Faith groups are providing immediate aid to Louisiana flood victims while emphasizing the long-term recovery facing the region.
The mid-August floods killed 13 people, damaged nearly 61,000 homes and caused more than 100,000 residents to apply for federal relief.
University Baptist Church of Baton Rouge (UBCBR), pastored by Mike Massar, has established five ways for congregation members to help and is partnering with several area churches to provide relief to victims.
Massar also serves as coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Louisiana.
He shared in an Aug. 19 email to constituent churches, “It was a devastating disaster of epic proportions. … What is needed at the present time are teams to help victims begin the recovery process. Currently, we don’t need supplies as much as we need teams, funding and prayers.”
CBF National’s disaster response coordinator is working to assess needs and provide aid in conjunction with CBF/LA and several CBF-affiliated churches, including UBCBR.
The North American Baptist Fellowship (NABF), one of six regional arms of the Baptist World Alliance, shared ways its constituents can help.
Sam Tolbert – pastor of Greater Saint Mary Missionary Baptist Church in Lake Charles, Louisiana, president of both NABF and the National Baptist Convention of America International Inc. – called attention to the long-term impact of the floods.
Many victims are renters, he explained, so they have no direct control over when, if ever, their previous residences will be habitable again.
In addition, early estimates indicate that only around 12 percent of damaged homes were covered by flood insurance, making restoration and rebuilding of these homes uncertain.
Jerry Young, president of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A. Inc., (NBC) has urged constituents to fulfill Galatians 6:2 by “giv[ing] generously and with haste to the [disaster relief] fund so that we may minister to those who have been adversely impacted by such a horrific event.”
Lott Carey Global Christian Missional Community has partnered with NBC in their disaster funding and relief initiatives.
Catholic Charities of Baton Rouge (CCBR) has several staff members who were forced to evacuate their homes, but who have still shown up to work to help other victims.
CCBR executive director David C. Aguillard stressed the lingering impacts that will continue to challenge area residents.
“In the weeks and days immediately after a disaster, there’s a tremendous rush of good will and high energy and compassion. And that is desperately needed,” he said. “That is very valuable. But the fact is, there are people who might take years to recover.”
At least four Assemblies of God (AG) congregations were damaged, with at least one not having flood insurance to help cover repair costs.
Convoy of Hope, AG’s disaster relief arm, is providing emergency relief supplies, which have helped more than 10,000 residents.
Christian Reformed Church disaster response services – World Renew – already had in place an Aug. 23 visit to assess ongoing needs from March flooding.
The mid-August floods make this week’s trip more urgent and important in terms of planning immediate and long-term aid efforts “to provide hope in support in Christ’s name throughout the many stages of recovery.”
The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) has also been active in the area providing assistance.
Many members of Trinity Lutheran Church in Baton Rouge had their homes damaged, the LCMS blog reports. One church member, Carl Paternostro, joined others in using personal boats to search for and rescue neighbors.
“Paternostro said his boat alone brought more than 150 people to safety along with some residents’ pets,” LCMS news reports. “[He] said one issue compounding the problem of recovery is that a lot of local residents dropped their flood insurance this past year, as much of the local area recently was designated as a no-flood zone.”
A list of shelters for flood victims posted on Gov. Edwards’ website includes three local churches.
A list of volunteer needs and opportunities includes several faith-based groups: NECHAMA (a Minnesota-based Jewish disaster response), Salvation Army of Baton Rouge, and United Saints Recovery Project (a ministry of First Street United Methodist in New Orleans).