Feature

To Waveland With Love

Anytime you serve God, you're going to experience a miracle

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I jumped into a van with a bunch of strangers whose shirts read, Living Beyond Myself: Camp Katrina. I figured I would be safe with them!

This group, from Cypress Meadows Community Church (C&MA, Clearwater, Fla.), was leaving Camp Katrina to see the devastation that had occurred in the heart of Waveland, Mississippi.

In the van, I met Malik Tipsword. He described himself as a simple man who, like many, has had his share of ups and downs. Malik explained, “I have seen and done some bad things. I lived a gangster lifestyle for many years: I sold drugs, had lots of money and was totally disrespectful of my fellow man. I was selfish and came close to prison and death many, many times.”

At 25, following the birth of his daughter, Malik was captured not by the law, but by what he called “the amazing grace of God.” After receiving a flyer in the mail two years ago, Malik began attending Cypress Meadows Community Church. “Cypress Meadows is a safe church,” he told me. “We are all seeking a Jesus-like lifestyle. We realize we are sinners who are at different points in our spiritual journeys.” Malik’s history holds good and bad, but he has encountered God in a real way—that’s why he came to Waveland. As our van came to a stop, Malik said, “This is our backyard, and we’ve got to take care of it. That’s what Jesus wants.”

A New Home

Many of the survivors in Waveland have found refuge at Camp Katrina. Every day, the camp hosts about 100 volunteers who come from various locations across the United States and Canada. Our group slept on cots under a big tent, used surprisingly not-too-smelly portable toilets and showered in a makeshift bathhouse. Some people came for a few days, and others stayed for weeks.

As I wandered through Camp Katrina, I was amazed to see the rich diversity of volunteers—an assortment of skin colors, wrinkles and accents. The locals asked, “Where are you from? I can’t believe people from all over came down here to help us! Thank you so much!”

At Camp Katrina, everyone gets a job whether it’s making and serving food, cleaning the toilets, unloading trucks or manning the store that holds relief supplies.

Malik worked in the warehouse. He said, “Trucks arrive throughout the day filled with pallets of rice, clothing and school and office supplies.”

When someone comes from the kitchen or store with a particular need that the warehouse cannot fill, team members write the request on a prayer board and ask God to supply the need.

“We see the Lord’s work every hour!” declared Malik. “Someone asked, ‘Do you have size five diapers?’ and there were none. I turned around, and a truck arrived with size five diapers.” This was just one example of the many blessings Malik witnessed.

Another man who worked in the warehouse showed me a note he had kept in his pocket. He found it in one of the boxes from a church in Wisconsin. “This box was sent to you with love and prayers,” the note read. “We are thinking of you.”

“I’m going to write a thank-you note to the children from this church.” He paused to choke back his tears. “And tell them what a joy it has been.”

The Face of Christ

“I challenge you! If you want to experience a miracle, do something like this. Anytime you serve God, you’re going to experience a miracle,” said Malik. He believes that by serving others with God’s love, we become more like Christ.

The Body of Christ is a marvelous allegory of how we should function within our local churches. But what happens when churches of different denominations, and people of different skin tones, accents and an assortment of wrinkles, join together on such a large scale?

During my few days at Camp Katrina, I thought, These people are the pores on the face of Christ, bringing hope to this little town.

View Videos: CAMA Hurricane Relief (Katrina video footage)

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