There were three scriptures that kept me sane

By Karla Luke
On Aug. 28, 2005, I never would have believed that when we left our New Orleans home in anticipation of the approach of Hurricane Katrina that we were never to return. We had gone through those motions many times before and had always came back home! But, there was something very unusual about this time. The Saturday and Sunday before the arrival of the storm were deathly quiet; no birds, no squirrels, not even dogs barking. In retrospect, I should have known that it would be bad.
The events of the storm have been recounted by many people many times and our story is not all that different. We were blessed to have the financial and physical means to evacuate before the storm, we sat in traffic for hours, we weathered the storm in a hotel, and finally, prepared to return home only to learn that we could not go back. We had already checked out of the hotel before the emergency notification from the federal government asked that everyone stay put. So there we were, we could not go back to the hotel and could not go home to New Orleans.
My family and I were in limbo until a kind and gracious “sister-friend” opened her home to us for two months. It was so very hard. The loss was incredible. Not that we had a million dollar mansion, but it was our home. Not that I worked for a Fortune 500 company, but it was my job. In the weeks and months to come, the loss would only intensify as we made important decisions that would soon become final. Since I was a little child, saying goodbye was always difficult for me. I had to learn to say goodbye over and over again: to the material things: the house, the job, a car, clothes, furniture; and to the emotional: my wedding photos and baby pictures, mementos, friends and most of all to my family.
There were three scriptures that kept me sane during Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13); “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11); and “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28). I recited them daily, sometimes even hourly. They became my evening prayers before I went to sleep and my morning prayers when I arose.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I could not understand why this happened. As a middle school science teacher, I certainly understood the geography and the topography of New Orleans, so comprehending that part was logical. What I could not fathom was how to even begin to start again and pick up the pieces of our lives after citywide flooding that destroyed a great part of the community. I was weak and very sad.
This scripture gave my husband and me the courage to make those hard decisions, to look into the faces of our children to reassure them that everything would be okay. It was not easy but we were able to do it because of the reassuring presence of God. Each morning I woke up was proof that scripture was true.
“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11). I could not help but think that God removed us from one situation to place us in a better situation. I had to take comfort in realizing that the all-knowing and all-powerful Father had a better plan for us than the one that we had for ourselves.  Through this disastrous event, we were able to purchase a beautiful new home, and we were blessed because my husband’s company transferred him to an office in Jackson with a great position. My children entered new schools and made lifelong friends. Through the “calamity,” we found a hopeful future.
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28). The experience of going through Hurricane Katrina was horrendous for me. I did not know if ever a day would come that I would not cry, be sad or sick to my stomach, but God used the horrors of that storm to give me a new faith. I totally leaned on God (my strong husband too) to see me through this time.  “And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ And He said, ‘Write, for these words are faithful and true.’” (Revelation 21:5). And God did.
One thing that I noticed in flood ravaged New Orleans when we were able to return to inspect the damage to our home and property was the Blessed Virgin Mary. I observed that in all of the places where the statue of Mary was displayed, there may have been damage to the property but the statue of Mary stood straight and unharmed. We always prayed to Our Lady of Prompt Succor for protection from storms. Throughout Mary’s life, she trusted in God and he took care of her. The subliminal message sent by that visual was to be strong in faith and God will protect you, even if you don’t understand everything at the time.
Since coming to Jackson 10 years ago, many things have changed for us. My husband continues to work for his company and has been graciously received into the community. My children have graduated from high school and college and have wonderful jobs. Our family bond could not be stronger.  I have continued my work in Catholic schools as a teacher and administrator, now serving in the Office of Catholic Education. I feel so blessed and happy in this state of my life. Every now and then, when I think of how it used to be, I may get a little sad. I still miss my family and friends but the time spent visiting has become much more precious and meaningful. The quantity of time we spend together has decreased but the quality of the relationships has increased.
We must continue to pray for all of the people who were and continued to be affected by the destruction of the storm. Many people lost their lives and still others have not been able to recover financially or emotionally from the effects of the storm. To those people we must offer hope for a new and brighter future.
I continue to be eternally grateful to all who helped us along the way: my “sister-friend” who provided shelter and support, the Jackson, Mississippi community, especially St. Therese Parish who welcomed us and became our church family and God who continues to guide me and keep safe. “Behold, I am making all things new. Write, for these words are faithful and true.” These words are indeed faithful and true.
(Karla Luke is the coordinator of operations for the Office of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Jackson and a member of Jackson St. Therese Parish.)