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

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A Prostate Prayer: Recovery

Six weeks ago, my urologist told me that I had prostate cancer.  A week ago, I had surgery to remove my prostate. Today I am recovering from that surgery and marveling at the medical technology that has been brought to bear on my condition. I am cancer free. Who knew that they could do all of that?

Having been present with friends and church members at a fair number of surgeries and procedures, I had an idea of what was possible. Somehow the feeling is different when one is the recipient of the benefit of so much of the wisdom and art of modern medicine.  The wonder of it all seems a bit larger.

Yet, I have not simply been the recipient of great medical care through this ordeal. I have also been ministered to through the prayers and acts of mercy of the people of God.  The church has demonstrated well what it means to be the body of Christ. Who knew they could do all that? Of course, I had an idea, but again, somehow the feeling is different when one is the beneficiary of so much of the love and concern of God’s people.

I came home from the hospital feeling better than I expected and the first week was a daily reminder of the care and compassion of church members and friends. All I had to do was rest, watch television, surf the web and enjoy the meals that were arranged for each day.

Reading the newspaper during one of those recovery days, I was reminded that I live in a county where the biology used in our county high schools is being protested by some well meaning servant of the Lord because it is too scientific and not respectful enough of religion.  It is the latest manifestation of the seemingly ageless conflict between science and religion.  Yet, this time it is different for me. This time I am keenly aware of the efficacy of a medical system that rest on the foundations of an evolutionary understanding of biology.

The truth of the matter is that every advance in medicine in the last 50 years was made by someone who studied biology from a perspective that was not hostile to Darwinian influence.  We live longer, fuller lives, because of their efforts and dedication. Some of the people who have made these advances are people of faith. They manage to do cutting edge scientific research and believe in God.  The two ideas are not mutually exclusive. Believing in God and being a good scientist is a rich and meaningful way to live a life that is pleasing to God and beneficial to humanity.

For those who want to protest the teaching that goes on in our public schools with regard to science education, the more germane place to protest might be the local hospital. The hospitals, the doctor’s offices and the surgery centers are the places where all that science education ultimately gets put into practice. If those who cannot reconcile a religious understanding of God’s creative activity with Darwin’s theory of evolution wish to eliminate the latter’s influence on their lives, then they should demonstrate their resolve by refusing the care of those educated and trained in modern science.  This mode of protest would be far better for the rest of us as it would not subject the science education of future doctors, scientists and researchers to the fundamentalist fears of overzealous religionists.  Many churches have their own schools.  Let them teach whatever they want to teach and call it science. However, do let good science be taught in our schools meant to serve the common good of us all.

For several years, I was the pastor of a church in a farming community.  I have many fond memories of those people and the lessons they taught me. When I go grocery shopping, I think of them. I get especially nostalgic when I am in the peanut butter aisle. Some of those peanuts could have been grown by a former neighbor.  Food comes from the grocery store in a way similar to medical care coming from the hospital.  The hospital is the point of delivery, but what is offered there is the result hard, often innovative work in laboratory and classrooms. Classroom’s where in all likelihood the science was influenced by Darwin and his successors.

The experience of surgery was a new one for me. I am grateful for a good doctor and a fine medical staff. I am equally grateful for all the church members and friends who expressed the love of Christ to me in such amazing ways before, during and after my surgery.  At the same time, I am thankful for those who work, study, learn and develop new procedures, medicines and technologies that I will never know, but have touched my life nonetheless.  I wish religious people would not demonize them so. They do much good.