Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Hello friends,

In a recent email to some of you I said I would be posting a blog soon about a hero I saw during the aftermath of the hurricanes that came our way. Unfortunately that email was 11 days ago and I'm just now getting around to posting about it. Sorry - I hope you didn't hold your breath!

OK, so here goes - on the right you can see the picture of a brave Cleco employee, standing knee deep in a drainage canal using a long pole to reconnect power to a home. (If you look closely, you can see the property owner standing on the right observing the work - don't you just love it when people watch over your shoulder? :-) Click on the picture and you'll see a larger view.) The technician was wearing rubber boots and the water was within an inch or two of going over the top of his boots. I'm sure the pole was made of some sort of non-conductive material, but the idea of standing knee-deep in water while using a pole to reattach a fuse on a transformer that conducts hundreds of watts/volts/amps (whatever!) of electricity is not my idea of a fun day at the office!

This is a real hero in my book. I saw him when I was out driving around the district I represent in the city of Pineville. His yellow coat and the yellow pole easily caught my eye and I jumped out of my van to snap this picture with my cell-phone camera. He is just one example of the hundreds of heroes we saw up close and personal during and after the storms that impacted our state. Utility workers, Public Works employees, Firemen, Policemen and regular Citizens all stepped up when called upon to help their neighbors. (The picture on the left shows some of the Pineville Firemen distributing water in the parking lot of the Furniture World on Hwy 28E in Pineville. They also distributed truckloads of ice and MREs - Meals Ready to Eat. Thanks, Furniture World, for letting us disturb your business to help your neighbors!)

I think we should salute the heroes among us - the firemen and policemen who coordinated their efforts to provide much needed water, ice and food to hundreds of Cenla residents; the public works employees who worked around the clock to remove debris from the roads and opened stopped drains in the middle of the night; the utility crews who restored electricity to hundreds of thousands of homes in record time; the elected officials who went days without sleep, coordinating relief efforts, and sometimes getting into the thick of things themselves to help rescue flooded residents; the media who demonstrated incredible cooperation to keep everyone informed; and the neighbors who lent a hand when others needed it. It's great to live in a town of heroes!

Some of them were compensated for what they did. Others helped out because it was needed. Some of the efforts were highly coordinated. (See the picture on the right of a caravan of Department of Wildlife and Fisheries vehicles as seen in my mirror, on their way to help folks. Click the picture for a larger view.) Some of the efforts were not-so coordinated. But people stepped up. They lent a hand. They helped each other.

We were pretty impacted by Gustav, and somewhat by Ike. There are still scars in our community - fallen trees, wounded structures, lost landmarks. But we will recover, we will rebuild, we will move forward. And we will do this because of the heroes in our midst. So next time you see a police officer, a fireman, a public works employee, a utility worker or someone who helped, say "thank you. Thank you for being a hero. We won't forget you."


Friday, September 12, 2008

I don't like Ike!

OK, so this isn't the most original title, but I did want to post a word of encouragement to those facing down yet another hurricane. I know many of you are hurricane-weary and I have heard the fatigue, and even fear, in people's voices as they talk about the prospect of being without power for another extended length of time. That's not something I look forward to either, to be truthful. But in spite of the storm, I know we have a hope that is fixed and sure.

In the Bible there was a group men who were mighty warriors. They were superior marksmen, members of the NBAA (National Bow and Arrow Association, a forerunner to the modern-day NRA - ok, I just made that up! ),  and their bravery was uncontested. Their valor on the battle-field earned them the deep respect and admiration of their peers. 

