2016 was an extraordinarily wet year, and our U.S. disaster relief team has been hard at work for eight continuous months in eight different places, helping flood victims in communities suffering from historic floods.
In Robert, Louisiana, a rural community with only 20 streets and one stop light, the local Tangipahoa River rose from 6 feet deep to 26 feet deep in 24 hours. In Denham Springs, Louisiana, where 90 percent of homes were flooded, 32 inches of rain fell in 34 hours. The local State Representative told me, “That much rain would be the equivalent of 25 feet of snow.” In Rosenberg, Texas, where the Brazos River ran dry just two years ago, the river rose from 14 feet to 54 feet, causing the worst flood since 1913. In and around Richwood, West Virginia, it rained so hard that 44 of 55 counties were declared in a state of emergency and 23 people lost their lives. In all of these places, an enormous amount of rain fell in a very short time taking residents and officials by surprise and disrupting the lives of countless people.
We heard the word “historic” over and over. In almost every case local officials told us that flood waters had spread far beyond historic boundaries and inundated areas that had not flooded in modern times, leaving countless homeowners with ruined houses, no flood insurance and no resources to rebuild. In Baton Rouge alone, there were over 110,000 flooded homes, over 70 percent of them without flood insurance.
One of the small town mayors I interviewed told a familiar tale: she lived in a farmhouse that her grandfather had built in the ’30s and that three generations of her family had lived in, and none of them had ever seen floodwaters anywhere near the home. This time, three feet of water rushed into the house and everything was ruined.
Operation Blessing’s U.S. disaster relief team responds to floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, landslides and snow emergencies. All of these wreak havoc on families, but flood damage is likely the most discouraging of all. It doesn’t take much water to turn the inside of any home into a smelly, eye-watering, mold-infested quagmire. Just imagine the catastrophe that even a foot or two of water — black from sewage and mud — would cause in your own home. Carpets, flooring, furniture, sheet rock, wiring all ruined; heirlooms and personal possessions accumulated over a lifetime turned into trash piled at the curb. Besides the physical loss, families are devastated.
Sadly, the media largely ignores the after-flood suffering and rarely covers the whole story. Networks feature flooding when the water is highest and they can show spectacular helicopter footage of water as far as the eye can see. By the time the waters recede and the drudgery of digging out and rebuilding begins, the cameras have moved on, and the eyes and hearts of America are focused elsewhere. The media’s lack of coverage makes our job of recruiting volunteers and raising flood relief funds much, much harder.
But here’s the good news! Guess what the following churches all have in common? The Healing Place in Denham Springs, Louisiana; Covenant Love Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina; Powerhouse Church in Katy, Texas; First Baptist in Richwood, West Virginia; Crossgate Church in Robert, Louisiana; and “The Church” in Rosenberg, Texas. Each of these churches served as “hubs of healing,” and headquarters for Operation Blessing’s disaster relief teams as they served flood-stricken communities with hot meals and teams of energetic volunteers, providing hope and help to haggard homeowners.
We always look for a strong, local church partner in the communities where we deploy. By making a local church the nexus of our efforts, we know that that our skills and resources will be blessed and multiplied. Believers traditionally look to their church group and pastor for spiritual comfort and guidance, but in times of disaster, go there for physical comfort, food, water and shelter. Regardless of how much a family has lost in a disaster, those with a Christ-centered life find deep strength in their faith.
“The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matthew 7:25)
Your support of Operation Blessing enables us to be there for believers and all those in need during the dark days that follow disasters. Thank you and may God Bless you!