Baton Rouge: Disaster Relief

Baton Rouge had been a city rocked by racial tension prior to the flood. During the flood whites helped blacks and blacks helped whites, poor helped rich and rich helped poor. Everybody helped each other. The attitude in the city today is the friendliest of any place I have ever been. Everyone speaks to everyone else and everyone seems to be sincerely interested in helping one another.

This disaster relief trip required a rapid response. As a result, we only had weeks to put together a mission trip in order to respond to a call for help in Baton Rouge. We were able to recruit a team of seven to go even with short notice.

The team was made up of Fred Blackmon, Lawrence Benson, Tom Bradley, Tony Downer, Bill Elliott and Sharon Ferguson. I was the seventh and leader.

Our contact in Baton Rouge was Jon James. Jon is a JFBC member working and going to school in Baton Rouge. The LSU Campus is his location while he attends seminary. Jon attends the nearby Living Hope Fellowship Church, a 10 year old church plant with maybe 175-200 members. It is a young congregation. It was started by a group of LSU students who felt a church was needed in the area. They do not have a building of their own. They share a building with Grace Baptist Church. The partnership of the two churches has been positive and both churches have grown as a result. 

The Living Hope Fellowship Church members provided three homes and three meals a day at no expense for the team. Breakfast was at the host home, lunch was delivered to the work site by church members and we had dinner at the church building so that the team had some time together not working. We used that time as a devotional time plus sharing experiences about God working in our lives. It was good to have this time with the church members we were partnering with.

The task at hand was projected that we could complete the job in one day. As soon as the team arrived, I knew this would be a 2-3 day job at best. The house was crammed full of contents and the church thought it was empty only needing sheetrock removal. All contents removed had to be loaded on a trailer and moved about ¼ mile to the paved road and off loaded. It was a laborious and time consuming process.

This was the final mud-out job the church was planning to undertake. When we completed this job the church was planning to loan our team to another church that still had mud-out work to do. As it turned out we spent four days with Rightor. We completely cleaned out his home and it can now dry out properly. He should be able to begin to rebuild as soon as FEMA provides some funds.

While protecting my team on the highway, unloading the trailer, I stopped many cars. I had a chance to talk to a huge number of strangers. I told them what we were doing and why we were there. I was amazed at how many offered to get out of their cars and come to help us for several hours. Then I learned that 160,000 homes had been flooded and some were still under water while my team was in Baton Rouge. 100% of the community was impacted. If your home was not flooded you had a family move in with you that had been flooded. For the next two years, people will be working on recovery. Everybody is in the same boat.