When You Pass Through The Waters, I Will Be With You
Written by Pastor Jim Law
I have lived in south Louisiana since 1988 and have been through a number of disasters. Hurricane Katrina has redefined life for those of us along the I-10 corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Often conversations in our area are prefaced with, “Since Katrina….”
The flood waters of August 2016 will also serve as a benchmark of devastation for years to come. It was painful to watch the radar as a stalled weather system churned like a washing machine for four days over south Louisiana dumping massive amounts of water on a region of the country that can’t bear much. When all was said and done, the Baton Rouge area received over 26 inches of rain, according to data from the National Weather Service, shattering records and shoving rivers over their banks.
A number of news outlets tried to help us get our minds around the amount of water that fell in those days. Ryan Miller with USA Today wrote that if the total from each rain gauge from the affected area topped together it would be 630 inches, or over 50 feet, which puts it well above the Lincoln Memorial statue and almost as deep as the White House is tall. From height to gallons, Miller referenced the town of Livingston, LA. which received 25.5 inches in four days. Which means Livingston, a town with just over three square miles, received over one billion gallons of water. (USAToday, August 17, 2016)
With our church (FBCG) right in the middle of the flooding, it meant an opportunity for us as a Body to serve and help not only the seventeen families in our congregation who were devastated, but also a community where over 15,000 homes and business were impacted.
With so many people hurting and wondering where to go and how to begin again, it was a wonderful time to give hope through the Gospel and to offer practical help in Christ’s name. Reflections on the flood of 2016 brought to mind the following for me:
1. Connection of the Body of Christ to meet massive needs. What a joy to partner with local churches in Ascension parish, and throughout the country, for “hands-on” ministry. We were deeply moved by fellow Christians who took time off work and other demands in their lives to come to south Louisiana to labor in the nastiest of conditions. You haven’t lived until you pick up a freezer filled with beef after soaking in flood water for seven days. Needless to say, it was a moving experience. Hundreds have come to conditions like these and have served others sacrificially and joyfully in Jesus’ name.
2. Love your neighbor as yourself. The aftermath of the flood of 2016 had moments of great encouragement especially in seeing how it brought all of us out of our routines to connect with others in meaningful ways. The flood pressed into service the “Cajun Navy” which was made up of average people who used their boats and trucks and resources to rescue people off of roofs and from many other perilous situations.
We had a deacon in our Body who rescued one of the mothers in our church who was stranded on Interstate 12 after it had been closed because of water. She and her three little ones were stranded there. He roared up in his truck and brought them home. The last six weeks have been filled with such efforts. As our nation staggers through a difficult time where tensions are high and suspicions are great, believers in Christ are called to love others in sacrificial ways, so that it is clear that true reconciliation comes in Christ, and His love has the power to right any ship.
One man said to me as we had dispatched a work crew to his house for clean up, “Why are you people doing this?” Here was a man with no resources and no family that could help him. What a joy to share with him the hope found in Christ.
3. The Promises of God give in the Scripture. Isaiah 43:1-3 has come to my mind many times over the last six weeks,
“But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
The Lord was reminding Israel that He had redeemed them from Egypt in the past, and that He would bring them back to their homeland from captivity. He had called them by name to be His covenant people, and consequently He would shepherd them and protect them….even through great trials.
This passage is a tremendous comfort for God’s people as we walk through the worst of times. When we pass through the waters, He has pledged to be with us, no matter what may come.