By Page Brooks
I have been sitting at my home office desk all day seeing pictures on Facebook of the Houston devastation. About every five minutes my phone buzzes with texts from the National Guard chaplains that I supervise. We have been placed on alert for possible activation with flooding in Louisiana.
I hear the “ding” of another email from fellow pastors across the Gulf South who are dealing with evacuations. On top of all this, it is the twelfth anniversary of Katrina. Pictures bring back old feelings from the loss of previous natural disasters. Just three weeks ago, our family van was flooded because of local floods here in New Orleans. Such is life along the Gulf Coast.
These situations remind me of two things. Isaiah 43:2 is a verse that we often cling to in events like these: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you pass through the waters, they will not sweep over you.” While I try not to over-spiritualize the verse, it is a great reminder to me that God is with us right now. Sometimes he calms the storm; sometimes he delivers us from it; but most often God is simply here with us in the middle of it. I come to know his peace best right in the middle of the storm.
To my fellow pastors and churches who can help, please come. The entire area needs people, money, and supplies.
I am also reminded that the possessions we cling to in this life are temporary. I am forced to focus on what really counts.
To my fellow pastors and churches who are in the middle of this catastrophe, I remind you that our hearts and spirits are with you and that God is with all of us. Words cannot express the grief we share with you in the immensity of this storm. We will probably not know the full effects for weeks to come.
Be sure to practice self-care. People are depending upon you, and the only One we can draw strength from is the Father. Know that we are praying that your encounters with God would be extraordinarily refreshing.
To my fellow pastors and churches who can help, please come. The entire area needs people, money, and supplies. The first stage will be cleanup, then gutting out, and then finally rebuilding. Each stage requires massive amounts of human labor and also money to buy supplies and building materials. It will be a multi-year effort.
Above all, let us pray that this will be a time when people will understand their heart’s need for God. Material possessions, while painful to lose, can literally be swept away at any time regardless of the circumstances. Pray that the ministry opportunities in the evacuations and recovery efforts will allow us to speak the love of God to people who desperately need it.
Page Brooks is the lead pastor of Mosaic Church in New Orleans, a National Guard chaplain, and associate professor of theology and culture at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.