By Carl Stagner
Emily Fontenot has lived in Louisiana since 1990. She says she’s never seen flooding like this. The youth minister at Faith Chapel Church of God in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is one of hundreds of thousands of people experiencing a living nightmare that has only just begun. More than twenty-five inches of rain has fallen in parts of Louisiana within the span of just two days, resulting in a deluge likely to happen only once in a thousand years. As a result, waters continue to rise downstream, leaving in its wake widespread destruction characteristic of a war zone. This ongoing disaster has forced an estimated forty thousand families from their homes, claimed at least thirteen lives, and left abandoned cars and trucks littered across the landscape. With extensive power outages and damage to churches, congregations have had to cancel worship services and events this week Several families within our congregations have completely lost their homes. It is a bleak situation, but thankfully, you can help.
First, please cry out to the Lord on behalf of residents across the state who are displaced or grieving the loss of loved ones, including pets, as well as property and livestock. Many are showing signs of hopelessness and simply do not know how they will start over with little to no possessions. Pastor Glen Kirby of Chapelwood Church of God in Denham Springs, a town which suffered damage to 90 percent of residential structures, says it comes down to the basics. “The banks are closed, so people can’t get money,” he explains. “Food won’t help much, because there’s no electricity. We have crews coming down from northern Louisiana and Mississippi to help with tear-out because of the threat of black mold. A lot of wells have been contaminated. Pray that the insurance companies and FEMA move quickly, and honestly, so we can start rebuilding.”
Emily’s prayer for Louisiana is for hope, restoration, and specifically for the children. “Many are in shelters,” she laments. “Pray that they get back to normal as soon as possible. School has been disrupted and may not re-open for up to three more weeks. Church was closed on Sunday, and there’s a curfew for those who are outside. Pray that we will be able to resume normal activities as soon as possible.”
Emily knows firsthand the grave circumstances Louisianans are facing. Along with rising floodwaters have come an increase in pests. While her home was spared from damage, Emily suffered a severe spider bite during the worst of the flooding that required medical attention. Impassable roadways meant she had to wait to be rescued in order to get the help she needed.
Her daughter’s horses had to be rescued, as well. With the help of a neighbor, she and her daughter braved the high waters themselves to pull the horses up to higher ground.
Chapelwood Church of God currently rents their worship facility in Denham Springs. All of the contents inside the building were destroyed as the water crested at seven feet. Pastor Glen and his wife are currently housing a pastor’s family from another local church that had to be evacuated. Over Glen’s eleven years in Louisiana, he has never seen flooding this bad. “We moved here just after Katrina and saw the aftermath, but it is hard to fathom the amount of water and damage that has been done this week,” he reflects. “This is unbelievable. Just unbelievable.”
Glen thanks the Lord that the church had not yet started construction on their new property, which would have been wiped out this week.
He and Emily are thankful for the protection of so many lives that were spared. Considering the catastrophic damage, the number of lives lost could have been a lot higher. Both pastors reflect on how good God has been in the midst of this disaster. Both also reflect on how the disaster has brought people together, even across denominational and racial lines. Emily reflects, “One thing we have seen is a lot of unity. We’ve been hurting because of the shooting last month, but through this disaster God has really brought everybody together.”
Total damage estimates and the full scope of needs may not be known for several more weeks, if not months. But second to prayer, we urge you to consider a generous donation to the Disaster Relief Fund. Donate online at www.jesusisthesubject.org/disaster-relief/. Donations can also be mailed to Church of God Ministries, PO Box 2420, Anderson, IN 46018; please note that your gift is for Disaster Relief, Project # 45.04502. Thank you!
Work teams will be needed soon in Louisiana. Would you or your church be able to offer on-the-ground assistance? If so, please contact Steve Nelson, state coordinator for Louisiana Congregational Ministries of the Church of God, at firstname.lastname@example.org.