The schools are absorbing the children who have been displaced. I am glad for this, but it brings difficulties as well. It has caused a good deal of unrest in the local schools.
Some of you know how difficult it can be to be the new kid in school. Now imagine the stress of losing your home, being seperated from family, and being the new kid in school. Further, the schools here all require uniforms. The town has literally sold out. So, you go to your new school without a uniform, which means the kids there immediately know that you are an evacuee.
For the schools, the problem is equally difficult. I believe that the local Junior High had approximately 480 children in school before the disaster. In the last week, they enrolled 90 new students, give or take a few. That is a huge increase in students, and that type of influx is typical Parish-wide.
On top of these problems, some of these kids were problematic while they were in tough New Orleans schools. Here, they have come to a rural setting where teachers aren't used to that sort of behavior. It is a trying circumstance.
Here comes the good part. They got so desperate today that they asked me to come and counsel students. They did not even care if I shared the gospel. If I could stop the cursing and fighting, I could have probably gotten away with an exorcism if it helped.
So, I spent a few hours counseling students out of New Orleans. I was amazed. I sat with them one on one (except with the girls, there was a lady present in the background) and we just talked. One girl in particular, her name is India, was a particularly hostile child to the teachers. I didn't really know how to handle the situation except pray that God would give me wisdom. I believe He answered my prayer.
I want to say that the principal of the school is a wonderful woman. So are the teachers. But they were overwhelmed and exasperated with the children. They were convinced that these children were afraid of nothing, and that the school should just send them all back to the shelter. They actually tried that, but they came right back for some reason. It was a mess. But the teachers and the administration were trying to make the best of the situation.
After they told me the horror stories, they set me up a room to counsel in. Here's what I did. I went to the classroom, got the child, and I introduced myself as Brad Williams, the Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Plaquemine. In every child I counseled, that immediately changed their demeanor. They softened instantly.
As I sat with those children and talked to them, I was amazed to find that they listened to me. I listened to them as well. We talked about the flood, New Orleans, their families, their churches, and about God. It was a great time.
Here were my impressions:
1. Most of these kids had already been through things more horrible than Katrina.
2. Most of these children had never had an adult sit with them and listen to them and encourage them. Ever.
3. It grieves me that we cannot have godly chaplains in our schools.
4. These children are strong in mind and body. They are tough. With proper guidance, they could do anything they wanted.
I learned some other things from my talks with these children, and I hope that it made a difference to them. When I left each of them, I told them that I would look for them in the shelter. At that, each one told me exactly where to look. I found that highly encouraging. The school liked me enough to invite me back Monday, and they told me I could eat school lunch for free. I pray that this door will remain open and that I will have an effective ministry amongst these children.
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