THE TOWN THAT AMERICA FORGOT
It has been over three months since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast. Two weeks ago I traveled with sixty others to the small town of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi to provide Thanksgiving meals to hundreds of townspeople. The Bay St. Louis community neighbors Waveland, Mississippi, which has been termed “The Town That America Forgot.” One thing that is apparent is that God is speaking to America, and God remembers. Traveling in a van for 18 hours allows a long time to reflect, and to ponder the hand of God in a hurricane.
Our journey led us to a small general store in a community of working poor. This Gulf Coast community was too small to be a priority for relief agencies like the Red Cross, and thus the name “The Town That America Forgot.” The town took the brunt of the storm surge, and left the people without food and supplies for weeks. Three months later, many are still living in tents. Charles Uhlman affectionately known as “Cappy” was a 70 year old man who spent 7 hours clinging precariously to an oak tree as he was washed out of his home. We were encouraged by his unflappable and upbeat spirit as he related his story. He is living in a tent, still waiting for his trailer from FEMA. It quickly became clear that the government cannot save us, and that God remembered “Cappy” Uhlman in the hurricane.
Three miles inland from the Gulf Coast where there seemed to be more tents and temporary trailers than houses, and where trees were broken like toothpicks was a general store owned by a man named Johnny Davis. Johnny Davis came to Bay St. Louis, 5 weeks before Hurricane Katrina hit to open the Johnny Davis General Store. As the coast was hit with a thirty foot wall of water, Bay St. Louis and Johnny’s store was hit with an 8-10 foot wall of water. As the water level came rushing down the streets engulfing trailers up to the roof tops, the water level in the store began to rise. “It was as if God parted the water around my store,” Johnny tearfully, and humbly related, exhaustion still in his eyes. Though everywhere around the store was encompassed with 8 feet of water, the water level in the store only rose to 28 inches allowing the food and supplies to be stacked on higher shelves and preserved.
Mr. Davis, though a non-believer understood that God had providentially spared his small store to use for a purpose. For weeks Mr. Davis fed hundreds of storm weary townspeople for free. Knowing he was already well into bankruptcy, he continued to feed the people of the small Gulf Coast community. Now months later at his general store, business is doing well, and there is a steady stream of customers trying to get back on their feet. Without the providential hand upon Johnny’s life, it is likely many more in the Waveland, Bay St. Louis area would have perished. They are still finding bodies today. God remembered the townspeople of Bay St. Louis.
Three months later, on Johnny’s property we held two tent revivals. The hurricane survivors from Mississippi, who had much to receive and we who had much to give were worshiping God together every evening. The fiery pastor who made the journey from Ohio preached a message of comfort, mercy, and hope but also a message of sin and repentance. A makeshift altar was set up from a broken swing that had been torn down in the winds and the water. Johnny kneeled down after the pastor’s message. Already seeing God’s hand in his life, with tears of repentance and a surrendered heart he asked the Lord to wash away His sin and to cleanse him from his iniquity. Johnny became a Christian that night. That night God remembered Johnny Davis.
After a day and a half of fellowship with the people of Mississippi we packed up the vans and made the trek back to Ohio, recalling stories of heroism, and stories of hope. We were given a sobering reality of the justice, wrath, and power of God. We understood that God will accomplish His purposes. God will even use the non-believers to accomplish them. I pray that as God remembered the townspeople of a small Bay St. Louis community, and an ordinary man named Johnny, that God does not forget America.
© 2005 Nicholas Jackson
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Nick Jackson is a physical therapist from Ohio who assists pro-life and pro-family ministries in the Central Ohio area. He is executive director of Reform America, a Christian Activist organization based in Columbus. For more information on Reform America go to www.reformamerica.com
Mr. Davis, though a non-believer understood that God had providentially spared his small store to use for a purpose.