Monday, September 19, 2016

Please pray.

I really had no intention of blogging again about the flood.  But there's something that's been stirring in my soul for almost three weeks now.  

It's been a month and a week.  It's been a month and a week since the waters came and filled homes and businesses and churches and schools.  It's been a month and a week since the highways were turned into rivers passable only by boat.  It's been a month and a week since thousands watched helpless as the waters rose higher and higher, swallowing everything in its path.  It's been a month and a week since families trudged away (or swam or boated) from their homes in knee deep, or even chest deep, water, leaving behind heirlooms and furniture and vehicles and family photos and the entire contents of their homes that would be destroyed by the waters.

A dear friend called last night to chat.  One of the questions she asked me was, "How's it going out there?"  I realize that people who don't live here don't realize, don't know . . .

This has been a very long, very hard month.  

People are still living in shelters.  Several shelters closed last week, and those "residents" were moved to other shelters still open.  But now those shelters are supposed to close this week.  I don't know where those people are going to go.  I heard earlier today that 600 people are without shelter right now.  Many of these people are disabled and/or elderly.  Many of these people are not only homeless, but they have no jobs, no transportation.

People are homeless.  People are living in hotels or apartments or rentals, although those options are now scarce.  People are living in campers.  People are living with friends or relatives.  People are living in their gutted out homes.  Yes.  People are living in their shell of a home without walls and appliances and cabinets and flooring.  Because at least it's a place to stay, a shelter.  People are sleeping on lawn chairs because they can't afford to buy a new bed.  That's a true story.

Debris is still piled up in front yards exactly where it was left a month or more ago when homes were gutted.  A friend told me last weekend that she doesn't even go back to her gutted house anymore because she just can't stand to see the pile of debris still waiting to be picked up.  And the stench from these piles is just overwhelming.  The trucks are rolling daily, but it's estimated that not quite half of the debris has been picked up at this point. So we're still looking at it, still smelling it.

The last school system finally welcomed students back last week.  Many of our schools were so badly damaged that they are unable to open right now.  So that means campuses are actually hosting multiple schools.  Flood damage to Denham Springs' schools is currently estimated at $100 million.  Denham Springs High was not able to reopen because of the extent of the damage there.  There is no estimate for when it might reopen or if any of the buildings are even salvageable.  So those 3,000 students will attend Live Oak High this school year.  Live Oak students attend school from 6:30AM until 11:30AM.  They leave, and Denham students arrive at 12:40PM.  Their school day ends at 5:30PM.  Several schools are platooning students on similar schedules.

It seems like we'd be so much farther along at this point.  Even those who are motivated and wanting to rebuild and repair are at a stand still.  Their homes are gutted.  They've been dried out and treated for mold remediation.  They're ready for drywall.  But there's so much uncertainty regarding building permits and elevation requirements.  Homeowners are still waiting on FEMA and local governments to decide if their homes will now require elevating before they rebuild.  And, for many, that's a deal breaker.  

I saw a sweet friend for a few minutes last week.  She, her husband and their two small children have been living with friends.  The Lord provided a rental for them so they were supposed to move this past weekend.  They were just waiting on appliances to be delivered.  They were given mattresses, bed frames, a sofa and a table and chairs.  She said they have been abundantly blessed and have all they need.  Can I just tell you how much she encouraged me?!  She even said this has been a "good thing" for her family!  Yes.  Those were her exact words.  Every single time I talk to her or hear from her, she's just glowing with the peace and love of Christ, even in the midst of a horrible situation.  I asked her how the repairs were coming on her house.  They took on between four and five feet of water.  She said they aren't.  They aren't doing anything.  They still don't know yet if they're going to be required to elevate.  The cost of doing so would be around $167,000 for them.  And keep in mind they still need sheetrock and insulation and flooring and cabinets and everything else!  She said if they are required to elevate, they will have no choice but to put a for sale sign in their yard.  That's only one story of many.  

A lot of families have already decided to sell their homes "as is."  Many businesses are not going to reopen.  I've even heard of several of the smaller churches that most likely will not open their doors again.  So these are hard times for so many.  Just hard.

There were two times that the reality of this hit me so hard that the tears came.  The week prior to the flood, I had deactivated my Facebook account.  As we watched the news and heard what was going on, I quickly began trying to contact all of my friends who I knew lived in the affected areas.  Some I heard back from but many I did not.  And then we lost cell phone service for a couple of days.  I was still trying to get in touch with so many.  So I activated my Facebook account.  I was in shock.  Utter shock.

This is one of the first pictures I saw.  This was the first time I cried.

