Voices from the Gulf: Pray We Will Not Lose Heart

By Terri Rousey 6-22-2010

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Editor's note: This week, God's Politics is launching "Voices From the Gulf" -- a series of posts from people experiencing first-hand the devastating effects of the worst oil spill in American history. Check back often for more stories each week.

My husband and I have lived in New Orleans, Louisiana since August 1999. Until this mess in the Gulf, it felt like we were really starting to recover [from Hurricane Katrina]. We have a new mayor and police chief. Our schools are slowly improving. New Orleans is still getting over being flooded and now this -- this feels like a punch in the gut, being kicked just as we were starting to get back on our feet again.

What I would like the American church to understand is that we are not crazy to live here! God has a long history of sending people into foreign places, seemingly dangerous places, to share God's story.

Our outrage and despair is not just because we love seafood! This oil is destroying the livelihoods of so many people, not just fishermen; our economy is all connected. If our wetlands are destroyed, we will lose even more of our protection from hurricane storm surge. America needs to care because this is their coastline too! Part of what destroyed the coastline was the country's lust for oil. The oil companies cut navigational canals through the marshes to make access easier. This allowed salt water to move further inland, kill the grasses, and now the land dissolves by a football field a day and melts into the gulf. The oil will only kill the marshes faster.

What is it like to see the effects of the spill? I am a librarian at a Catholic all-girls high school. A couple weeks ago on the news, a family, four generations of shrimpers in St. Bernard Parish, announced they could no longer work. I recognized the name as a family that my son had gone to high school with. Last night on the news an oyster company announced they were shucking their last catch for the foreseeable future. The last name of the owner is the same name of one of my students'. I wondered, are they related? Is that Mary's father? Will she be able to come back to school for her senior year?

When God first called us here, I fought hard not to come. But the kindness of God leads to our repentance. God used my love of birds to soften my heart. One day while driving to work along Bayou St. John, a flotilla of brown pelicans came in for a landing. Oh Lord, they were beautiful! I nearly went off the road and into the bayou. They just got off the endangered species list -- and now their nesting areas are awash in crude oil and toxic dispersant.

How can the church support us? This is not like Katrina when churches could come down and actually rebuild the city. Hold BP accountable. They must compensate for and repair the damage they have created by their negligence. The government cannot allow the oil and gas companies to regulate themselves. We need to work toward other energy sources that are less damaging to the planet. Pray that they stop the oil gushing into the gulf. Pray for the clean up, that they discover ways that are effective and that the resources are provided to do it. Pray for the fishermen and their families, especially the Vietnamese fishermen who are battling suicidal feelings. Pray for the restaurant workers who are being laid off because there is no catch to prepare. Pray for the offshore workers who are laid off because of the moratorium on drilling.

And pray for us, that we will not lose heart.

Terri Rousey lives in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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