In September, YBL sent a team down to assist with Disaster Relief in East Baton Rouge, to the particularly hard hit areas of Denham Springs and Zachary. We took a team of a dozen men, along with a professional drywall contractor to work on some specific needs that are present in the community. Here are three key observations to know about the current crisis in Baton Rouge:
The Damage is Extensive
One resident described this flood as ‘like a hurricane, but without any warning.’ It was a 500-1000 year type flood. The area received over 30 inches of rain in two days. Two rivers, the Amite and Comite, overflowed their banks to such an extent that, though separated by a distance of 15-20 miles, they actually merged for a period of time, flooding the entire area between the two rivers. The tallies are staggering : 60,000 homes, 160,000 buildings—many small businesses, 120,000 cars destroyed, along with 16 lives and many animals and livestock.
The most shocking thing about this, which is not getting much attention, is that, due to the disaster occurring outside the flood plain areas, the vast majority do not have flood insurance. Over 50,000 of the 60,000 homeowners are therefore not covered, and are left to repair their homes by themselves out of pocket. Government aid has been minimal—often a couple thousand dollars on a 100,000-300,000 loss. The homeowners are overwhelmed, and most of them have family that is also flooded – making it hard to even know where to start. It will be at least 6 months to a year before even the majority of homeowners and business owners are back on their feet—and all the while, many of them have no income due to their places of work also being flooded.
The Response is Encouraging
While there has been limited government response, that does not mean there has been no response. The universal testimony of the residents we encountered was the amazing rapidity and scope of the response of the local churches. Churches have set up shelters, collected emergency supplies and building materials. They have coordinated with each other and with outside churches to mobilize relief teams. The message of the gospel is being very clearly proclaimed by the sacrificial giving of the local churches, and they have become conduits for outside groups and relief efforts to be directed to maximum impact.
The Impact is Multi-directional
I am always a bit cautious when considering what can really be accomplished in a short-term trip. Yet I saw in just a couple of days the relationships of our teams growing stronger as they worked together, and there was a genuine connection made with the families were served as we worked in their houses. One of the families we served said this, ‘You all do not even know us. I cannot believe you came all the way from Alabama to help repair our home.’ With words and tears and shared sweat and stories, we became friends with this family faster than I thought possible. We stayed and attended a worship service there, and saw the sweetness of the community of the church as they welcomed us and cared for one another.
Consider Going Yourself
There is enormous and ongoing need in this community. If you or your church or business would like to go and serve, YBL would be glad to help connect you with people who help you set up a trip. As we are presently seeing, God will accomplish more than we think possible through our meager efforts!
‘If any man serves, let him serve in the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may have the glory through Jesus Christ.’ – 1 Peter 4:11