No home for the holidays
Max Latham, an AG pastor, has lived in a trailer in central Louisiana behind a friendÕs church ever since Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home and church. He and his family plan to return to Buras, their hometown, as soon as it is safe and they can afford the trip. Latham spoke recently with Associate Editor Kirk Noonan about being homeless.
PE: How did you lose your home?
LATHAM: Hurricane Katrina overtopped our 17-foot levees and flooded our city and 70 percent of our parish.
PE: What did you escape with?
LATHAM: We spent several days before the storm packing pictures, important papers and as many mementos and clothing as we could into our car. Looking back, we could have packed even more.
PE: What was it like leaving your home?
LATHAM: We evacuated and lost two homes to hurricanes in 1964 and 1969. But each time you leave for a storm you feel certain youÕll come back and everything will be all right. This was a Category 4 storm. We looked at each other and prayed, ÒLord, please take care of this and let it be here when we come back.Ó
PE: The holidays will be different this year for you and your family. What adjustments will you have to make?
LATHAM: Everyone in our church lost everything, and the congregation is scattered throughout the States. We not only lost our homes, weÕve lost our sense of community and the holidays will amplify that loss. But we know God will provide the grace to get through it.
PE: What are some Latham traditions, and will you keep those traditions?
LATHAM: Our family meets at my brotherÕs house for Christmas. This year he wonÕt have a house because he lost his too. But he might have a small government trailer. WeÕre going to have to just get creative — weÕre going to keep the joy of the Lord.
PE: As pastor of a congregation who lost their homes, what do you say to your people?
LATHAM: There is no such thing as a displaced person who is a Christian. The footsteps of a righteous man are ordered of God. Even during this time of tragedy, God has ordered our footsteps. I tell our people that we have walked with God and we can claim His promise and look for His purpose.
PE: YouÕve held fast to the fact that God is in control. Why is that such a hard thing to hear for people who are going through tough times?
LATHAM: I donÕt know what people who donÕt know the Lord do in times like this, but children of God must take control of their thoughts. This is when we gain new insights from the Word of God. IÕll admit sometimes we get down; but we remain victorious through the Word of God.
PE: Thousands of people lost homes to Katrina and thousands of others are homeless for different reasons. What can our readers do to encourage and help the homeless this holiday season?
LATHAM: I have been so encouraged by the outpouring of GodÕs people. Every person can get with their church leaders and ask how they can help. People are giving money, sending cards with encouraging words, and offering to come and help rebuild. The needs are awesome, but God is allowing the church to help in so many different ways.
PE: Your first prayer on Christmas morning will be?
LATHAM: Jesus, I thank You for sparing our lives. Thank You for keeping us safe and together as a family. Father, I am so glad that during these trying times I know Jesus and He loves me and the Holy Spirit gives me comfort at all times.
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