Tens of thousands of people displaced. Whole towns submerged under water. Livingston Parish has seen most of its homes destroyed. The town of Denham Springs was 90% under water. The Louisiana Floods caused by a low pressure system dumped over SIX TRILLION gallons of water on Louisiana. 2 feet of rain. Homes flooded. People have lost all of their possessions. Shelters have filled up with thousands of people. The Red Cross and FEMA are saying that this is the worst natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast. The cost of damage will be in the billions of dollars, obviously.
You might not have heard much about this on the news. We have not seen news crews all over Louisiana speaking breathlessly about the drama of it all. We have not seen either of the presidential candidates address it. President Obama has reacted officially and has declared multiple parishes a disaster area and has released federal funds and resources to help, but he remains on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. This lack of attention is problematic because the response that is needed for disasters like this is driven by awareness and how much attention a disaster gets. Did you pray for victims in your church service on Sunday? Has your church sent out emails to ask for assistance? Are you collecting supplies? Forming teams? Preparing to help? You might be doing all of that, and that is great! But, if you aren’t talking about this and aren’t really aware of it, it really isn’t your fault and I am not blaming you. The enormity of this disaster is apparent to those paying attention or who are in it, but if you aren’t really tracking with this story yet, that is understandable. And, that is why I am writing this post.
As always when it comes to disasters like this, Southern Baptists are springing into action. We have a world class disaster response system through our state convention Disaster Relief teams and through NAMB’s Disaster Relief. These teams are fantastic and should be supported and affirmed. But, this isn’t a commercial for them and this isn’t an appeal to give them money (although that is a GREAT thing to do). The purpose of this post is to encourage YOU to get moving. Do something. Help. Contact your state convention. Your local association. Your church. Ask them what they are doing and jump in. While it is great to see the Disaster Relief teams go (and they are the experts), I have found that disasters on this scale require local churches to step into the gap and help and also engage on a large level. NAMB and the state convention DR teams cannot handle alone the scope of what Louisiana is facing. They do incredible work and we should support them! But, when a Katrina or a Sandy or flooding on this magnitude hit, there is also a need for local churches and associations to mobilize and respond. That time is now. The need is great. What will we do?
I am from New Orleans originally and grew up right over the state line in South Mississippi. The affected regions of these floods start less than an hour away from my family’s home. So, I am very familiar with the area. Good people there. They are working hard to help one another and they are suffering and they need help. Badly. I’ve been tracking with the unfolding disaster, but this morning I stopped just reading and I started working to arrange for a response from our local baptist association in Montgomery, Alabama, where I am serving as a missional strategist. By early afternoon, we put the call out for supplies and teams and have connected with a church in Tangipahoa Parish on the North Shore of Lake Ponchartrain. I used to go there and pick strawberries when I was a kid. We will be sending supplies there initially to help a local church that has opened their doors to help the flood victims – their neighbors. I share all of that just to say that engaging to help is as easy as becoming aware of what is going on, deciding to do something, picking up the phone, and just getting started.
Lane Corley is a church planter strategist with a baptist association on the North Shore and has been chronicling the flood and relief efforts. We have corresponded. Follow him on Twitter. The stories being told there are remarkable. Great suffering is opening the door to heroism and great acts of service. And, of course, the gospel.
As water starts to move out of heavily-flooded Livingston Parish in southern Louisiana, authorities assessing the damage believe three-quarters of the homes are destroyed.
Lori Steele, spokeswoman for the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office, says the sheriff estimates about 75 percent of the homes are “a total loss.” The parish has a population of about 138,000 people.
The enormity of this disaster is breathtaking. But, I am really concerned that the response that happened after Katrina and other disasters will not happen this time – not because we don’t care, but because the alarm is not being sounded loud enough and early enough. WE need to move and not just let our compassion be dictated by what CNN and Fox News lead with 24/7. Yes, they have had stories and talked about it. I am not saying that they have completely ignored it. But, the coverage that drives real response might not be there. People need help and the initial energy that causes neighbor to help neighbor can quickly give way to exhaustion and despair as the realization that they have also lost everything begins to set in. They need people to hold their arms up. Will we be those people?
Contact your state baptist convention, your local association, your church. Contact NAMB and ask what you can do. They will help you. I just saw that the call has gone out to state conventions to send teams. Alabama Baptists are mobilizing now. Pray for the people of Louisiana. Give. Go. Act. Get moving. Don’t sit around focusing on what Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton do or say next. Get out of that mess and do something, anything to help tell a better story for people in need.
Engaging in Disaster Relief opens the door for serious trauma ministry to people in great need. It puts the gospel into action. It also opens your heart to what God can do in the midst of tragedy. I have seen this in Katrina response, after the Haiti earthquake, and after the 2011 Alabama tornadoes. Many of you have experienced this in other settings. We know what God can do and will do through His people responding to those in need. I hope to go down there this weekend and, if I can, will be reporting with pictures and information about what I see. Please pray, act, give, go – and don’t let the American media drive your response or lack thereof. Respond to the need and Tell a Better Story.
Spread this around. What can you do? Share information. Let’s track who is doing what and encourage others to engage. Leave a comment here if you are going or giving or know others who are. And, if you have new information about areas of need or churches in Louisiana who are receiving supplies or teams, share it in the comments and we’ll start incorporating the best information so others can see and also engage.
For further insight, I encourage you to read Rod Dreher, a journalist/blogger who lives in Baton Rouge. He has been in the middle of all of this. His writing is provocative and informative regarding the human side of this tragedy – and also this triumph of neighbor helping neighbor. His post today, Mucker’s Diary, explains how tens of thousands of families in Louisiana are in a race against time to save their homes and they need help. Can we be that help?