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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Letters from Canada...To the Survivors of Katrina

Two years ago.
For some, it is a long time.
It was two years ago that we began feels like we have been doing it forever.
For an 11 year old waiting to become a teenager, two years is forever.
There are, however, many who remember the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina as if it happened only yesterday, instead of two years ago. Their lives were changed dramatically, and it happened so quickly that it has taken this long to even comprehend it all.
In the months following Katrina, the world reached out to the victims in so many amazing ways. People offered their homes and churches for shelter, fed and clothed those who needed it, gave spiritual guidance, and provided shoulders to cry on. Many people sat at home and watched the events unfold wishing that they could do something. Others...those who lived in Louisiana, Mississippi, and surrounding states....were able to find shelters where they could work with the victims or for the victims. Children were encouraged to help the new students, the Katrina victims forced to start over, feel welcome.

Like many of the churches in our area, my church served as a shelter for a group of people from New Orleans....a pastor and many of the members of his congregation. Susan, a friend of mine from Canada, knew this and asked if some of the children from her local school could write letters and send them to me to be passed around at the shelter. Of course, I agreed. I waited with anticipation for the letters, but by the time they arrived, the shelter was no longer in service. Everyone had either gone home or scattered to more long-term arrangements. I considered taking the letters to one of the many temporary mobile home parks in our area, but never did build up the nerve to go door to door delivering them. As a result, the letters went undelivered. For two years, I have felt terrible about this. Sometimes I empty the big yellow envelope and get lost in the letters....words straight from the heart of so many boys and girls who took the time to write with the faith that actual hurricane victims would read their words. While so many people were donating their time, money, and material items, these children gave the only thing that they could. While the pages appear to be filled with mere words, they hold so much more. I would like to share some of the letters here in hopes that some of the survivors of Hurricane Katrina will see them and be encouraged, even now, 2 years after the event that changed so many lives. Though many people have forgotten them, there are families out there who are still victims of Katrina. While I, or these precious children from Canada, may not be there to help them, I pray that many will read the words here and be encouraged.

Here are the gifts that are held within the Letters from Canada. Some of them are full letters and some excerpts. They are so much more than just words.

The gift of sympathy:

From Rachel:
Dear friends of New Orleans,
I am very sorry to hear what happened to your home. I was happy to hear that you have found a place to stay until you can find a home of your own. It is hard for me to understand what happened to you, your family, and friends since I don't have to worry about that kind of thing.
I know if you keep praying to God, he will help you through this hard time. You can't give up. Something good will happen. I hope everything works out.

From Melissa:
Dear friends of New Orleans,
I would like to apologize for what has recently happened to you in New Orleans. It is very unfortunate that this tragic thing happened and so many people died. I live on a farm with many resources, so it is hard for me to understand the pain all of you are going through. Always remember to look on the bright side. There's always hope!!!

From Inke:
Dear Friends of New Orleans,
I am terribly sorry for the horrible experience you have had to face down in New Orleans. Although it's hard for me to understand what you've been through because I am lucky enough to have a house and fresh food, you still have my deepest sympathy. Our class is willing to raise money or other needed supplies. We are still discussing what our plan might be. I hope your family pulls through and know that God only throws obstacles at you that He knows you can handle. I, myself have a family of six. Four years ago my family and I immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands. From a caring friend who wishes you all the best!

The gift of spiritual guidance:

From Celina:
I'm Celina! I'm 10 years old. I live in Wartburg, Ontario, Canada. Up here, everyone can't believe what is happening to you! I feel so sorry for you. Have you lost any family members. If you have, I shall keep you and that member in my prayers. Remember, even in your darkest hour, God still loves you! Please write back on the back of the page!
(Celina even thought to tape a pen to her letter to give the recipient of her note the means to write back! I thought that was amazing!)

From Deanna:
Dear friends of New Orleans,
I feel very sorry for you all and everything you had to go through. It must be hard to go through so much all at once, but don't worry. It may seem that God has let you down, but he will help you get through it. There is always hope. Do not give up, and try to stay strong. I don't know what it feels like to go through what you are feeling, so it is hard to relate. But even though I can't, I realize how hard it must be to have faith. God saved your lives which is a huge
blessing. So in the morning when you wake up, thank God for your life. He loves you all very much. Also remember that there is someone thinking about you. Our prayers and thoughts will always be with you.

From Logan:
Hey. My name is Logan. What happened is not imaginable. Floods, fires, and drowning is what you have been through. You have lost your homes and all of your things. I hope you'll get your homes back and your family is safe. I hope you are not injured. Who knows how long this will go on. All I have to say is never loose faith, never give up, and remember God is with you through it all. I can't imagine something like this in Canada. Although we are in different countries we have to stick together in times of need. So stay strong it will be over soon, and your community will be rebuilt. After all, Oprah Winfrey sent you ten million dollars today.

