Mission Team Report from LaPlace, Louisiana

On August 29, 2012, the home of Valerie and her husband, Wilson, sustained a lot of wind and flood damage as a result of Hurricane Isaac.  In their Saint John the Baptist parish, hundreds of other homes also received flood damage.  Valerie and Wilson moved into their northern LaPlace, LA home about 12 years ago.  During that 12-year period, they never experienced any flooding.

The Mississippi River lies about 2 miles south of Valerie’s home.  Lake Pontchartrain lies about 2 miles to the east, and The Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Area lies less than 2 miles north.  Valerie’s home did not flood during Hurricane Katrina 7 years ago, but when Hurricane Isaac churned inland on August 29, it rained for several days over southern Louisiana.  Mass flooding occurred across several river parishes including Saint John the Baptist Parish where LaPlace is located.  In Saint John’s parish more than 3,500 residents were rescued or evacuated, and unprecedented flooding occurred in more than a dozen subdivisions.  Shifting winds whipped up 8-10-foot tidal surges from Lake Pontchartrain.  This surge sent rushing waters into the streets and homes of thousands of residents, many of whom had never experienced flooding before.

New Wine Christian Fellowship Church in LaPlace turned into a staging area where many responders brought residents who were being taken out of Saint John’s parish.  Valerie’s home took on a lot of water which damaged most of her furniture and flooring.  She also needed a new roof.  Water stood for days, and damage was assessed to be in the thousands.

During the week of November 5-9, working under the umbrella of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Ball Camp Baptist Church, Knoxville, TN, worked in LaPlace to help with disaster relief.  Americorps in partnership with New Wine Christian Fellowship, sent our team to Valerie’s home.  Much work was done while we were there, but much remains to be done.  Valerie and her family have been under a lot of stress in past months as she has not been in good health.  She has survived two brain surgeries, and another is soon needed according to her neurosurgeon.  Please don’t forget Valerie and others like her.  In each flood-damaged  home in these river parishes a family resides.  A family undergoing their own unique stresses.  Some have received help.  Some have not.  Volunteers are still needed to work in these areas.  To receive a real blessing, please pray about becoming Christ’s hands and feet in southern Louisiana.

In Christ’s Love,

Ken and Connie Miller

Disaster Relief Coordinators

Ball Camp Baptist Church

Knoxville, Tennessee

Bad Weather or God’s Punishment?

Why is that every time something bad happens there always seems to be a preacher around to give God the credit for whatever disaster or tragedy that has occurred? John Hagee was one that let us know that Hurricane Katrina was punishment for the wickedness of New Orleans. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson concurred that the attacks of September 11, 2001 were God’s judgment on a sinful nation. Last week, John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, once again saw the judgment of God in a tornado that hit downtown Minneapolis.

Who was God’s target this time? The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was meeting at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Why did Piper assume that the tornado was intended for them? They were discussing sex — homosexuality to be exact. Piper’s understanding of God and homosexuality led him to the conclusion that God sent the tornado “as a gentle but firm” warning to the ELCA to terminate the discussion.

I have read the Bible and I just don’t get it. The Bible talks about sex, and there are even some passages that refer to homosexual behavior; but it is not in proportion to all the disasters and tragedies that preachers blame on it. In contrast, the Scriptures are filled with teachings about the poor and how they are treated. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus begins his preaching ministry by declaring that he has been anointed to bring good news to the poor.

If God were a God that used disaster and tragedy to chastise God’s creation in this fashion, then one would think that individuals and groups that create and perpetuate poverty, along with those who exploit and demean the poor, would be constant targets for such vengeful acts. Such does not appear to be the case, at least according to the preachers who divine such things. Did you hear any of them declaring the banking collapse as God’s punishment for a greedy nation? Maybe some did, and I missed it. If they did, then at least they were being more consistent with scripture. In the Bible, greed seems to bother God much more than homosexuality. In fact, the list of moral and ethical imperatives that receive more ink in the teachings of Jesus than homosexuality is a long one.

Why do we do this to God? I mean, why do we turn the hand of God into an instrument of terrorist threat? You displease God and God will wallop you! How can you fall intimately and passionately in love with a God that is liable to crush you when you mess up? Why would the same God who took on flesh and dwelt among us in order to demonstrate God’s sacrificial love for us, and amazing grace to us, turn around and inflict pain and suffering upon us?

I try to assume that preachers who label devastation and disease as punishment from God mean well. Sometimes I wonder, though, if such characterizations of God only serve to rally their core of constituents. When, in their interpretation of events, small groups of easily picked-on minorities always seem to be the recipients of God’s punishment, I wonder if they are merely giving us permission in a not so subtle way to keep those who are different from us at arms length.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that God can do anything that God chooses to do. I also believe that God does amazing things in the lives of sinners and saints. I just have an increasingly difficult time believing that God uses God’s power to hurt, harm or even kill people. Jesus came to love us, to heal us and to reconcile our broken lives with the One who created us. When we turn away from the offer of that love, we break God’s heart. Yet, God continues to love us, seek us and reach for us even when we turn and run from God. When God wanted to do the very most that God could do to show God’s love for us, God did not send a tornado, or a hurricane, or a terrorist hi-jacked plane. No, when God wanted to love us like we have never been loved, God sent his Son.

May you know that love today and always.