You know a different day is dawning when a leading Southern Baptist quotes a Hindu. That's what Houston's Ed Young from Second Baptist did when meeting with local pastors and religious leaders gearing up for a massive community response after Hurricane Katrina at the end of August.

Young quoted Gandhi: "God dares not appear before a hungry man except in the form of bread and water." That sent me to a favorite website ( I found another Gandhi comment that just as easily could have been used: "You must be the change that you seek in the world."

When Katrina struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast with ferocious wind, rain, storm surge, and flooding, Christianity Today's online staff responded within hours to alert Christians how best to pray, give, or go.

We dispatched news writers Deann Alford, based in Austin, Texas, and Tony Carnes, from New York City, to cover the story as the crisis spun out of control. They interviewed folks from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama about Katrina and Hurricane Rita.

In this issue, "Hurricane Heroes" reveals Christians being bread and water not only to survivors, but also to lifesavers. Hungry and burned-out police, firefighters, and rescue workers turned up at church-organized feeding stations for a hot meal and emotional and spiritual respite.

Tony told me that on the first Sunday after Katrina he was desperately searching for church services. Nearly all churches in New Orleans had suspended worship. Tony waded from church to church through noxious waters. Some police officers laughed at him, saying, "We will be fishing you out!"

As he stood there, tired and nervous amid the flood, he suddenly sensed someone praying for him. "It was so physical that I turned around to see if someone was praying behind me." Immediately, a man came into view wearing a work shirt reading "Quentin Road Baptist Church." The two connected, and within hours, Tony joined a Sunday service for New Orleans police. Tony said, "What an answer to someone's prayer. And I got the story, thanks to God!"

For Deann, Hurricane Rita posed a test of faith. "You can't imagine the fear when I realized I couldn't get my 75-year-old Uncle James out of Houston." Between phone calls to sources, she also called to make certain her uncle was safe. He decided to ride out the storm at home. "What do you do when you're helpless beyond praying? You light one little corner where you are," Deann told me.

After Deann finished her Rita reporting, she drove to the Red Cross and picked up four evacuees to shelter in her own home. Her husband cooked burgers that night. "We ate on the deck, because the dining room was junked up. Next thing I knew, they were cleaning my house." Within hours, strangers had become guests.

Deann observed: "I prayed for the Lord to show me what to do. This was the first time I've taken in complete strangers. Obedience always entails trusting him. Sometimes trust isn't in the big things. Sometimes it's in whether to go to the shelter." Change is rarely easy, but it often results in big blessings.

Related Elsewhere:

This is a sidebar to today's main story, "Hurricane Heroes | Government may have been tripped up by Katrina and Rita, but the Southern Baptists, among others, are standing tall."

See also today's other sidebar, "Why? | Victims and pundits grope for meaning, political and religious."

More Christianity Today coverage of hurricanes Katrina and Rita and their aftermath is at our full coverage area.

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