Volunteers from all over the United States love their neighbors in LouisianaVolunteer in Louisiana
Homeowner Mike Hawkins almost laughed when he was offered flood insurance years ago.
“I told the guy, ‘If my house floods, then Baton Rouge is gone,’” Mike said.
Almost two weeks ago it seemed like Mike’s words might be prophetic as reports showed a city devastated. Officials and news commentators have compared the extent and seriousness of this recent flooding to Hurricane Katrina (2005) as tens of thousands of Baton Rouge homes were flooded and nearly submerged.
“We got a phone call somewhere around 5 o’clock Saturday from friends in the neighborhood: ‘We have water in the house. Y’all gotta get out,’” Mike said. “I thought, ‘There’s no way. We’re so far above flood level here, and we’re not even in a flood zone.’”
Less than 15 minutes later water was inside Mike’s home and continuing to rise.
Hard to Believe
In recent days, residents of the Baton Rouge area and further west into Lafayette have found themselves in varying states of disbelief. Residents couldn’t believe they would be caught in a state of emergency caused by rain. And residents have had trouble believing they could be on the receiving end of so much help and blessing after so much devastation.
Soon after a deluge of rainwater wreaked havoc on Baton Rouge and Lafayette communities, the telltale orange shirts of Samaritan’s Purse volunteers became a common and welcome sight in south-central Louisiana. Hundreds of volunteers from all over the United States have answered the call to a community in need.
“I have no words” is a common response when asked what they think of “all these orange shirts” walking up their driveway.
First-time volunteers Mic and Anne-Marie Farrell flew down from their home in upstate New York.
“We saw people in need and we wanted to show them that we cared even though we don’t live in the same state. God gives us a command to love our neighbor, and Louisiana is our neighbor even if we don’t share a physical border,” Anne-Marie said. “Whenever we see someone in need we should show them we love them just as much as we love ourselves.”
So far our volunteers have spent over 6,000 hours removing debris, pulling out waterlogged walls and flooring, and treating homes for mold. Through our witness and the witness of Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT) chaplains, several people have received Christ as their Lord and Savior in Baton Rouge and in Lafayette.
Floods May Help a Troubled City Come Together
Samaritan’s Purse volunteers helped gut Mike and Joanie Hawkins’s home, work for which he is grateful.
“Now that I’ve gone through it, I understand the value of an organization like Samaritan’s Purse,” Mike said. “They were here on the ground immediately. They are loving the Lord and showing Christ and doing what we’re supposed to be doing as Christians. I can’t thank them enough, because they are here in my biggest time of trouble. I have people from all over the country here to help me and they don’t even know me.”
Mike said he has been humbled by the flooding and the assistance he received. The situation has opened his heart to God more, he said, and he hopes that the floods could even spark the transformation of his city.
Following the highly publicized shooting of Alton Sterling (July 5) and the killing of three Baton Rouge law enforcement officers (July 17), Baton Rouge has been roiling in racial divides and mistrust.
Mike said the floods have helped wash some of that away.
“I think we’re going to have a revival breaking out here in Baton Rouge,” he said. “There’s a lot of destruction here, but the Bible says the devil meant it for bad but God meant it for good. And God’s going to show us the good in it no matter how terrible it may seem.
“All the little things you thought were important are going away. All the arguments you might have had over dinner are going away. The squabbles with your neighbor are going away. All that matters are cooperation, community, and loving each other. If it takes a disaster to do that for Baton Rouge. It may be bad, but in the end I think it may just help the community come together and remember what’s important.”
Samaritan’s Purse volunteers were able to work on the flooded home of Sergeant Bruce Simmons, one of the police officers injured in the July ambush. Read more on that story here.
Local officials also say they have new hope as they witness the presence of God in their communities.
“We’re going to rebuild stronger than ever, and let me tell you why I know that’s going to happen,” said Jr. Shelton, mayor of Central, Louisiana, near our base of operation at Greenwell Springs Baptist Church in East Baton Rouge Parish. “Let me tell you why I know that’s going to happen. Because all over this city there are signs of Jesus. Literally I could write a book about this event and the good things that have happened.”
Samaritan’s Purse is now at work in two locations across south Louisiana. Our first base is at Greenwell Springs Baptist Church in East Baton Rouge Parish. Our second base is at Crossroads Church in Lafayette (Lafayette Parish).
Samaritan’s Purse has recently opened up a third deployment site to serve distressed homeowners in Ascension Parish, about 25 miles southeast of Baton Rouge. Our volunteers are based at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, where our Disaster Relief Unit is also set up. At the same time, RRT chaplains are ministering out of The Church International in nearby St. Amant.
Please continue to pray for the people of Louisiana and our disaster relief response teams.