Twenty plus inches of rain in three days makes for a rude interruption. In fact, we received so much rain our meteorologist informed us that we have received 1/3 of our annual rainfall in less than a week.
It was crazy. And just when you thought it was over, more rain…and then hail!
The losses are tragic. Several people lost their lives, and thousands of homes, businesses, and vehicles suffered extensive damage. The statistics of the amount of loss are gripping, but statistics don't compare to seeing the devastation on people's faces. There are people in our community who have more questions than answers. One of the most common questions being asked is, "Where am I going to live long term?" These are people just like you and me, but they have few answers for where to turn to next. It is heart-breaking.
I want to share with you five observations from the last few weeks as our community has responded to this flood.
1.) We have strong local leadership.
When this moment hit, the leadership of our community responded. City officials, parish officials, law enforcement, first responders, and others stepped up to the plate. I witnessed time and time again moments where they were forced to make difficult decisions in a short period of time. There seemed to be a spirit of willingness to do whatever it took across agencies and circles of leadership to help the people of Ouachita Parish and Northeast Louisiana.
One of these leaders contacted me five days after the flooding began to see if I could help with the flooding that had occurred at his house. He was so busy working 16-hour days in our community that he had neglected to take care of his own home.
2.) I never want to see another sandbag again.
Thousands and thousands and thousands of sandbags were filled, tied, stacked, loaded, unloaded and stacked again. It was monotonous work. One of the first nights of the flooding, we filled sandbags for hours, and it seemed like we loaded up only a handful of vehicles.
I am grateful for the parents who had children out there filling bags as well. Although at times it may have slowed the process down, the lessons that were taught were invaluable. I pray we don't see flooding like this again for a long time; but, if we do, you know who will be at the front of the line to help serve, right? It will be those children who had it modeled to them how you respond when your neighbor or community is in need.
3.) The impact of social media was significant.
"I need 1,000 sandbags at 123 Smith Street now! It's urgent!" You probably shared posts just like that. I did, too. Hundreds of volunteers were mobilized throughout our region when these posts went out. In fact, sometimes we had too many people show up to a given location!
I wasn't here for the flood of '91, but I would guess that the ability to get sandbags and volunteers to critical locations quickly didn't compare to what we saw these last two weeks.
Thank you to all those who raced to these locations to lend a hand!
4.) The church is a powerful force when fully unleashed.
"I have never seen the response of local churches to a moment of crisis in a community like what I have seen here in Northeast Louisiana." – Leader of an out-of-state disaster relief organization
"We could not have done what we did without the hands and feet of Christ in these days." – Local leader in NELA
On Saturday, March 5, about 40–50 pastors met to discuss the deployment of God's people into a hurting community. We shared a common belief that JESUS IS LORD and a common heartbeat to help our community. There were no egos, church logos, or denominational divides, but a simple desire to help. It was awesome!
I shared with this group of pastors that there are two things that the church of Jesus Christ has that makes us unique: The hope-filled message of Jesus Christ and MANPOWER!
There have been thousands of meals fed to flood victims and volunteers, thousands of articles of clothing and toiletries handed out, thousands of cleaning supply products delivered, thousands of canned goods collected, thousands of sandbags placed and, ultimately, thousands of people impacted by God's people.
We were working in such harmony that I was sending church members to other churches to volunteer because their giftedness fit well with what those churches had carved out as a niche to help our community.
As we have sought to meet these needs, the hope-filled message of Jesus Christ has resonated in the hearts of people. People in our community have placed their faith in Christ in these trying days because they have seen God's love on display and heard of His unfailing love for them.
I am very proud of the people of God and those who shepherd them.
5.) This is a marathon and not a sprint.
The rain is gone. Spring is here! There is still work to do. According to Samaritan's Purse and Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief, there are almost 700 work orders yet to be filled. I'm sure there are even more out there that I am unaware of. That means there are homes and people still in need of volunteers to help.
Would you commit to continuing to make a difference in our community?
The adrenaline is gone. Our normal rhythm of life is creeping back in. Your Facebook feed is no longer filled with aerial videos of the devastation, and you aren't seeing urgent requests for sandbags.
Don't let that fool you! Check with your local church, United Way or the relief organizations to see how you can help!
You can start here: http://spvolunteernetwork.samaritanspurse.org/louisiana-flood-response/