There are some weeks when I’m not really sure what topic I should cover in this blog. This isn’t one of them. Over the weekend, nearly unprecedented amounts of rain fell over South Louisiana, leading to what’s now being called a “1000 year” flooding event. Entire communities are under water. In Ascension Parish (in Louisiana, we call our counties parishes), nearly one-third of all homes have been flooded. Over 40,000 homes have experienced significant flooding. And there’s still more rain coming.
Of course, you might not know this if you’re watching National news channels. While the floods have been mentioned, the coverage hasn’t been proportional to the size of the disaster. It seems like mainstream media is more interested in “extreme vetting” than “extreme flooding.” And that’s sad.
This is a natural disaster of historic proportions. Several members of our church have relatives who have been impacted by the flooding. And even though we only received a fraction of the rainfall that our neighbors to the south experienced, the rain totals from this storm alone exceed our normal average precipitation for the entire month of August! As a result, we’ve had some weather related issues of our own - mostly minor flooding and sewer backups - but nothing like what’s going on just to our south.
In the midst of this tragedy, there are also stories of neighbors helping neighbors, private citizens - who have dubbed themselves the Cajun Navy - have rescuing others from flooded out areas with own boats and high-water vehicles. There are stories of people who were displaced and went to a Walmart to buy necessities… and the person in line behind them paid for it. Sayes Office Supplies has already sent one truck full of donations to help those who have been flooded out of their homes. I’m grateful for every story of compassion and generosity - those stories warm the heart and keep hope alive.
I know that the situation in South Louisiana weighs very heavily on our hearts and minds. Many of us here in Central Louisiana have friends and relatives further south who have literally lost everything. The one question I’m getting over and over is, “How can we help?”
So what can we do?
- Pray. Pray for those who have been affected. Pray for first responders who are involved in rescue operations. (We have many first responders from our community currently assisting agencies in the flooded areas.)
- Reach out. If you live here in Cenla and you don’t personally know someone who has been directly affected by the flooding, you certainly know someone whose family has been impacted. There are thousands of displaced individuals who have made their way to central and northern Louisiana to stay with extended family. Be a support to those who are hosting flood victims.
- Listen. Listen to what organizations and families on the front lines are saying that they need. We all want to get involved, do something, send something… but different forms of assistance will be needed at different times. Be a helpful helper! :) (If an organization is asking for underwear and socks, don’t bring them a couch!)
- Prepare/Share. Set aside some money if you’re interested in sending financial or other forms of material support. Gift cards (for large retailers like Walmart or generic Credit Card gift cards) can help families get exactly what they need when they need it. (If you bring them to the church, we will make sure these go directly to families we have a connection to that have been affected.) You may also want to talk to your employer about the possibility of taking time off to serve in the cleanup efforts.
- Join. Be a part of what other organizations and businesses are doing to provide relief to flood victims. It will take the combined efforts of many, many groups to help the affected areas of South Louisiana get back on their feet.
- Give grace. Those who have lost everything have a difficult road ahead of them. They’ll be hurting and frustrated. They’ll be navigating a labyrinth of insurance and government paperwork and red tape. Unfortunately, they might even find themselves the targets of scammers. So be gracious, especially when folks are flustered and upset. Avoid throwing around Christianese platitudes. That doesn’t help anyone.
- Remember. Don’t let your compassion be short-lived. This is a disaster on a nearly unprecedented scale, and the recovery will take many months, not weeks. When disaster strikes, we want to do something immediate. That desire to respond is a good thing. But there are difficult months ahead. There are holidays ahead. “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good.” (Gal 6:9a, NLT)
Here’s what we at Christian Challenge will be doing as a church:
I’ve asked our members to let me know about relatives who have flood-related needs. After the water recedes and these families are better able to assess their needs, we’d like to organize some CARE Team trips to assist them with cleanup.
There’s an inner-city church in Baton Rouge that CCI supports as part of its regular missions giving. We’ve reached out to them to see how the church itself or its members have been impacted, and/or how they might be reaching out to their community. This could provide another avenue for us to plug in and provide relief.
At this time, please DO NOT bring large items that you wish to donate to the church. We’re simply not set up to handle it, and in reality, the victims aren’t set up to receive it yet. As the cleanup begins and we identify specific needs, we’ll get the word out make arrangements to meet those needs. We’ll also continue to post when we hear of other opportunities to serve or send donations down with other groups or businesses. Here are few reputable organizations that you can connect with right now:
- https://louisianabaptists.org/disasterrelief - We are not affiliated with the Louisiana Baptist Convention/Southern Baptist Convention, but they are doing great work! Member churches in the disaster zone are serving in the relief efforts and in need of volunteers.
- https://www.facebook.com/First-Baptist-Church-Pineville-48777570770/?fref=ts - The members of First Baptist Church here in Pineville have been organizing trips and supply runs to assist relatives & friends of their congregation.
- http://www.redcross.org - Among other things, the Red Cross helps with temporary shelters and meals for displaced residents.
- http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/ - The Salvation Army is often the first relief organization to arrive in the wake of a disaster. Christian Challenge supports our local branch of the Salvation Army year round, but they could certainly use some extra help right now.
- There are a lot of other wonderful organizations mobilizing to help during this crisis. CNN has a list (with some repeats from ours) here: http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/14/us/iyw-louisiana-flooding-victims-help/
We’re going to keep you posted on our ongoing efforts via my Facebook page, the Weekend Update, and our church bulletin. I’m grateful that Christian Challenge is a church that loves God and loves others, and is willing to do things in a tangible way. I love serving Jesus with you!
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