Penny and I are in New Orleans, LA. This city has a lot to offer to people - food, culture, fun, entertainment, more food, more fun - and the list could go on. There are famous restaurants. There are museums. There are shops galore. You want a trinket, you can buy one here. You want a T-shirt, you can buy one here. The Crescent City offers you just about anything you want.
We had raw oysters! I know some of you will freak out about that. You will gag and moan and wonder how could you eat such things? Let me tell you, it was wonderful! We went to an oyster house about 4:30 in the afternoon on Tuesday. The special was buy 18 ounce bud draft and get one free and also the 14 count raw oysters were 1/2 price. So we ordered both. We each had the beer and they brought the oysters. Yum! We finished them off and ordered another 14. And we enjoyed them. How great was that? I must say, it was worth the trip for those. I also had jambalaya at another place which was great. Penny had the fried shrimp which she enjoyed but was getting full. We have to say that they had no clue how to do mac-n-cheese. As Penny said, their poor attempt at it made her Italian blood boil. Also, ask her about her experience at their restroom. 'Nuff said.
We wandered around New Orleans till about 8 and then headed back to the hotel. We watched the NL beat up the AL for a while, and then went to bed. We were probably asleep just as most people were getting started.
As we wandered around the French Quarter, it got me thinking. I thought about the church budget and how we are trying to hammer one out that everyone will be content with. I know that there are various thoughts on this and numerous reasons why it didn't pass (lethargy on the part of many voters for not attending the meeting, a desire to close the school, anger over the splitting of the Preschool from the Daycare, not liking this person or that person who is on the payroll, not caring for what has been done in the past, and the list could go on). I don't believe it is a bloated budget nor do I believe that we are wasting money. I know that the money is there. I also know that the real problem is spiritual and that many of us don't understand or practice good Christian stewardship. But that isn't my point today.
We walked from shop to shop, watching people, avoiding people, amazed at people and I thought, "This is why it is so important for St. Paul's to have the ministry that we do in Troy. IL." What does Troy and New Orleans have in common and how does the budget of St. Paul's effect New Orleans? That is the right question.
I watched a young man, couldn't have been any more than 20, being held up by his "friends." He couldn't stand (it was 5:30 in the evening). They finally sat him down on a bench and he was unable to hold himself upright. They were trying to talk to him but it was as though no one was there. He was so stoned that nothing was working. He couldn't understand them. I saw women dressed in ways that no God-fearing, Christian woman who was trying to follow the way of the Lord should dress. I saw people drinking themselves silly (and headed into the hotel before it go really serious with drinking). I saw decadence that the people in Troy don't see or want to know about. We pretend in Troy that there is no problem with drugs (heroin kills!), drinking or sex. Here in New Orleans, there is no pretending. It is right in front of your face. And it is rubbed into your face.
How does St. Paul's budget change what is happening in New Orleans. We are teaching our children in Sunday School and at St. Paul's school that there is a right way to live your life - according to the values and will of God, not the world. Here in New Orleans, Satan and sin rule. We are teaching our children that the Lord needs to rule their lives. How would you like your daughter to come here and have to sell her body in order to live? How would you like your son to come here and drink himself sick day after day and then begin to live on the street like so many people that sit on the park benches or sleep in the doorways? Can't happen? Of course it can, especially if we in Troy don't do everything within our power to "train the child in the way he/she should go."
It is our task as Christian men and women to use our God-given gifts and resources to do everything in our power to teach the current and the next generation the will of God. Is it cheap? No it isn't. Is it worth it? Sit on a park bench in New Orleans and see the waste of life, the degradation, the sinfulness of the people and ask yourself, "How much is it worth to make sure that each of those young children of God don't end up here or in some other city, including Troy, doing the exact same thing?"
I watch the filth, the sin, the corruption, the rottenness of life here in the French Quarter (I know that there are good places as well - just as there in Troy) and I know that what we are doing is worth every single dollar, no matter how much they add up. And I wonder, "How can anyone say that we should cut our budget? Get rid of staff? Or do anything that is going to cut back on the sharing of the ONLY message that will change the life of the sinner?"
Me, I support the work of St. Paul's 100%. I am behind all that we do and will use every resource I can to make sure that not one of our children end up like that young man on the bench. I pray for our children, our young adults, our adults, our elderly, every single one of our people and ask God to use us to make a difference - one soul at a time - no matter what the cost.