By Mark A. Taylor
It’s one thing to write about unity, as I did in this space two weeks ago. But it’s another to tell a story that illustrates how unity is being expressed and experienced by Christians today.
It’s one thing to quote facts and figures about relief for victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, as I did in this space last week. It’s another to share a snapshot of Christians touching lives and bringing hope to areas ravaged by the disaster.
And if you can demonstrate both unity and benevolence in one picture, you have something special, indeed. That’s exactly the point of an e mail contributing editor Ben Cachiaras shared with me in late September.
Ben, who preaches at Mountain Christian Church, Joppa, Maryland, had written Rick Atchley, minister with Richland Hills (Texas) Church of Christ. The Joppa congregation had sent two work teams to Louisiana. One would work with Operation Feed My Sheep, a ministry “spearheaded and coordinated” by Garry Jones, founder of ReaLife Ministries of Louisiana, a new Christian church started this past spring in Pineville, Louisiana. The other would help at nearby Camp Care Algiers, a ministry of the Richland Hills Church of Christ in one devastated neighborhood of New Orleans.
On the way south, the Mountain bus broke down close to Natchez, Mississippi, and the team of 13 from Maryland needed a place to spend the night. All the hotels were full, but the Church of Christ of Fourth Street in Natchez, already housing 70 storm evacuees, welcomed the northerners. There according to Dennis Curran from Joppa, they were met with “warmth, southern hospitality, air mattresses, and a better meal than we probably would have had at home.” The next morning the team left their bus for repair, and church members drove them 90 minutes in their personal cars to Pineville, Louisiana, where they worked for the day.
Later, half their group went on to help with the relief effort established in New Orleans by the Richland Hills congregation. To identify themselves as a group authorized to enter the sites where Richland Hills was working, vehicles were required to post a sign in their windshields that read “Church of Christ.” Cachiaras writes:
Our church vehicle has a magnetic sign on it: “Mountain Christian Church, Joppa, MD.” Isn’t it a striking image that a load of people rode into the site with both the Church of Christ and Christian Church labels! The question could be asked, “Well, which are you Christian church or church of Christ?” The answer: Yes. One team. One church. One body. One mission. One Lord. One faith. One baptism.
Cachiaras adds: “Unity is being expressed through service, partnerships and working side by side in Christ’s work, where our differences recede into appropriate perspective.”
It seems certain that this will continue to happen in many places in many ways even without a hurricane to help it along!