Author: Victor Barousse, Eurasia Director for Global Pathway, and Member Care Minister
The memory is permanently etched in my mind. It was October, 2008; my first time back to my hometown of New Orleans since Katrina did her work. I was leading a relief team from my Tampa church, and many of these guys had never been to “the Big Easy” before, so I was doing the tour guide thing. It was well after 9 pm, and it was as if the air was sucked out of the vehicle. We passed one exit after another that had been teeming with city life just months before. However there was not a single light on the horizon; complete darkness enveloped much of the city. The light of day confirmed what the darkness had shrieked the night before.
For those outside the Baton Rouge/South Louisiana region who might be wondering how deep the water got that caused all this flooding...The top photo is I-12 east as one drives from Baton Rouge into Livingston Parish (Denham Springs).
Many of the parishes which were spared in 2008 have suffered the worst in this current flood. (Note: In Louisiana, counties are called parishes because of the French colonial influence). Seeking a “professional" perspective, I inquired of Mike Mann, a dear friend and pastor of Grace Journey Church. He is busy now with the relief effort, and served as Chaplain Coordinator for a large church based disaster response group after Katrina. The following is his report:
Mega-church Bethany World Prayer Center had 3 of its 4 campuses flooded. 900 families from another Baton Rouge mega-church, The Healing Place, lost their homes. Mike’s team is currently giving a helping hand at Revival Temple, in Walker, LA. 80+ families lost their homes; this is over 50% of their congregation.
Two of the major challenges in this are that with so many flooded over a 20 parish region the local/regional workers who would normally be helping neighbors are themselves trying to recover. The second is that the lack of national coverage after the flood has significantly impacted the volunteers and resources coming into the area and the speed of the response.
Additionally, because so many victims had to evacuate with little to no warning, they have lost their cars and, consequently, some are significantly limited in their ability to drive to where assistance is being distributed. Today's Morning Advocate (the local Baton Rouge newspaper) reported that State Farm Insurance alone had received "18,000 auto claims related to flooding."
Speaking of victims, I personally, am concerned for some of the victims who were displaced by the waters of Katrina. There are many who live in the region and now, 11 years later, almost on the anniversary of Katrina, they have lost everything again...many without flood insurance. There reports of increased, above-the-norm-following-a-disaster, suicides the week after the flood. It was high enough in one community that it alarmed the police and sheriff and a special hotline was established for law enforcement to refer people.
Finally, this is the third major flood to hit Louisiana in six months. Since March extensive flooding has occurred in the Northwest (Shreveport/Bossier City) region, Northeast (Monroe/W Monroe) region, and Southeast (Mandeville/Covington/Bogalusa/Franklinton) region.
Pastors and churches are doing all they can but the slowness of response and lack of national coverage will make the recovery a very long process.
Author: As part of his 23 years of field missionary experience, Victor lived and served for 12 years in Siberia along with his family, planting churches, launching drug rehab and other social helps ministries and founding the Eastern Siberian Bible Institute. The Barousses now serve at the Go To Nations world headquarters, overseeing Member Care. Victor travels extensively, training pastors and other ministry leaders in the nations.