The North American Mission Board is facilitating a recovery effort to help Louisiana flood survivors rebuild and to assist churches and individuals who want to serve. The initiative, under NAMB's Send Relief ministry, will begin Oct. 1 and enlist Baptists nationwide.
"We're developing a recovery plan to help Louisiana residents, pastors, churches and other buildings damaged by extreme flooding," said Mickey Caison, NAMB's Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) executive director. "The Send Relief plan includes a facility to house 300 volunteers as they aid those in crisis. Another part of what's in the works concerning this year-long project [is] collegiate opportunities during students' Christmas and spring breaks to help serve and rebuild Louisiana."
The initiative, named Send Relief: Louisiana Flood, will entail a recovery and rebuild process similar to those NAMB facilitated in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, Detroit flooding and the Colorado floods and wildfires. While mud-outs, cleanups and feedings are ongoing now, the one-year recovery plan will move into the rebuild stage.
To be part of the effort, churches, groups and individuals can visit namb.net and click on the Louisiana Flood icon. From there they will be able to schedule the dates for their visit. While housing and meals are provided onsite, there is a $25-per-day fee for each participant.
So far in the response to the historic mid-August flooding in south Louisiana, SBDR team members and chaplains have made 1,345 Gospel presentations and seen 171 people respond by placing their faith in Christ for salvation.
SBDR teams also have prepared more than 657,000 hot meals and will continue doing so, which continues to require tons of cans to be opened and beans to be stirred, burgers to be flipped and frozen food to be thawed and prepped for distribution. SBCR cleanup volunteers, meanwhile, continue to pull up tile and other damaged flooring, rip out contaminated Sheetrock and insulation and treat for mold as well as salvaging furniture and discarding ruined appliances.
Send Relief: Louisiana Flood will give "every church, every group and every individual who wants to serve a chance to do so without having to figure out 'Where will we sleep? Where will we eat? Who will we help?'" said David Melber, NAMB's vice president of Send Relief. "If you show up with your work clothes and some tools, we will take care of the rest."
David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, said, "We are extremely grateful for the short-term assistance and long-term commitment of the North American Mission Board and all of our state partners to meet these ongoing needs.
"We're praying God will restore the lives of those affected and even bring revival from the ruins," Hankins said.
Caison affirmed that volunteers will be stepping into a disaster zone and a mission field.
"A lot of the residents are dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD] from the flood. They're resilient people who want to move on with their lives, again. Many escaped the flooding in New Orleans just to have it happen to them again here. It's heartbreaking, but we've got Southern Baptist chaplains as well as local pastors offering up spiritual and emotional support to those suffering from PTSD."
Louisiana's Tri County Southern Baptist Association director of missions, Philip Shuford, who weathered a flood while living in North Carolina a few years ago, said he understands what it's like to think, "Why me?" He added that addressing the current need of disaster victims is key to faster recovery. Currently, Tri County volunteers—who have been trained onsite—are working on houses damaged by flooding.
Caison said the call to provide relief comes straight from the Bible.
"We function off of 1 Chronicles 28:20, which says, 'Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don't be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord, my God is with you. He won't leave you or forsake you until the work for the service of the Lord's house is finished.' And because of that, we work hard in homes of strangers, always ready to bring hope to those we serve."
For registration information for volunteers arriving after Oct. 1, click here. Volunteers arriving prior to Oct. 1 should register through the Louisiana Baptist Convention website at https://LouisianaBaptists.org/VolunteerDR.
For registration information on the collegiate initiative of Send Relief: Louisiana Flood, click here for Christmas break opportunities. Spring break opportunity registration will open soon.
To donate to Louisiana flood victims through NAMB, visit namb.net/Send-Relief/Disaster-Relief/Louisiana-Flood. All donations are tax deductible and 100 percent goes to aid flood survivors through Send Relief. Financial assistance also can be directed through the Louisiana convention at LouisianaBaptists.org/DisasterRelief.
Josie Rabbitt is a writer for the North American Mission Board.