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New Web Exclusive Series
Over the next several weeks, critically acclaimed author Connie Neal will be contributing to with an exclusive semi-weekly column devoted to the aftermath of and spiritual recovery from Hurricane Katrina.
Other Books by Connie Neal
'What's a Christian to Do with Harry Potter'
'What's a Christian to Do with Harry Potter?'
(Waterbrook Press)
dealing with disaster

Jesus on a Roof Top

By Connie Neal
Guest Contributor An elderly black woman leans against a clapboard wall, next to an open window in the dormer on her rooftop. Putrid water laps at the eaves of the house down below. Her sons – no, they must be her grandsons – two tall good-looking young men gaze up into the sky, worry etched on their faces. The wind whips fiercely down upon them. The woman turns her face away. When she turns back we can see her frightened expression. A metal basket, not quite as big as a coffin, is lowered from the upper left, swaying until it touches down on the slant of the roof.

The elderly woman grasps her cane with what seems like determination. She is patted lovingly on the back by one of the young men, as if he is giving her some of his courage and strength. Her white terry-cloth head-covering is blown off and she doesn’t even seem to notice. It’s gone like so much she once had. A soldier has appeared on the roof. He waves the men back toward the open window from which they emerged, handing them supplies of food and water. The soldier puts his arm around the woman, supporting her as she moves slowly down the slanted roof, step by slow, careful step. When she reaches the basket, the soldier helps her lift her leg over the side of the metal basket, and then he lifts her and sets her down. She tries to settle back against the bright red pillow, a slight but welcome comfort. Even this rescue from nearly a week of being imprisoned on her roof must be terrifying.

She’s known days without water, without a change of clothes, without fresh food, without her medicines. She clutches the sides of the basket, swaying in the bright blue sky until she finds herself at the door of the helicopter, being lifted inside by strong arms. She looks back to her grandsons, still on the rooftop.

In another scene, a cluster of people look up from what used to be an upstairs patio. One of the men is frantically waving a cloth. A young woman holds a baby. They both look too weary to cry anymore. She waves with her free hand. The helicopter is coming, closer, now going over, now going away. How many times has that happened? How long will it be until another one comes?

A tired, thin man sits on the peak of his roof. His face is buried in his hands. He doesn’t even look up as the chopper nears. The word “HELP!” is painted on the roof beside him.

It feels like it’s too much to watch, too overwhelming. You remember seeing it before . . . In this scenario, we aren’t watching a television from the comfort of our untouched homes. We’re watching what the Lord is showing us on the day the Son of Man comes in his glory. All the nations are gathered before him. He is sitting on his throne in heavenly glory; he is showing us a replay of scenes we saw in life.

He is separating the people from one another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

"Then the King will say to those on his right, `Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

"Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

"Then he will say to those on his left, `Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

"They also will answer, `Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

"He will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

(Matthew 25:31-46 New International Version)

On that day, we will realize that the elderly woman whose name we did not know, the young mother and her baby, the stranger we saw stranded on his rooftop; these were not really strangers, or need not have been. In the faces of each of these strangers Jesus was waiting to see what we would do for the “least of these,” his brothers and sisters in need.

We talk about having or wanting a “personal” relationship with God. As we see these people in need, let us pray, and consider ways we can connect with them in some personal way. As we DO SOMETHING to actively give them something to eat, or drink, or welcome them into our town or our home or our church community, as we provide clothing, medical care, comfort and prayer we are becoming personally involved in a loving relationship with the living God. Remember it’s Jesus on that rooftop.


Connie NealConnie Neal is the author of dozens of Christian books and contributor to several Bible projects including the Kids’ Devotional Bible. Her book Dancing in the Arms of God includes the story of how her family lost almost everything over fifteen years ago and how the love of God demonstrated through caring individuals in the church helped miraculously turn their lives around. God has restored much more than was lost, and opened doors to see their God-given dreams come true.

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