Unprecedented. Historic. Disastrous.
The flooding in South Louisiana has been described in these and other ways over the past week, but I have yet to hear an adjective that fully conveys the magnitude of the situation. My hometown of Denham Springs has been transformed in the most terrifying way possible. The Sheriff has estimated that 75% of the 138,000 citizens in my parish have lost everything. These staggering numbers reveal that the limited media attention that this crisis has received is disheartening at best and journalistic negligence at worst.
While there has been minimal media attention since the flooding began, my social media feeds have faithfully told the story of the transformation of my hometown. Day after day I am inundated with pictures of nearly unimaginable destruction. Looking on from afar makes it difficult for me to process what I’m witnessing. Nothing appears as it should be. And this is certainly the story told by my sister and brother-in-law who were caught in the midst of the flooding. On the night of Saturday, August 13, my sister and brother-in-law were sitting in their living room watching the Olympics. In three short hours the floodwaters would come to take their home.
You don’t take a summer rain in South Louisiana very seriously. It will come. It’s one of those inevitable, immutable truths. Yet this summer rain kept coming, and coming for days. In 36 hours the region saw more than 24 inches of rain. Once the water breached my sister and brother-in-law’s house it took only 15 minutes to rise to their knees. Fear and panic take over as you run through your home gathering up those things that are valuable to you. You have to make impossibly difficult decisions in an incredibly short amount of time. When floodwaters take over your home, you are forced to watch on helplessly as the life you have worked so hard to build is quite literally washed away.
Although my family’s situation is not unique to them, it has made the tragedy more real, more immediate for me. The devastation they have experienced has moved me to my knees in prayer before the Lord. Hearing stories of helplessness, frustration and rescue compels you to intercede on behalf of the residents of South Louisiana.
As Christians, we are called to bear witness to Christ in all of life. This means that our response to the tragedy in South Louisiana will tell the watching world something about Christ. My hope is that our response as pastors and future church leaders will show the world something of the deep mercy and compassion of our Savior.
Our response to the tragedy in South Louisiana will tell the watching world something about Christ.
Here are practical ways you can bear witness to Christ through your prayers and actions.
3 Ways to Pray
- Pray for families in the wake of the devastation to be able to lean into the truth of God as comforter.
- Pray for relief workers, that they would persevere in their efforts.
- Pray for churches in the area to be united in their response to the crisis. Disasters such as this provide the church with an incredible opportunity to be united in service.
2 Ways to Serve
- Give financially. When you give to the Louisiana Baptist Convention and North American Mission Board, the funds go directly to the disaster relief teams on the ground. These teams are involved with sheltering and feeding displaced people as well as with helping with mudding out the houses that have taken on water. Individual churches are also doing great work to help with Flood Relief — such as New Covenant Church in Denham Springs, Living Hope Fellowship of Baton Rouge and Istrouma Baptist Church of Baton Rouge.
- Take a team. In the months ahead, your church can take teams to help people rebuild. Consider partnering with a church in the Greater Baton Rouge area. Many churches would welcome relief teams with open arms.
Your church can take teams to help people rebuild in Louisiana.
In the floodwaters of South Louisiana, many people have waited on their roofs and helplessly watched their neighborhoods become rivers. Many have clung to boats and kayaks, devices of rescue, even as they released their grip on their homes and their possessions. For many, the paddle away from their home has been the closing of a chapter of their life, the chapter before the flood came.
They have found rescue. They have been led to high ground, to refuge. They have been shown a physical salvation that is a faint echo of the spiritual salvation that many may now find as they are driven to consider their lives anew.
May this thought drive us to pray deeply on behalf of those whose lives have been stripped bare. May we pray that people will learn, maybe for the first time, to cling to Christ in this tumultuous time. And may the church of South Louisiana be waiting with open arms to receive those who may be spiritual refugees just as much as they are physical refugees.
Image Credit: USDA, Wikimedia