BATON ROUGE, La. (BP)–Streets and yards remain marked with tell-tale signs of Hurricane Gustav’s impact on Baton Rouge. Unlike previous hurricanes when trees fell on a few houses, locals say they cannot recall so much widespread damage from a hurricane.
Uprooted trees and huge piles of limbs give immediate testimony of life being far from normal in Louisiana’s state capital. Many residents continue daily life in one part of their homes while a tree is lodged in another part.
Gratitude and generosity abound as everyone seems to be aware that the trauma of Gustav could have been even worse. “The tree didn’t land on our house or our neighbor’s, so we’re good,” homeowner Mark Podnar said. One large oak pulled up part of a concrete driveway and fell onto two trees in his yard.
Amid the widespread destruction, Southern Baptist volunteers have remained at work preparing hot meals for distribution by the Red Cross and Salvation Army and sending chainsaw crews into various neighborhoods.
“We are doing what we need to do — garnering the resources we have as a church, sharing Christ through actions as much as words,” said J.D. Perry, who coordinated initial disaster relief efforts from one of the city’s churches, Jefferson Baptist. The church also is one of the sites providing housing for incoming disaster relief volunteers.
Perry said he has been encouraged how God uses Southern Baptists in crisis situations and how his community has taken notice. When two area women brought some food to the church, for example, one of them recounted asking a friend what she should do with food that was thawing in her freezer because of the city’s power outages. The friend said, “Find a Baptist church, because they know how to react, organize and feed people in a disaster.”
“We have been very blessed, so we try to give back as much as we can,” said Jeremy Seal of the Southern Baptist disaster relief unit from Louisiana’s Washington Parish.
Seal and others were inspired to start a Baptist disaster relief team by the ministry of an Illinois team in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Interestingly, Illinois was where the Washington Parish team was first deployed after the unit became an official part of Southern Baptists’ disaster relief network.
Mandy Trammell is the associate director of the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Louisiana State University and a correspondent for the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s communications team. For more information on volunteer needs in Louisiana in areas affected by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, visit www.LBC.org.