As I sat in the living room of my grandmother’s old Mississippi home, my eyes veered back and forth from the television set to the shock on my parents’ faces. Images depicted neighborhoods and communities submerged underwater, and my family couldn’t help but wonder if our home was still standing.
I removed myself from the rest of the family and escaped into my grandmother’s bedroom.
Crying, I collapsed onto the bed.
In this moment, my 15-year-old mind first comprehended the extremity of what was taking place. It was August 29, 2005 — the day that Hurricane Katrina slammed ashore, and the day that the Collins family learned the true meaning of hope.
It was a normal Saturday afternoon for my family, until we received news that a mandatory evacuation order had been issued for our community in South Louisiana. We thought nothing of it — hurricanes and tropical storms were common in our area, and we were used to evacuating during hurricane season. Nonetheless, we packed three days’ worth of belongings and left. What we didn’t know was that we would be away from our home for over two months.
My family and I lived in North Mississippi until it was deemed safe by city officials to return home. But should we return, and did we want to? We knew that our lives would never be the same as they were before the storm.
Our decision led us back to Louisiana, where we found that our house had been flooded with over seven feet of water. All of our belongings were covered in mold, and our house was unlivable.
Everything I had known up until now was no more.
We were distraught and discouraged; we felt hopeless. Over the next weeks, my family of five was separated, as various friends opened their spare rooms to us. Though we were thankful for any place to stay, this was the hardest part of the entire experience — being separated from the ones we loved most during a time of such great hardship.
Friends and strangers came together to rebuild our community, and people from across the country extended a helping hand. The thought of moving away, farther north, crossed our minds — but we could never leave the beloved community where we had invested so much of ourselves, and that had shown such kindness to us.
After a total of nine months, we finalized the sale of what was left of our old house and we purchased a house across town. The process of restoration and healing continued and now, six years later, I know that a greater measure of God’s goodness was ultimately made known to our little community.
We found the true meaning of hope in things unseen as we learned of the marvelous plan that God had for each of us.
During this time, my family was never lacking. We never went hungry and there wasn’t one night that we weren’t given pillows to rest our weary heads. God’s goodness never ceased, and His love continues to fill our hearts to this day.
Hurricane Katrina left a mark on my heart that may never be erased. This mark symbolizes the hope that is found only in Jesus Christ, and it symbolizes the restorative power that is in His name.
My home will forever be in the arms of my great Father.
Rachel Collins is a lover of coffee, crafting and creativity. Born and raised in New Orleans, she ventured up to the state of Missouri a few years back and decided to stick around. On a normal day you may find her sipping on a latte at a local coffee shop, but on other days you will find her eagerly living (and writing) to see the wrong things made right in the world
[photo: au_tiger01, Creative Commons]