ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–Five important words for those who want to help with the Louisiana disaster response:
— Thanks. We would not have managed to this point without the unselfish support of our friends in the communities and churches of America. Your prayers, shipments of goods, volunteer time and gifts of money make it possible for us to aid the victims to survive, and to begin to plan for the future.
I am especially appreciative of my Southern Baptist family. Thousands of Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers have been in Louisiana for weeks feeding, cleaning, communicating and comforting. Literally hundreds of churches have opened their doors to evacuees and have met the needs of these hurting people with love. You responded to people’s needs with rapidity, flexibility and grace.
Our counterpart state conventions, Southern Baptist national entities, local churches and associations have sent staff to assist us and have provided generous amounts of relief money. Our denominational network of cooperation was quick to respond and continues to stay with us. We are grateful.
— Prayer. Please don’t underestimate the power of prayer. God’s people are lifting our needs to His throne and He is answering. What amazing testimonies we are receiving — about everything from traffic abating to allowing for volunteers to be in place or the right supplies arriving at just the right place at just the right time. The testimony of families being united absolutely touches our hearts. God is working in response to His people praying. The best thing that could result from this tragedy is a fresh move of God. Don’t stop praying. As one of my friends wrote, “I’m praying for you. Is there anything less I can do for you?”
— Comfort. There is a world of hurt down here — loss of possessions, loss of livelihood, loss of homes and loss of life. The victims are endeavoring to forge ahead, but there remains a lot of grief. As you come here, be sensitive to the hurt. Go easy on the “keep a stiff upper lip” speeches. Let the people work through their sorrow. You mustn’t be anxious about making everything alright. There are no simple answers. Your presence, your understanding, your listening ear, your hugs and your tears are a good start.
— Solutions. We are grateful for your ideas, your energy and your resourcefulness. The Lord knows we need all the counsel we can get. However, make sure you are bringing solutions, not creating problems. We already have enough problems. Don’t be one of those who insist on doing things only one way in one place, and right now! We all remember the Boy Scout who insisted on helping the elderly lady to cross the street only to discover she didn’t need to cross the street.
Don’t be impatient with those who are here working. There are hundreds of Louisianans who care deeply about this serious situation. Many in our state are laboring around the clock to make proper assessments and to coordinate the relief efforts. Hundreds of thousands of people have already been fed, clothed and sheltered. Through Southern Baptists’ cooperative generosity, hundreds of pastors and other ministers have already received salary assistance. Long-term support is now being put in place.
One of the best solutions you can do is partner with us, release yourselves and your resources into the coordinated response and rejoice with us as we cooperatively make the maximum difference in these days for God’s glory.
— Perseverance. This disaster has impacted our future. There is a longing for a return to normalcy, but we are beginning to recognize we have a new normal. There will be days of joy and peace and refreshment again, but this disaster will mark us, our ministry and our world for years to come. We are glad you want to help. We need your help. We will need it for quite some time. As one of our pastors admonished: “Plan to keep your hearts warm for a long time.”
David Hankins is executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.