Story - as written by Jason Granger
As a new parent, I wake up throughout the night every few hours. But during the early morning hours of Friday, March 11 as the rain came down pretty steady, I found myself constantly checking my backyard to monitor the rising waters in between the feedings and diaper changes. I honestly didn't think much of the Flash Flood warnings that blared from our phones throughout the night, but since moving to Hammond from Amite - well, I am more aware that waters rise a bit quicker on the south end of the parish and my backyard always seems to hold water.
It all became real when I received a phone call from the Elsenrath's just down the street and around the corner. Amber stated that water was beginning to enter their home and that they were in the process of finding a way out. So the day started around 6AM with that call. And in the following hours, texts and calls began to come in checking on my own family. Without a TV, we usually get our news from local news station apps, but in this case, Facebook was constantly being updated with the situation.
Just after lunch, Tim, Audrey, Ryan and I got on a conference call to determine what we should do. How do we respond to this? I'm not sure we really understood the scope of this disaster, as it was still happening and would continue through the weekend. But we knew we had to do something. We knew that we had to mobilize our church to respond. Our first priority was to check on members of The Harbor. Second was to set up a way to take in needs and volunteers through our website. Third, to get the word out. And fourth, to plan our weekend SERVE Teams.
We certainly had a positive response from members of The Harbor to do whatever was necessary to help flood victims. From providing a space to sleep and shower, offering to babysit, and of course, the physical work of cleaning out homes once the waters receded, our SERVE Teams were ready. And as we got the word out about our flood relief efforts through Facebook, requests starting compiling. By that night, about 20 families had requested help with lodging and clean up and more needs were coming our way from the community.
Members from The Harbor that were willing and able to help showed up to the church offices about 9AM on Saturday. After a quick run-down of the plan for the day, we sent them out into 3 specific areas - Whitmar Acres, Beckie Drive, and Sontheimer Road. These Flood Relief teams helped to clean out 5 homes and provided sandbags to 9 families who were still in the process of fighting rising waters. Sunday morning, a good crew of about 50-60 members of The Harbor showed up to be the church - undeterred by the unplanned nature of a natural disaster and the response that follows. We sent them out to clean up 6 or so homes. Over the course of the next three days through Wednesday, smaller groups of people were sent out to respond to developing needs - especially from members of The Harbor. Understandably, people still have work and school and other responsibilities, but as people became able and available, we did what we could.
Honestly, in the face of any disaster, storm or life in general, that's all we can do - our best. As the opportunities to show compassion in action come up, we're called to use our freedom to serve others (Galatians 5:13). That freedom is not simply a free-from-sin life in Christ. Deeper than that, it's the freedom of time, energy and money to serve others in whatever situation they find themselves in - poverty, hunger, slavery and even as victims of unplanned natural disasters. This past week proved that The Harbor is still a house that holds service and compassion as a central tenant, an integral part of our DNA. Over the course of the next few weeks, you'll be able to hear stories from homeowners that received help and members of The Harbor who served our community on Flood Relief teams.
We hope these stories of compassion will remind us of our purpose, encourage and inspire us in the unplanned and unfortunate situations we may find our community, and spur us on to greater acts of kindness - both in the context of disaster and everyday life.
If you have a story you'd like to share from this past week, please submit it online here.