I’m originally not from New Orleans, so my view of the city is from an outside perspective coming in.
This past August, I moved to New Orleans to attend New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. I moved into an apartment on campus and began to explore the area of Gentilly that surrounded the seminary. I quickly noticed that every area in New Orleans is different and unique, offering something new in each neighborhood.
The seminary in New Orleans is placed strategically in a space that will challenge the seminary student and minister-in-training. As soon as you pull out of the seminary, you are exposed to an environment that is in great need. There are also areas heavy with crime in certain parts of Gentilly and the 7th Ward.
Although the streets surrounding the seminary represent some hard realities, other parts of Gentilly offer something different. The intersection of Gentilly Blvd. and Elysian Fields has large oak trees lining the street, along with old historic homes. The University of New Orleans and Southern University at New Orleans are located close by, just next to Lake Pontchartrain, which is a great place to have a picnic or a nice walk.
Gentilly is also placed conveniently near Interstate 610, and Mid-City and City Park are just a few minutes away. This neighborhood was greatly affected by Hurricane Katrina, but it now has almost half of its population back since the storm. It’s quite remarkable how much of this area has grown and expanded since Katrina, and many people are working to revive and restore Gentilly back to a place of vitality.
How do we as followers of Jesus engage to the community of Gentilly?
Just as we pray for our own neighborhoods, we should pray for this one. Pray for believers who are directly engaging in this neighborhood, that Jesus would use these people to spread the Gospel and love the neighborhood. Pray also for revitalization, local churches, spiritual and physical restoration, and resistance and protection from crime.
Expose yourself to the area of Gentilly. Take a drive through it sometime and go see the various parts that are in need. Try to find an opportunity to be exposed to the people in order to better understand their life, culture and needs.
Engage with the community of Gentilly. Talk with the people, and be intentional in your conversations. Even if it may be out of your comfort zone, or out of your way, begin to interact with the people who are living there, and seek out spiritual conversations.
Every neighborhood of our city is in great need of spiritual healing and Gospel exposure. Let’s engage with the people surrounding us with every moment we have as we live the Gospel, love the city and be the church!
Photo by Infrogmation