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The church building itself did not fare so well. The education building has no roof. The steeple knocked a hole in the roof of the main building, though the sanctuary is still usable.

Rachel continues to preach. The study, preparation and delivery of sermons has helped sustain her. The rhythms of worship established before the storm have provided a semblance of normality in the midst of the devastation.

 This photograph on 1st Street in Gulfport, Miss., was taken by members of the Katrina Relief Team from First United Methodist Church of Orlando, Fla.

One of Rachelís insights was the difference between possessions with no intrinsic worth and artifacts whose history helps define who we are.

She learned this lesson a hard way. In the first few days after the storm, she was elated to find a number of her books safe and dry. She intended to bring them inside, somewhere safe. Four days later she found them outside, forgotten in the confusion of clean-up. They were sitting ruined, in rain-filled containers.

It was the first time she let herself cry. With notes scribbled in margins and highlighted passages, the books by and about her patron theologian, Henri Nouwen, and those on Celtic spirituality and lives of the saints collected during her divinity days and the time she spent at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland had helped create her. Now she could only regret their destruction.

Rachel has guided many of the work groups that poured into the area to help. She has been overwhelmed with both the generosity of total strangers, and the enormity of the recovery.

She has preached from 1 Thessalonians 5: “While the people are saying 'Peace and safety,' destruction will come on them suddenly.But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.”

As 2005 rolled into 2006, Rachel and her family were still “evacuees.” They were still at her mother's home, sleeping on the floor in one room of the house on stilts. Their home across the street, scheduled for rebuilding, is behind schedule.

Piles of detritus still pock the landscape. She wants to tuck her kids to bed in their own rooms, put the dog out, and enjoy a few minutes of study all by herself. She is tired.

The habits of hope and faith established before the storm abide, she tells her congregation. The discipline of joining together in worship for all the years before Katrina form the memory of what they may expect after the debris is gone and the houses are rebuilt. Rachel knows her children will judge all other storms they endure on the Gulf Coast by Katrina, remembering to put on the armor of God for the next time.

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DIVINITY Online Edition :: Winter 2004 Volume 3 Number 2 Duke Divinity School