Steps of Faith After the Storm
HHBC Sponsors Couple Displaced by Katrina
A couple’s step of faith hit a bumpy path when their lives were impacted by a natural disaster. But even more steps of faith and the compassion of others kept them on their journey.
Owen and Amanda Nease were newlyweds when they entered New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Graduating from Oklahoma Baptist University in May 2004, they spent the following summer on separate mission projects — Owen in Southeast Asia teaching English as a second language, and Amanda working at Pine Cove Christian Camps in Tyler, Texas, as a senior counselor for middle school students.
The couple married in October of the same year and enrolled in the New Orleans seminary. Most of their friends went to schools in Texas or Kentucky, but Amanda and Owen wanted something different. They also wanted to step out in faith and rely on no one but God. Because the school in New Orleans boasted a great faculty, they decided this was where God was leading them, and they began their studies in January 2005.
“We were there eight months before the hurricane hit,” said Owen, “and only two weeks into our fall semester classes.”
There was much discussion whether to leave or stay in New Orleans during the week before the hurricane, not knowing which way Katrina would turn. On Friday night they went to sleep thinking the storm might head toward Florida, and they were surprised on Saturday morning to find the hurricane was headed straight for New Orleans. They decided to evacuate. Thinking they would be gone only a few days and that excessive flooding was unlikely in their area, Owen and Amanda placed most of their belongings on top shelves of closets and cabinets, packing only necessities. Even if water did creep into the apartment, they felt it was unlikely to get above four feet. Their possessions should be safe in high places.
Evacuating to an aunt and uncle’s home in Texas, they took their computer to do homework and their dirty clothes, thinking they could also do laundry while Katrina blew over. They would later appreciate having the extra clothes with them. They also took important documents like passports and, at the last minute, Amanda grabbed their wedding album. They waited in line for gasoline then spent two hours just getting out of New Orleans.
A few days later, while watching TV news about the flooded city, the couple was shocked to see their own two-story apartment building with water to the top of the first floor. Their apartment was on first floor. They knew in that instant that everything they owned was gone. The next few weeks were spent in Oklahoma, traveling back and forth between their parents’ homes — Amanda’s in Yukon and Owen’s in the town of Central High.
A friend who works at Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmond called the Neases to say the church wanted to sponsor a family from the New Orleans seminary. Owen and Amanda took another step of faith and called the church, which offered them jobs, provided an apartment and even gave them a “shower” to replace the household items they lost in the hurricane.
“It is very humbling as well as encouraging,” Owen said. They said they are overwhelmed by such love and care from the people of the church. And though they were given specific areas in which to work at the church, the staff also invited them to explore any ministry that might interest them. Being able to experience the dozens of ministries at HHBC and work with so many mentors is a blessing for the Neases, who both come from small churches. “We would never have had an opportunity to explore so many ministries in one place,” Owen said. “Who knows what may come from this experience?”
They are also able to continue their seminary classes online, working at the church during the morning and doing homework and online classes in the afternoons and evenings. Owen is working on a master of divinity degree while Amanda is pursuing a master of arts in Christian education. They said they feel certain the work experience at HHBC will help them in their chosen fields.
Amanda and Owen plan to return to New Orleans when the seminary reopens, which is scheduled for August 2006. They hope to be part of not only the physical rebuilding of the city but the spiritual rebuilding process as well.
“We feel we have come full circle,” the couple said.
They said one particular scripture has impacted them greatly during this time. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 states: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
Accepting such abundant love and help from others has been humbling for the young couple. “So many people have reached out to us and, of course, we want to give a verbal ‘thank-you,’” Owen said. But the couple also hopes the way they live their lives, both now and in the future, will show their appreciation. “What people have invested in our lives will follow us and always be part of our lives,” they said.
Owen and Amanda plan to continue stepping out in faith and passing on love and help — just as they received from the people of Henderson Hills Baptist Church and the Edmond community.