The gift of friendship:

From Natalie:
Dear families from New Orleans,
I am sorry about what happened. I can't even begin to imagine what you are going through. You've probably lost a lot of family and friends. I bet some of you are feeling lost and lonely. Here is a poem to cheer you up:
When you are feeling lost and lonely
Remember that you're not the only
One who's lost someone
Be thankful you survived
And you have family still alive
Start a new life for yourself
And never forget
We will be here to support you

From Jessica:
Dear friends of New Orleans,
Hurricane Katrina was devastating, and I am honestly sorry for what happened to you and your family. I can't say I know what it's like because I honestly don't. My name is Jessica. I live in southern Ontario. I love to dance, play soccer, and mountain bike. I have a brother, a sister, a mom, and a dad. These are a few facts about me. If you send me a letter explaining a little about yourself, we could get to know each other better. Send a picture or anything. If you ever need anything like shirts, food, or money then mail it to me and I'll give it to you!

From Nicole:
Dear friends of New Orleans,
That is a horrible thing that has happened. I couldn't imagine what you are going through. You should never give up, and have hope. Look at the good side. You guys are the lucky ones. You are sheltered and are alive. I give you all my sympathy. If you need anything don't be afraid to ask. I'm sure we can give you things like clothes, everyday supplies, and money. Our school could raise money for food and send it down. Send a picture so we know who we're sending this to. I am a 13 year old girl named Nicole. I play hockey and soccer. Tell me some stuff about your. I am willing to help. Write back about any questions or needs. From a willing friend.

The gift of encouragement:

From Tasmin:
Dear families from New Orleans,
I feel so sorry for you. I wish you all the best. I cannot imagine if that happened to me. Well look on the bright side. At least you are alive. If I could do anything to help, I would. It's a good thing that you were evacuated before you got hurt. I am positive that you will be safe. God won't let you down. I should say that you are lucky to have shelter and food and water. My brother and I were adopted, and my brother's parents live in New Orleans. I know that President Bush will do anything to help you. I hope that church housing isn't too uncomfortable. You should be proud that you and your families are alive. Hopefully they will get all of the sea water out and build a new wall.

From Daniel:
Dear friends,
Hi. My name is Daniel. I am from Monkton, Ontario. I am ten years old. I like playing sports and playing Play Station 2. I am sorry you lost everything. I can't imagine that, but the best thing is that you are still here. People all over the world are inspired by you. What you are fighting is amazing. I hope you get a home back in New Orleans.

From Mackenzie:
Hi, :)
I'm Mackenzie. I'm 10 years old and have 1 brother and 1 sister. I heard about the hurricane. I can't imagine what it would be like to lose everything..your pets, job, house, car, and maybe even family. I hope you and your family will be back in New Orleans in no time at all. I hope your life will turn around soon. You will be back in your home in no time. Maybe get a new job, home, pet, and life.

This is just a small selection of the many letters that I received. If you know of someone who
would be encouraged by them, please send them the link. If you are someone who was encouraged, please leave me a note. I would love to hear from you.

Even 2 years after Hurricane Katrina, I know that many of you are still hurting from loss of loved ones and possessions. Even though you might be settled into a new life, a part of you most certainly still longs for home, wherever that was. I pray that you will find your way to these letters so that you will know you are still thought of after all this time....2 years later. These letters are for you....a gift from the children of Canada and a gift from me!


Blogger Rhonda said...

So touching. I read those letters with tears in my eyes. The hearts of children are truly amazing.

8:32 PM  
Blogger JennaG said...

Thanks for the info about the Bee book--I am looking forward to reading it. I lost my mother 20 years ago, so I will definitely be able to relate. The letters to the Katrina victims are precious.

9:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is 2 a.m. in the house I am currently staying in. I have not had a house of my own since Katrina came and took it all away. I did a google search for Hurricane Katrina Canada, because I have applied for residency there and I am looking for some way to make it happen faster. I have spent my 6 months per year that I am allowed to be there in Ontario both years. When I tell people that I want to go home these days, it is Ontario that I am talking about. Now when people ask me why, I will show them this site. Thank you for posting this. Tonight I feel like it was just for me.

7:21 AM  
Blogger Sherri said...

Wow Anonymous!
Thank you for the note! It makes me feel so relieved and wonderful to know that you found them! They were written for you...and for so many others! I pray that you get your home in Canada. I've never been to Canada, but have so many wonderful friends there. Please, somehow let me know when you have finally found your new home!

7:48 AM  

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