,400 homes are presently under some measure of repair. Not bad for an area that the City had designs on bulldozing back in January.
Annunciation is chugging along. We're seeing upwards of 150 - 170 people an hour at the relief centre in the parking lot. I must sound like a broken record. But this is our reality. We wonder what people think when they see the shiny new Super Dome on TV. There is widespread anxiety and depression here (although the Saints being 5 and 1 does help). Unless you visit, it's simply impossible to comprehend the depth and breadth of destruction. Our sense is that people around the country, for the most part, think we're either done with Katrina or should be by now. When mission teams come in to help us dig out, they cannot believe their eyes: "That's not what we've seen on t.v.!" They also see a lot of people working their tails off trying to rebuild their homes, neighbourhoods and lives.
There are only 187,000 of us back in New Orleans by the latest door to door count. Sixty percent of all churches in Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes are gone. Of the forty percent remaining, my guess is that half will fold in the next few years. Annunciation is only alive today by God's grace and the generosity of so many. But we're not victims.
We hold firm to the promise that God honours those who honour Him. So we're on the offense, refusing to play defense. Every able body is working and giving as generously as they can. The dedicated folks who serve at our parking lot relief centre are amazing. We're able, while funds hold out, to give them a little stipend to buy food and cover utilities.
The house we purchased behind the old church for office space should be renovated and ready in about six weeks. This means we can ditch another trailer that is costing us each month. By Christmas we hope and pray to be in our modular church building. Next up will be renovating our old rectory and turning it into a coffee shop, building a much needed community centre (one of our greatest road blocks right now is the lack of places for neighbourhoods to meet and plan) rehabbing a badly flooded house for a youth center, and then, hopefully, we can begin on turning our old facilities into a dormitory/dining hall etc. for mission teams. Our insurance settlement, when it finally comes through, won't be nearly enough to cover all of this. But God seems to send us volunteer labour as needed so we plod and plow forward stubbornly by faith.
Annunciation's new plant church, All Souls in the Lower 9th Ward, is a beacon of hope in a neighbourhood where many died and the flood waters reached 12' feet. Some of our youth group had to swim from roof top to roof top to survive. Our youth minister, Wendy, is doing an amazing job with these very at times difficult young people. In addition to counseling and discipling and spending endless hours with them, we run an after school homework centre where they are actually learning to read and write and do basic math. These kids voluntarily come up to the church every afternoon to study, along with some basketball and worship time.
We're working on a new church plant reaching out to the Hispanics moving here in droves. Some projections are that New Orleans will go from 70 percent Black to 60 percent Hispanic in short order. Annunciation's goal is to become a truly missional church, reaching a changing mission field for Christ.
The work here is seemingly endless and we're praying for more mission teams to come and help us rebuild our community and beyond. There's not a skill or gift that wouldn't be helpful. One of the gifts we have to offer is a powerful missional experience and opportunity where people can see immediate results that impact the lives of others and advance the Kingdom.
You can keep up with our daily "circus for Jesus" (in Wendy's words) at [our website].
Pray for us. We pray for you daily. Blessings from South Louisiana,
jerry+ op et al.
The Rev'd Jerry and Stacy Kramer
Free Church of the Annunciation
New Orleans, LA USA


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