I evacuated just a few days before Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2005. I wanted to stay because the experts said it was moving west of New Orleans, but it hit Mississippi like a freight train. My dad, who was out of state at the time, was wise to order me out of his house. I was in graduate school in Kentucky so I had a place to go, but I’ll never forget going back.
If you’ve ever seen pictures of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the dropping of the atomic bombs in 1945, it had that feel. A lot of concrete slabs. No trees. Boats from the harbors washed far inland, a few boats somehow suspended in the trees that remained. It was brutal and there was a significant malaise and fatigue from folks trying to put their life back together. Where do you start when all your possessions are gone?
I wrote a feature titled “The Church and disaster relief: Shelter from the Stormy Blast” for the Acton Institute related to the charitable mobilization for Katrina and other natural disasters. Here is just a short excerpt:
I was amazed at the quickness Southern Baptist Disaster Relief cut through the rubble to meet immediate needs,” said one Katrina survivor. The Southern Baptists’ North American Mission Board raised a total of $25 million to assist Hurricane Katrina victims. An American Red Cross representative in Alabama said, “I don’t believe the Red Cross could do what it does in terms of feeding people without the Southern Baptists.” She described the Southern Baptist food delivery system as a “well oiled machine.
All that to say, hopefully, there are no similarities between Hurricane Florence and Katrina. We all desire the very best outcome for this region.
Donald Bryson highlighted the importance of charitable giving in an earlier post. If you can give to one of those organizations, do it because of the way that they powerfully transform lives. Having a little involvement in the recovery efforts in Katrina, one of the ways churches are so effective at meeting needs is because they are not hemmed in by a massive bureaucracy and regulatory state. They don’t have to means test you to help. There is usually no mountain of paperwork to fill out to receive assistance. Church charities learned a lot of lessons from Katrina and if anybody has ever seen the efficiency of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief in a crisis they would know that kind of service is hard to replicate either by for-profit organizations or government.
While emergency church disaster organizations are often the first on site, big box companies with massive resources are right behind them. NPR noted how much quicker they provided help over the government in the wake of Katrina. And locally, WRAL posted a video about the efforts being made by Food Lion to meet the needs of those preparing for this impending hurricane. This is no doubt being replicated by many of the big stores across parts of North Carolina.
Again, give if you can and be thankful for not just the many first responders risking their lives, but also the charitable groups and businesses that are truly equipped to assist people by meeting their needs in a crisis. I’ll always remember the armies of church groups who poured into the Gulf Coast after Katrina. Not only because they were first, but also because they were there helping long after the government.