On a bright Saturday morning in February, pastor, politician, and entrepreneur Leonard Lucas brunches with a trucker headhunter named Joe at the Marriott in downtown New Orleans. Joe's business needs truck drivers by the dozens in the city's post-Hurricane Katrina economy, minimal experience necessary. The pay is fabulous: $2,000 a week.
Lucas aims to link his headhunter buddy with 500 native New Orleans residents and their church leaders, scattered cross-country and yearning for home. They can't return without a regular paycheck.
Lucas believes New Orleans is going to be rebuilt. "Who's going to do it?" he asks, wearing his nowtrademark blue sweat suit. "The whole fabric of our city has been destroyed. Who better to reweave it than its churches? God sent the storm to bless us, not curse us. As a church, we have to fight for the soul of our city."
The battle for the soul of New Orleans is on. Lucas is one foot soldier among a fast-forming network of Christians (pastors, businesspeople, and government leaders) working for lasting transformation. This network includes Houston-based disaster pastor Jerry Davis. His mobile relief ministry rolled into town on the September morning that the evacuated city reopened. It includes New Orleans Christian businesswoman Shelia Dixon. It also includes local pastors, such as Bruce Davenport of St. John #5 Baptist, the only church operating in its part of the Seventh Ward. Katrina wiped out St. John #5's extensive tutoring, housing, drug rehab, unwed mothers, computer skills, and HIV/AIDS programs.
Countless other New Orleans pastors remain out of pocket nationwide, shepherding fragments of their flocks. More than 250,000 people still have not returned to New Orleans (there were 464,000 ...