It’s all about context

By Gary D. Myers

I dig New Orleans history.

Literally, I dig it. On Jan. 7, I volunteered at an archaeological excavation in the French Quarter sponsored by the Greater New Orleans Archaeology Program at the University of New Orleans. It was a neat experience.

Three hundred years of occupation by several distinctly different cultures makes New Orleans a history-rich environment. There is much to learn in the soil of New Orleans, especially in the city’s oldest areas. But the oldest areas also happen to be prime real estate and the heart of the city’s artistic and cultural hullabaloo. These areas also bring in droves of big-spending tourists.

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Greetings from two world travelers

Well, Geaux Therefore hasn’t been going anywhere lately, but Gary and I sure have been. So in the spirit of reintroduction and refreshment, we thought we’d offer a rundown of the past couple of months since our last post.

FMMc update

For me, the craziness began April 27. I’m originally from Tuscaloosa, Ala., and had been following the outbreak of bad weather in the state throughout April. Then, as I was driving home from work April 27, I got a call from my mom who was bunkered with my dad in their basement. She was watching on TV as a massive tornado tracked right through town toward their neighborhood. As we were talking, the phone went dead. My heart stopped. To my relief, she called about five minutes later to tell me the tornado had spared them, though it passed nearby.

The American Red Cross estimates that 2,375 homes in Tuscaloosa County were totally destroyed, with 2,349 others severely damaged. The tornado wiped out my parents’ first house, damaged my childhood church and destroyed the school where my mom often taught.

In the days after, the outpouring of support from friends and coworkers in New Orleans was awesome. More than a few times, Jennifer and I heard people here recall ways they’d been blessed in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina by people from Alabama. In all, we took three or four trips to Tuscaloosa with our car stuffed with donated supplies from New Orleanians – including a car full of children’s books from St. Dominic School, a car full of hygiene and baby supplies, food, clothes, cash and toys. We knew other people who packed vans, trucks and trailers for similar trips.

It all reminded me of something I learned personally back in 2005 with regard to Jesus’ story of separating the sheep and goats in Matthew 25. In the story, Jesus offers a picture of the righteous being separated from the unrighteous at the last day.

The King welcomes the “sheep” into “the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” They are welcomed, the King says, “for I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” The righteous then ask, “When did we…?” The King answers, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

In the story, there are three main groups, not just two. There are the sheep/righteous, the goats/unrighteous, and the “least of these.” As a Christian, I always associated myself with the “righteous” in the story. My role was always the helper, not the helped. But there I found myself Aug. 29, 2005, with no place of my own, few possessions, no plans, feeling hopeless. In the months that followed, in a real way, I identified more with “the least of these” than with those doing the helping. And oftentimes, the ones who visited, clothed, fed and cared for me didn’t fit the “look” I’d come to expect. With some newfound friends in 2005, I was both “the least of these” and “the righteous” in the relationship, and vice versa. During that time, the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” collided with Jesus teaching to care for “the least of these” as I saw and experienced both sides of the coin.

And so, almost six years later, I and many others from the Gulf Coast region got to answer that kindness with similar kindness. We were now in the position to care for “the least of these” in a practical way. In the words of the Apostle Paul, we are sharing each other’s burdens.

Other than trips to Tuscaloosa, there was graduation, the end of Jen’s school year, a week in Phoenix, a jaunt to Las Vegas, a visit from friends, four days in New York City and another trip to Tuscaloosa. Phew!

GDM update

For Gary’s part, he circled the globe in about four weeks and lived to tell about it. He walked on a glacier, played in the dirt in a 3,800 year-old Canaanite tunnel and tried to stay cool in 115-degree heat. His first stop was Alaska for his niece’s high school graduation and several long days of sight-seeing. Then he was off to Israel for an archaeological excavation where he was on a team working to unearth the ancient water system at Tel Gezer. His last stop was Phoenix for the big SBC meeting.

Like any good vacation, we both almost needed a vacation from vacationing. But it’s good to have our feet planted back on our home turf. So consider this an update and a slight explanation for the silence of Geaux Therefore of late. We will be back on our weekly schedule starting now.

And for your viewing pleasure, check out our travel pictures from the past few months.