Interestingly, these military models of masculinity had a softer side - they loved to write music! And over the years their songs became recorded in an ancient text so that they are now more known for their songs than for their military exploits. One of their songs is recorded in Psalm 46, a song of the "sons of Kohath". Listen to it translated into English from the New Living Translation:

1 God is our refuge and strength,
  always ready to help in times of trouble.
2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come
  and the mountains crumble into the sea.
3 Let the oceans roar and foam.
  Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!    Interlude

4 A river brings joy to the city of our God,
  the sacred home of the Most High.
5 God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.
  From the very break of day, God will protect it.
6 The nations are in chaos,
  and their kingdoms crumble!
God's voice thunders,
  and the earth melts!
7 The LORD of Heaven's Armies is here among us;
  the God of Israel* is our fortress.    Interlude

These men had faced trouble. They knew what warfare was like. They had also seen natural disasters. And yet, their hope, their confidence, their bravado was not based in their military might, their sophisticated strategies or even their technological advances. Their refuge and their strength was God Himself. Though the earth shook, though the mountains quaked, though the ocean foamed and roared, they would not fear for the Lord Himself was their fortress.

The ocean is definitely shaking and quaking, rocking and rolling. There will be a lot of devastation. And there will be some failures in our technology, planning and preparation. Our leaders are doing the best they can - but they're tired and they're human. Times like these remind us that we can't control everything - in fact, we're in control of a whole lot less than we think. We need to hang onto something bigger than us. I hang on to my faith that God is in control, especially when I'm not. Especially when I'm not.

BTW, for my Christian Challenge readers, on Sunday we're going to have a Disaster Response Survey in the bulletin. I look forward to your responses. The Lord is giving us many great opportunities to serve our community. Let us continue to let our light shine in such a way that people see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven. (Matt 5:16)


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Other Side of the Storm

Hello friends,

Gustav has said his goodbyes and left us with a few gifts - fallen trees, snapped electrical poles, power outages to over 90% of Cleco's more than 200,000 customers, including most of the Christian Challenge church family.

I've attached a photo that is not an uncommon site around Cenla. There are literally hundreds of these fallen trees. Fortunately, *most* of them did not cause damage to structures. However, some homes and businesses have been severely damaged by falling trees, branches and/or hurricane force winds.

In my role as City Councilman I've been involved in trying to restore the essential services of water and sewer service. We have 10 water wells and over 80 sewer lift stations. ALL of these infrastructure tools were taken offline when Cleco's primary transmission line that services our area failed.

That's the bad news. We had to call for a emergency water conservation plan and a water boil advisory because our water pressure got precipitously low. The good news is that emergency power generators are being brought in and slowly our water wells are coming back online. As of this writing 3 of our 10 wells are online and are keeping our pressure up enough to provide minimal service throughout the city.

Cleco is doing a heroic effort at restoring power. In driving around Pineville I'm surprised at how quickly certain areas are having their electrical service restored. It may be days or even weeks before everyone has their service restored. But hopefully Cleco will set a new record in power restoration.

In my role as pastor I've contacted most of our church members and am pleased to report that there have been no structural damage reports. There are a LOT of trees down and a few leaky roofs, but thankfully no damaged structures.

I'm also extremely proud of the way church members are reaching out to one another, checking on one another, providing basic needs, etc. you guys are an awesome bunch and I'm extremely proud to serve you as pastor.

The days ahead are going to be hot and long. Cleanup will be tedious and sweaty. But as we help each other and reach out to others throught the community, may our light shine in such a way that they will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven! Remember,

I *LOVE* serving Jesus with YOU!
Sent via Treo 700p smartphone

Monday, September 01, 2008

Getting through Gustav

Hi y'all,

It's about 6:45PM and we're sitting in the darkened living room watching the wind and rain through the window. We lost power about an hour ago and are settling in for an AC-free evening. I've got fresh batteries for the radio so we can keep up with updates.

Supposedly the worst of the storm will be between 8:00-10:00 tonight. I've got a feeling we'll be in bed a little earlier since we won't have lights to fight the darkness.

My mom and dad are returning from vacationing in Tennessee. Ialve tried to talk them into delaying their return but I guess I get my har-headedness naturally. :) They should be home in the next hour.

The church just lost power - the McBrides had lost power at their house and went up to the church. He just texted me in the last paragraph to tell me the lights are out there now.

Oh well, I'll post more once the storm is past. I pray the Lord will keep us all safe and allow us to minister to others on the other side of the storm.

Sent via Treo 700p smartphone