Obviously, this was Judah's bedroom.  He's six years old.  His mom is a dear, sweet friend of mine.  We first met about four years ago at BSF.  She joined our class in the spring, and she was in my small group at the time.  The following year I served as a children's leader.  I had the honor of teaching her twins.  They were two years old at the time.  The next year I taught the four-year-old class, and I had the honor of teaching her sweet Judah.  I know these children.  I taught these children.  I gave them hugs and played beside them and with them.  And their mom, my friend, well, she's a gem!  She's one of the most humble, gracious, godly women I know!  She and her husband relocated here a few years ago from the northwest.  Her friendship has been a treasure.  When I saw this picture of Judah's room and that "Happy Birthday Judah" sign floating on the thigh-deep water, I cried.  Yes, it's just stuff.  Yes, it can all be replaced.  Yes, this family is safe, and the Lord has provided mightily for them in the days since.  But I just couldn't help but think about that birthday and the gifts Judah had been given . . . what a happy, joyous day that had been.  And I couldn't help but wonder how this sweet boy feels now.

This sweet friend also had a piano in her home.  It succumbed to the waters, too.

And the second time I cried?  Well.  A sweet friend posted a conversation she overheard between her children.  They were playing a game outside.  Here's what she said:

Our kids have walked through this flood so courageously; far greater than I. But to hear them outside playing "flood" as if it was the norm, simply wrecks me in a way I cannot explain.

Oldest sibling to younger ones: "Okay. We need to talk. We have to move this tree and I need your help. And it's real so I really need your help."
Praying that our Father would protect their tender hearts through this, that they would come to know this isn't normal and that they would see God's restoration and that His plan is far greater... Beyond what we can grasp.  His way is perfect.

Again, I know these children and this precious family.  I taught these children at BSF.  Their momma is one of the best!  And my heart just aches for them.  Oh, how it does.

As I've been thinking about all of this, processing all of this . . . and wanting to DO SOMETHING but not knowing what in the world to do and not even having the resources with which to do it, I've been reminded . . .

Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples!
Shout to God with the voice of triumph!
For the LORD Most High is awesome;
He will subdue the peoples under us,
and the nations under our feet.
He will choose our inheritance for us,
the excellence of Jacob whom He loves.
~Psalm 47:1-4

The Lord brought me to that Psalm about two weeks ago.  And I couldn't help but recall Natalie Grant's King of the World . . . that song has spoken to me so powerfully, so deeply this past month.  The Lord has used that song to encourage me, to quiet me, to still me.  The Lord has used that song and that Psalm to speak into circumstances in my life that I'm so frustrated with, so discouraged by.

If you're reading this, and you are struggling through a flood . . . whether that's a result of the waters on August 13, 2016 or because of some other hard place in your life, this is for you:

Natalie Grant
I tried to fit you in the walls inside my mind.
I try to keep you safely in between the lines.
I try to put you in the box that I've designed.
I try to pull you down so we are eye to eye.

When did I forget that you've always been the King of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the King of the world.
How could I make You so small
when you're the One who holds it all?
When did I forget that you've always been the king of the world?

Just a whisper of Your voice can tame the seas.
So who am I to try to take the lead?
Still I run ahead and think I'm strong enough
when you're the One who made me from the dust.
When did I forget that you've always been the King of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the King of the world.
How could I make You so small
when you're the One who holds it all?
When did I forget that you've always been the king of the world?

Oh, you set it all in motion . . .
Every single moment . . .
You brought it all to me.
And You're holding on to me.
When did I forget that you've always been the King of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the King of the world.
How could I make You so small
when you're the One who holds it all?
When did I forget that you've always been the king of the world?

To all of my friends who are struggling because of these waters . . . I am praying for you!  I have not stopped praying for you, and I will not stop praying for you and your families and your children!  If you have a specific prayer request that you would like me to pray over, please call me or text me.  I'm here for you!

To all of my people who are reading this from outside the borders of the state of Louisiana, will you please join me in prayer?  I know you haven't heard a single solitary thing about what's going on here lately.  I know you don't know about the struggle.  But it's real.  I've seen God provide EXCEEDINGLY ABUNDANTLY MORE than we've asked and imagined (Ephesians 3:20) . . . will you please keep asking and beseeching the Father on behalf of these families?  Please pray for quick resolution regarding all of the elevation and permit issues, please pray for shelter for those who don't have it, please pray that God will sustain these families and give them the strength and grace to persevere through this, please pray that He will continue to provide the needed financial and physical resources, please pray that souls will be SAVED and that God will be glorified in and through this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I pray for the flood victims and will continue to do so. I have been bountifully blessed and thank God daily for giving to our country and our citizens such abundance. It is heart-warming to hear that Christians who are living with these circumstances can still praise God for providing all that is needed to overcome the "flood waters" of life.