Peter. He's one of my favorites. He was one of the twelve apostles.
We first meet him in Matthew 4:18-20. Peter was a fisherman. He was on the Sea of Galilee one day just doing his job when Jesus came along. He called Peter to follow Him. And Peter did. He dropped his net immediately to go with Jesus. He gave up his job, his livelihood He didn't hesitate. Not one second. Peter was all in.
We see Peter again all throughout the Gospels. In Matthew 14, he's the one who walks on water to Jesus. The disciples had gotten into a boat, and Jesus went to pray. Then the storm came. When Jesus began walking to the boat, the disciples didn't recognize Him. He spoke. And Peter challenged Him. "Lord, if it's You, I want to walk to you." So he did. Things were just fine until Peter took his eyes off of Jesus. He got distracted by the storm. And he was afraid. He began to sink. But, of course, Jesus reached out His hand and saved Peter. We could say all kinds of things about Peter here, but you know what? He got out of the boat. In the middle of the storm. Peter was all in.
I love Peter's confession of Christ in Matthew 16:13-16. Jesus point blank asks, "Who do YOU say I am?" You know, we all have to answer that question. Peter responded, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Peter was all in.
When Jesus went up on the mountain in Matthew 17, he took three of his disciples with him. Peter was one of those. And, of course, he was the first to speak up. God even told him to be quiet (verse 5). Peter was kinda like that. Slow to listen and quick to speak. But Peter was all in.
In Matthew 26, the arrest of Jesus was drawing nigh. He went to pray. He took three of His disciples with him. One of the three? Yep. Peter. But Peter fell asleep. Jesus asked them to stay awake and pray. He asked them more than once. And, more than once, they fell asleep. Even Peter.
But when the soldiers arrived later in that same chapter to arrest Jesus, Peter was all in. So much so that he drew his sword and cut off one of the officer's ear (John 18:10)! Jesus quickly admonished Peter and healed the man's ear.
And then, shortly thereafter, we see the account at the end of Matthew 26 when Peter denied Jesus. Said he didn't know Him. Not once. Not twice. But three times. Three. I guess you could say, again, that Peter was all in. And then, Peter weeps. Bitterly (verse 75).
But that's not the end of Peter's story. After Jesus' death, burial and resurrection, He appears again to many of his disciples and followers. Jesus had a little conversation with Peter in John 21:15-23. Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him. Not once. Not twice. But three times. Do you see that? Three times! What's my point? Well, how many times did Peter deny Jesus? Three. Anyway, of course Peter affirmed his love for His Lord all three times. Jesus told him to "feed His lambs," "tend His sheep" and "feed His sheep." In other words, take care of folks. Love on folks. If you see a need, do what you can to meet the need. Be the hands and feet of Jesus. That's what it's all about.
If I could use only one word to describe Peter, it'd be passionate. And if you don't believe me yet, take a look at his sermon in Acts 2 and again in Acts 4. So where am I going with all this? Peter may have been passionate in his denial of Christ. But he was also passionate in his service for His Lord. That's what Jesus told him to be about anyway.
Hands and feet.
In case you haven't heard (because, as hard as it is to believe, we're now understanding that many of you haven't heard), Louisiana has experienced catastrophic and record breaking flooding during the past five days. There was no hurricane or named storm. And we're aren't talking about New Orleans or the Lower 9th Ward. We're talking Baton Rouge. We're talking Denham Springs and Baker and Central and numerous other towns in southeast Louisiana. These aren't the places you usually associate with a flood. I'm a numbers and facts gal. So here are some numbers and facts for you:
The rain gauge at my neighbor's house recorded 23.5 inches in less than 48 hours.
More than 30,000 people have been rescued. You need to google the Cajun Navy. Just take my word for it. Anybody and everybody with a pirogue (that would be the equivalent of a john boat with a motor where I'm from) was launching off the side of the interstate (yes, the interstate!) to travel the waters to rescue folks.
At one point, there were 11,000 people in shelters.
It's estimated that 70% of the homes in Livingston Parish flooded. And that's just one parish! There are currently 20 parishes included in the federal disaster declaration.
Eleven lives have been lost.
Many of our schools are closed "until further notice." I can't put a number to that one because there isn't one. No one knows how long it's going to take to clean up and repair flooded schools.
We are safe, and we are dry. But many, many of my friends are not. I have a lot of friends in Denham Springs and Central, two of the hardest hit areas. Most all of them live in homes that have NEVER flooded before. Never.
Seth and I used to live in Denham Springs. We bought our very first home there in January 2003. We were so proud of our little house there. We did all of the landscaping ourselves. Seth was meticulous with the yard. We brought Mason home there. We did not have flood insurance on that house because we were not in a flood zone. Since Katrina, most all of the flood zone maps have been changed. So I'm not sure if it's now considered a flood zone or not. When this first happened, Seth and I were sure our house didn't flood. But seeing the aerial photos now, we aren't so sure. We haven't been able to get any information regarding our subdivision, but we think it's very possible our house took on water.
This photo shows the Range Avenue exit off I-12 at Denham Springs. That's our exit. The interstate runs halfway across this picture. As you can see, everything except tree tops and roof tops are covered in muddy water. Bass Pro Shop, Sam's Club, Chic-fil-A, Longhorn, Chili's, Shell and Chevron Stations, Ford dealership. The top portion of the picture is a subdivision (not ours) that was completely flooded.
Seth's office is also located in Denham Springs. He went to work Friday morning. He called me mid-morning and said he couldn't get out. He didn't realize how quickly the waters were going to rise. He didn't realize that places that had never flooded were about to be inundated. He told me to be prepared because he might have to start swimming, and I might have to come get him. He wasn't joking. I waited. I prayed. And I was ready to call 911 to place him in the que for rescue. I finally heard from him again a couple of hours later. The Lord sent a utility truck that was able to guide him through the water and out. He took this picture as he was driving.
