By Waylon Bailey
Hurricane Katrina hit the New Orleans area and the Mississippi Gulf Coast twelve years ago yesterday. I thought I would never again see anything as devastating.
Hurricane Harvey is making everyone reassess their understanding of the word “catastrophe.” The images and the reports are beyond comprehension. Two nights ago I awakened in the middle of the night thinking of those people in flooded homes–or worse–awaiting rescue. I remembered how three days into Katrina, I began to wonder if water and food would hold out (It did because of people who went above and beyond to take care of others). Now I wonder how those in the Houston area are doing.
Yesterday I received a report from the North American Mission Board (NAMB). The mission board along with other Southern Baptists make up the third largest disaster relief organization in the country.
This is what NAMB and Southern Baptists have been asked to do. Mobilize churches and volunteers to house and feed more than 4,000 volunteers, provide facilities for 50-60,000 individuals, and serve an anticipated 343,000 meals on a daily basis. Unfortunately, relief workers may not be able to get into the flood zone for several days.
This is a daunting task.
What can we do at this point?
First, we can pray specifically for the rain to stop and the storm to move quickly. At lunch yesterday, Martha and I watched news and weather. When we saw the projected path of the storm moving toward Louisiana we felt relief and dread. Relief for the people of Texas and dread that flooding may also come to Louisiana and possibly to states in the Ohio River Valley and along the East Coast.
We can pray for first responders and the friends and neighbors who are risking their lives for the lives of others. As has often been said, this is the America we know and love.
Second, we can make contributions. The people of Texas will need help for a long time–emotional, spiritual, and financial. I suggest you give to the national agencies or to your local church. Churches know how to use money efficiently and effectively. They have a network that will help the people who most need the aid. John the Apostle called us to give and to give generously. “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 John 3:17).
Third, we can do mission work with the people of Texas. Ask your church to go to Texas. People affected by this storm will be in need for years to come. Plan to be used to give your help.
Finally, we cannot forget. In a few days or weeks, our lives will move forward and we will be consumed by other thoughts and needs. Those who are suffering will only be at the beginning of a very long recovery. It will do us good to continue to pray, to call people we know who are affected, and to continue to meet the needs of those who are hurting.
Waylon Bailey is pastor of First Baptist Church in Covington and a past Louisiana Baptist Convention president. This editorial originally appeared in his blog.