In July of 1994, Tropical Storm Alberto dumped 27 inches of rain in less than 24 hours in south central Georgia. A day later, Albany and much of the surrounding area was under water. Lives were lost. So were homes, cars, businesses, and churches. My first full-time pastorate, Calvary Baptist Church was six feet under. At First Baptist Albany, the church I was then serving in, over 100 families lost homes and businesses. We mobilized as a feeding center for first responders, cooked the food that was brought to shelters, and housed hundreds from the National Guard. Twenty-three years later, the memories are vivid and the emotions of those days still accessible. And the stories, remembered in detail, are too long and too many to tell here.
This week, the floods have come to Texas and again threaten its neighbor to the east. We sit on the storm-prone opposite side of the same gulf, overwhelmed by the images, pondering a response that goes beyond thoughts and prayers. We will begin by designating this Sunday’s benevolence offering to Hurricane Harvey relief. Our first wave of support will go to Florida Baptist Disaster Relief. This ministry sets the gold standard for being ready, willing, and able to step into crisis situations. They are poised to provide food, clean water, debris clearing, and child care in the early days after a disaster. The work continues with laundry, portable showers, and eventually the work of rebuilding. They also provide chaplains; one of those is our own Kelvin Foster. The work of this group in times like these is immeasurable. They make maximum impact in the toughest of situations. But perhaps their greatest gift is being and sharing Christ, one act of coordinated kindness at a time. I was proud to work closely with these folks in ’94, and have admired and supported their work in every disaster situation over the years.
In time, we will no doubt find other ways to help these devastated folks. I am hoping to share news of coordinated efforts to get the most needed supplies there. I remember how trucks would show up unannounced with just what we needed in them. God orchestrates miracles like that. In time, I am hopeful we can perhaps send a team of our own to help with the recovery. Trust me, that work will go on for months and years – long past their days in the headline news. I remember what it was like to be dependent of the help of others to survive and rebuild. And what a joy and privilege it is to do that for others. We will start Sunday and join others in making footprints on the long road to recovery.