I finally began making a list of my friends whose homes flooded. I'm writing them all down so I can keep up with them, so there's not one at all that I forget to pray over. The list is long. The stories are heart-wrenching.
There's the 6:00AM phone call that woke my sweet friend up . . . her vehicles were already submerged, water was rushing into her home and they had about five minutes to get out.
There's the friend and her husband who carried their 4-year old and 2-year old through knee deep water and away from their flooding home.
There's the friend who had to leave so quickly that everything was left behind . . . clothes, electronic devices, pictures, important documents. Needless to say, the five feet of water that entered her house took it all.
There's the friend who had to evacuate to her son's house. But so did her daughter because her house flooded, too.
I'll just stop right there. But I could keep on going. So now that the waters have receded and folks are getting back to their homes (although some still can't because there's still too much water, and it's only accessible by boat), the hard work begins. And it's so overwhelming! Where do you even begin?! You have to empty the contents. Then you have to rip out floors and walls and insulation. Everything. Maybe you had flood insurance, and maybe you didn't. Again, this has never happened like this before! But it's not just you. It's all your neighbors, too. And your parents. And your friends. And you family. It's entire towns and neighborhoods and subdivisions. Even being here, living through it, seeing it . . . it's hard to believe and nearly impossible to describe.
In times like these, I just keep asking myself the same question over and over again. What can I do? The task seems . . . insurmountable! Impossible! But I have to DO something. What can I do? With the sheer volume of devastation and families and homes affected, I feel like any contribution make is so insignificant. But when I go back to what Jesus told Peter . . . hands and feet . . . that's the answer. That's what it's all about. I looked at my list of names. So long. But I was aware of two specific requests from two of my friends. So that's what I did.
The kids and I drove out to Central today and picked up laundry from two of my friends. Yes, laundry. I read an article on the internet on how to clean and disinfect clothing after a flood. Did you know they need to be washed in a disinfectant, like pinesol, first? Well, I didn't either. As we were driving, it was hard. The piles of debris . . . furniture, mattresses, flooring, sheetrock, insulation, Christmas decorations . . . at the end of each driveway were nearly bigger than the houses themselves. There were two houses in particular where the homeowners had just thrown everything out the front door and were pushing it across their yard and to the road with a tractor.
My friends' houses were covered in sludge. That's the best word I can use to describe it. Washers, dryers and refrigerators were completely turned over. Furniture was just wherever it landed after the water swept it all over the room. It's stuff. It's just stuff. And all of my friends and their children and their families are safe. They are all smiling. But I will not lie. This is hard. And I didn't flood!
Some of the laundry was in garbage bags, some in big rubbermaid tubs. My friend's brother loaded the tubs into the back of my truck so I never even lifted them until I got home. I was shocked at how heavy they were. I couldn't believe how much clothing must've been packed in them. I could barely carry them by myself (of course, it's not like I'm known for upper body strength anyway!). Once I got them inside and to the laundry room, I opened them up. And that's when I realized why they were so heavy. The clothes were soaking wet. I mean, what did I expect? When you get five feet of water in your house, the clothes in your drawers and even some of the clothes in your closet are going to get wet. Wet with muddy, stinky, brown water.
I've never been so excited about doing laundry in my whole entire life! It seems so small, so insignificant. But when I saw my friends today and they handed over their bedding and sheets and children's clothes and shoes, I knew it wasn't at all insignificant to them. And I am so honored that they put the need out there and that they willingly gave me their laundry today.
I'm not sharing this with you to brag about washing clothes for someone whose house flooded. Not at all. I'm sharing this with you to encourage you. Maybe you, like me, feel overwhelmed, too. You want to help, to DO something, but you don't know where to begin. You "offering" seems so small, so meager. You feel like you can't possibly make a difference. You can! Yes, you can!
Just find one person. One. That's it. Maybe you can wash their clothes. Maybe you can take them a meal. I have a friend who is preparing casseroles for her friends who flooded so they can stick them in the freezer and then pull them out at the end of a long day of renovations. Even if you don't personally know anyone affected by this, there are still ways you can serve! Maybe you can get on social media and share about opportunities for serving others and help mobilize other volunteers just like you and me. Maybe you can even go and serve at one of the shelters or churches. Maybe you can provide coloring books or toiletry items for a family. It really doesn't take much to be hands and feet. It just takes heart. And we've got a whole lot of that!
As devastating as this is, we have been given such an incredible opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to minister to folks and to meet needs, to remind people that there is HOPE! Yes, there is, because of Jesus! That's what I love about this. I love seeing the church come together, the body of Christ coming together. That's what I love because that's what I'm convinced we're supposed to be and what I know is going to make a difference.
If you want to serve but don't know where to go, here are a few (and I mean only a FEW, as there are so many other churches and organizations involved in recovery and restoration, too) ideas (and if you aren't local to Louisiana but still want to "do something," you can make financial donations to any of these churches or organizations as well):
Istrouma Baptist Church
Healing Place Church
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief
Maybe you don't live in Louisiana, and you don't have flooded out homes and people in your backyard. Well, you know somebody . . . at least one person . . . who needs something . . . maybe a meal or their grass cut or their toilets cleaned or a ride to the store or even an encouraging card in the mail. Yep, as simple as that.
Hands and feet. Let's do this. Because if we want to see lives changed and hearts mended and hurts healed, we have to be the hands and feet. We have to be all in. We have to be passionate. So, find your one. Because it only takes one to make all the difference in the world!