In the aftermath of catastrophic flooding in the Gulf region, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance continues to provide assistance to victims of the disaster.
The flooding the weekend of August 13–14 dumped nearly 22 inches of rain in parts of Louisiana and other Gulf states, according to the National Weather Service. The American Red Cross and other agencies said it was the worst natural disaster to strike the United States since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and some said the damage was more widespread than in Hurricane Katrina.
“Presbyterian Disaster Assistance joins the whole church in expressing its sadness and extended prayerful support to our neighbors in southern Louisiana and Mississippi in the wake of the flooding,” said Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, coordinator for PDA. “We are grateful for the church’s faithful past giving and support of One Great Hour of Sharing, which has enabled PDA to make financial resources immediately available to affected communities.”
The office of the Presbytery of South Louisiana was among the thousands of buildings damaged by flooding.
“We had 14 inches of water inside, right below the electrical outlets, so power was not disturbed,” said Tom Tucker, the presbytery’s treasurer and assistant stated clerk. “Everything, all of the furniture, floors, bottom cabinet drawers, and shelves, were soaked. The force of swelling in some of the soaked files even bent the door on the cabinet.” Crews were called in to pull up carpet, remove drywall, and begin the process of drying out. Two churches offered classrooms as temporary offices for the presbytery.
The damage was worse for Faith Presbyterian Church, next door to the presbytery office.
“I measured 27 inches in the sanctuary,” Tucker said. “The education building got three and a half feet, so nothing survived in there.”
Water reached even higher levels in some neighborhoods. “There were entire subdivisions with water up to the rooftops, and many of the homes can’t be gutted,” Tucker said. “I’m fearful entire subdivisions will end up getting bulldozed and have to be rebuilt.”
Victims of the flooding included many people whose health was already compromised. Tucker visited with those being treated for diabetes and other illnesses at nearby medical shelters.
“The people I talked with were disoriented. They had been in nursing homes and were suddenly moved to a shelter and then moved to another shelter and moved again to a medical center,” he said. They were thankful for the care, he added, “but there’s a lot of psychological trauma that could begin to surface—and that’s a heartbreaker.”
University Presbyterian Church, which did not sustain damage in the flooding, opened its doors as a shelter for women who had just given birth.
“We did this after Hurricane Katrina. We have a partnership with Women’s Hospital and have extended that partnership with other hospitals,” said the church’s pastor, Rev. Patty Snyder. The church turned five Sunday school rooms into places for families to stay so that families with newborns could stay together.
The Presbytery of South Louisiana was contacted by FEMA to use the presbytery’s retreat facility for volunteer training and housing. Kraus said churches in Baton Rouge and neighboring presbyteries were quick to offer housing for volunteers and other assistance.
“Flooding has been a particularly vexing challenge throughout the South Central and Southeastern states for more than a year, a cascading disaster that demands a sustained, long-term response,” Kraus said. “I am moved by the faithfulness of the church, and think of words in the eighth chapter of the Song of Songs—‘many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.’”
Rick Jones, Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: Presbytery of South Louisiana
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PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
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Gracious God, where there is every reason to be hopeless, overcome hopelessness with hope, so that the world may see communities of people come alive, reborn and renewed in Christ’s name. Amen.