BATON ROUGE, La. (BP) — Sermons by social media became a means of disaster response Aug. 14 amid record rainfall and flooding across south Louisiana.
David Denton, pastor of Highland Baptist Church in New Iberia, used Facebook to speak to church members after Sunday services were cancelled.
“Help with cleanup, and exercise caution in doing so,” Denton told church members, according to the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
“Feed people who are hungry. Get involved wherever you can and by all means share Christ with people,” Denton said.
“Be encouraged by God’s promise that there is coming a day when there will be no need for rescue shelters or clean up because there will be no more floods,” Denton said. “Hold on to that hope.”
Brian Crain, pastor of Progression Church in Baton Rouge, also used Facebook to deliver his sermon, speaking from the living room of worship pastor Michael Young.
“Just reach out and be the hands and feet of Jesus,” Crain told Progression Church members, the Baptist Message reported.
“It’s going to take a lot of us to be able to work together and really see an impact made in the city,” Crain said. “But it’s a great way for the church” to step up as the “collective body of followers of Jesus to get involved in the city.”
Slow-moving storms began dumping rain on southern Louisiana on Thursday, Aug. 11, spawning floodwaters that have claimed at least six lives and required the rescue of 20,000 residents by the National Guard, according to the Weather Channel. Additional thousands were rescued by other agencies or individuals, and still thousands more have been evacuated, many in and around Baton Rouge, as rain continued into Sunday.
Portions of three Interstate highways, I-10, I-12 and I-110, were closed by floodwaters Saturday in Baton Rouge. Much of the campus of Louisiana State University was covered by floodwater.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers were aiding survivors within hours, helping where they could and beginning the ramp up to service that will help bring safe water, nutritious meals and compassion in the face of crisis.
“We are in the process of initiating a response in coordination with the Louisiana Baptist Convention disaster relief and our national partners,” said Mickey Caison, executive director for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) through the North American Mission Board.
“The American Red Cross is already manning shelters, and they are estimating we will need as many as four kitchens to support their shelter operations. We expect to be asked for additional volunteers and equipment for as long as three weeks,” Caison said.
Following the initial response, SBDR volunteers will be needed to aid survivors with mud-out, cleanup and other service, Caison said.
“Please pray that those affected will be safe and our volunteers will be faithful in ministry to them,” Caison said. “It is our desire to bring honor and glory to our Lord as we share the hope of the Gospel while serving others.”
An estimated 40 Louisiana Baptist churches have been damaged by floodwater to varying degrees, according to information in the Baptist Message’s reports, along with 20 homes of pastors and ministers.
Meanwhile, more than a half-dozen Baptist churches were among the facilities serving as shelters for evacuees.
“Pray first for safety as people are searching for higher ground,” said Leo Miller, pastor of First Baptist Church in Denham Springs, which took on at least 4 feet of water. “Pray for God to use this crisis for His glory. Churches are already opening doors for shelter. Pray for God to grant mercy and favor as people move into the rebuilding process.”
Those wishing to donate to SBDR relief can contact the Baptist convention in their state, or in this case the Louisiana Baptist Convention Disaster Relief Fund, https://louisianabaptists.org/donateDR. Donations also can be made through NAMB at donations.namb.net/dr-donations. For phone donations, call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state Disaster Relief ministries.
Southern Baptists have 65,000 trained volunteers — including chaplains — and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, child care, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained Disaster Relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.