Though we all know from the words of Jesus Himself (and of course through our own experience) that this world is fallen and in need, and that it is constantly struggling and crying out, it is still a struggle to come to grips with the stark reality of seeing lives shattered.
In what is beginning to feel like a never-ending, cyclical storyline of grief, there was yet another flooding in the gulf this year that tore apart lives, hopes, dreams and livelihoods. An unprecedented 6,900,000,000,000 gallons of water fell. Seven trillion gallons in one week leading to the devastation of over forty thousand homes, many without any flood protection because the elevation of their homes had given the impression that there was no need for it.
It is into these moments that Christ walks, and He most often does it through us, His followers.
Answering a Call to Action
On the weekend of September 2/4, Jeff announced that Chase Oaks would be sending any volunteers who could make it to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, one of the hardest hit areas from the flooding, the following week, all expenses paid, to do what they could and help in the clean-up efforts. Ten beautiful souls volunteered their time and energy away from work and their lives to bring hope in whatever way they could to the people of Baton Rouge who hadn’t much left in terms physical possessions, but proved through their words and actions that in the spiritual, they were vibrant and alive.
Paddy Feller, one of the Chase Oaks volunteers, shared:
“What memory stands out the most? As cliché as it sounds, it’s the resilience of the people there. Eighty percent of the homes and businesses in Denham Springs (a suburb of Baton Rouge) were affected by the floods. Most of the people lost everything, yet they were there doing what it took to get back on track.”
She continued, “We talked to an elderly man (84) in the food line who was there getting meals for him and his wife. He said he lost both his rental property and his own home in the flood. His home had been paid off for five years, but he didn’t have flood insurance. He said, ‘It has never flooded here before.’ He was quick to add, ‘If it wasn’t for my faith in the good Lord, Jesus Christ, I don’t know where I’d be.’ People like him and people like the store clerk who was living with friends because he lost everything, to people like Troy and Granny, all showed us resilience. You could just feel it there.”
“… the one thing that was consistent with every person we ran into was an attitude of thankfulness. Thankful that they were alive, and yet they lost all their physical possessions. It’s a great reminder that the things we tend to spend a lot of time doing, decorating, consuming and acquiring, in the end it’s the people in our lives that really matter. These are the things that last,” commented Tracy Parlin, Chase Oaks Legacy Campus Outreach Director.
Day one was a grimy one for the team as they spent the day cleaning out a storage shed packed to the brim with items that had spent three weeks sitting in dirty water, growing and hiding all sorts of things in the humidity and heat. Cockroaches and rodents were nestled away throughout the belongings, but regardless of this (or their personal feelings towards them), the team labored together with the single mother, LeeAnn, who owned the property, side by side to empty it out and sort through its contents.
Day two they went to the home of a couple who had already managed to empty their belongings and began tearing out sheet rock and pulling nails from the shiplap siding. Though they didn’t spend much time with the homeowner here, they were grateful for a reprieve later in the day when the owner brought them ice cream and sat with them talking about the day of the flood.
When we serve God, there are beautiful moments when He brings people across our path to minister to and whose stories touch our hearts. The team met a man named Troy who even in the middle of difficulty prayed to God daily not to give him stuff back, but to take his sins and allow him to be a good father to the children that had been forced to grow up without their dad while he was in prison. In a spirit of grace, the Chase Oakers were able to buy him some new shoes to wear as the ones he had were too small and had been given to him by someone else. The Spirit of God moved as they gathered around him to pray.
There are also times when we are ministered to by those we aim to serve. As the team took a break outside, Granny came over and handed out hats as she sprayed them with Febreeze to freshen them up. She had seen the group working hard out in the heat and sun without protection and wanted to make sure they were covered up. They asked if they could pray for her, and she responded that they could pray for her town and the young ones like her grandson.
“Granny shared with us that ‘Young kids only know this world like it is since 9/11,’ — so many tragedies and unrest. Her grandson asked her why God was angry with people, and it broke her heart to try and explain that God wasn’t angry,” said Paddy.
Although it was just three short days, September 7–10, the 10 members of the team not only ministered and worked hard, but they were also ministered to. All of us at Chase Oaks thank the team who went (Tracy Parlin, Mary Jane Ballard, Paddy Feller, Amanda Chin, Sarah Schwarz, Jane Hopper, Camille Lindsey, Tim Norwood, Julius Henry, and Jon Nelson) from the bottom of our hearts for their service and for representing not only of the Body of Christ, but also for shining the spirit of Chase Oaks Church.