A Note from Chris Adams: We have all seen the devastation of disasters across the country recently. We know Christ is with us in these times, and He also asks His people to help when these situations occur. This week Dr. Deb Douglas, First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA, addresses what to do in these kinds of messy experiences.
Deb herself has experienced floods twice. Her son’s family home has been destroyed each time. In fact, her son’s family has lived with them in recent months due to the earlier flooding this year. I watched when New Orleans was devastated by Katrina and watched our seminary respond though they too had to evacuate. My pastor, Robby Gallaty, and his wife Kandi, lost everything in that flood and now her parents have lost everything in the most recent Louisiana floods. We certainly can pray, but we can also act. Today, Deb gives plenty of tangible ways we can assist when disasters happen.
I live in Louisiana. We have a lot of disasters in this state.
Today, my son, daughter-in-law, and 2 grands are moving out of my house and back into their home. They arrived at my house in the middle of the night over 5 months ago, soaking wet, exhausted, and in shock from the devastation of the flood that impacted northwest Louisiana. 4,000 homes in our parish were flooded, and a total of 18,000 were flooded in northwest Louisiana.
And now the southern portion of the state is dealing with floods again. Worse than Hurricane Katrina. Floodwaters bring in disease and mold to every part of a home when it is flooded. It is a mess.
It seems ironic that one family is moving back home as thousands of others in southern Louisiana are just beginning the trials of a flood disaster.
It’s been a messy time. Before the flood, I thought I knew how to minister in the messiness of a disaster. I was wrong. I have learned much as I have watched my son and daughter-in-law survive. Their faith has been strong, and their positive attitudes and hopefulness have been inspiring.
How do we help in the midst of the messiness of a disaster?
Here is what does not work when ministering in a disaster:
- Assuming that all the needs are being met by others or by agencies.
- Forgetting about the victims. This happens quickly.
- Thinking the victims do not need/want to be bothered. Help is needed and wanted!
- Saying, “Call me if you need anything.”
- Thinking that insurance covers all the related expenses.
Here is what does work when ministering in a disaster:
- Prayer! Pray for and with the victims!
- Cards and notes. Encouragement keeps everyone going.
- Do something. Jump in and help by doing something!
- Gift cards! Disasters are expensive. Insurance does not cover all the expenses. Restaurant gift cards give flexibility and offer needed meals. Building supply stories, big box stores, or home décor stores are great for buying those things the insurance will not cover.
- A home-cooked meal. Nothing says love like food, especially when life is busy dealing with the disaster.
- Asking for an update. Disasters last a long time after the news trucks have packed up and left town. Victims need to know they are not alone during the long haul of the disaster.
- Helping with practical needs. Practical everyday things become major obstacles in a flood:
- Washing clothes. In a flood, all the clothes in the house and all the linens have to be washed.
- School supplies, toys, and baby gear (diapers, wipes—all those things needed for babies!)
- Paper products
- Help finding and moving to a temporary home
- Childcare to allow the parents time to deal with the disaster
- Assistance in finding resources and help
- Listening and understanding.
- To the frustration
- To the anger
- To the loneliness
- Referrals to professional counseling
Disasters are messy and they stay messy for months, sometimes years. Victims of disaster will go through the stages of grief, they will struggle, and they will face challenges. With the compassionate love of Christ as our motivation, we can make a difference in this messy time in their lives.
For more help and resources on ministering in the messy, check out Women Reaching Women in Crisis and Steps: Gospel-Centered Recovery or refer to the other articles in the Hurting Women or Ministering in the Messy categories.
Dr. Deb Douglas has served in women’s ministry for over 37 years. Now she spends her time working with Purchased Ministry, a ministry to women in the sex trade industry. Deb is also the Director of Biblical Counseling at First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA. She was the first to graduate from New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary with a Masters degree focusing on women’s ministry and has earned a Doctor of Education in Ministry degree from NOBTS. She is “Pearl” to 3 sweet grand babies, “Mom” to Jared Douglas and Katie Chavis, and wife/sweetheart to Paul Douglas.