When I began my day on August 29, my mind focused on twelve years earlier. On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Mississippi. The whole nation watched as the storm smashed and slashed our coastline and reached all the way into the interior of the state and at the same time was battering New Orleans and south Louisiana. This huge storm reached from south Alabama across Mississippi through south Louisiana. August 29 was the beginning, but the hurts and healing and helps continued to pour in for a decade and beyond.
I do not consider myself a first responder, though I have tremendous admiration for them. I was, and wanted to be, not only a “first care-er” but one who would continue to care for lives scattered and shattered and battered by that terrible storm. In the weeks and months and even years that were ahead, our Baptist Disaster Relief teams from all over Mississippi and indeed all over the Southern Baptist Convention came to help us not only to survive but to help us get back on our feet and see hope for a new day.
Months later as the rows and rows of Katrina Cottages began to spread across the coastline, the hurt and accompanying disillusionment and even depression continued as family after family arose each morning, thousands of them looking out a window of their little cottage at all the little cottages around them and wondering if life would ever be put back together and return to any sense of normalcy as they once knew it. Many residents never returned to the Coast and never will, but others did come back and homes and businesses were restored and churches were rebuilt and strengthened and are continuing to go on with ministry to their communities and an entire area. That happened because the Lord placed on the hearts of thousands across our country to be first care-ers and they responded by giving millions for the restoration. Mississippi Baptists and residents of states all across our nation responded by taking an offering and volunteering to help with disaster relief.
Those thoughts of a dozen years ago were so fresh on my mind that morning. At the same time, we were beginning to get rain showers from the far outer bands of Hurricane Harvey, the most unusual storm of which anyone has a recollection. It grew overnight from almost nothing to a monster and when it moved ashore, it brought torrential rains and then put on the brakes and just hovered, pouring incredible amounts of water in unprecedented proportions on Houston, Galveston, Port Arthur, Beaumont, and most of the rest of the Texas Gulf Coast.
I don’t even know how to think about this, but one news outlet reported that about 27 trillion gallons of rain fell on Texas and Louisiana. I don’t know how to get my head or hands around that figure, but I know this — the result was there was nowhere for that water to go except pile up in roads and yards and businesses. Harvey was not finished after a few days over south Texas. He backed out into the Gulf, picked up more moisture, and made landfall again near the Texas-Louisiana line. He has been on the move, slowly but surely heading northeast and passing over much of Louisiana and skirting the Delta and north Mississippi. Of course all of us got rain, but thankfully we did not get the devastation suffered across Texas and many parts of Louisiana.
Storms are obviously a part of our lives. Here in Mississippi we get them all: hurricanes, tornadoes, ice storms, floods. Storms have always been a part of life and as you read the Gospels you become aware of the fact that Jesus not only was aware of storms, He was in storms at times. One such storm comes up in chapter four of the Gospel of Mark, when Jesus is in a boat with His disciples. In Mark chapter six, another storm hits and Jesus is not in the boat with the disciples but was certainly aware of the storm and comes to them. I think the most important thing is to realize that God cares. He comes, He comforts, and He still does today.
How does He do that? I truly believe He uses the extension of His own life and love through His people. Today that is where you and I are vitally important. What can you do to help with the needs that are right here before us during this hurricane season? For one, you can pray and ask God to work His wisdom and way in the tragedies that are around us. He can do that. He can do things in the lives of people who may be going through the tragedy, but He can also do things in our lives to help with the tragedy. Pray that God will be at work in us.
Beyond that, you can give. There are hundreds of disaster responses taking place right now and many of them are excellent, but you can give to help the hundreds – thousands — of Mississippi Baptist volunteer responders whether in Texas, Louisiana, or here in Mississippi. You can give through your church, and the church can give to 2017 Hurricane Relief, or you can send a check directly to the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board designated for 2017 Hurricane Relief, or give online at mbcb.org/giving/.
Why do that? Why give? One, because much has been given to us. Two, others have helped us through our tragedies. Three, God has spared us and blessed us with new days and new ways. Four, You and I have the opportunity to make a difference. Every dollar given to Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief goes directly to the relief of victims. Your gift will go forward to make a difference in the name of Christ, laced in personal ways with the love of Jesus through His servants who are on the scene and answering the needs of people.
May God bless you as we serve as instruments of His love and mercy
in this present tragedy, and into the future.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.