We Will Get Through This

August 21, 2016
When you read the numbers, your eyes literally do a double take. 

There are 137,000 residents in Livingston Parish and over 105,000 of those residents lost their homes.

The devastation in the parish just east of Baton Rouge is unfathomable.

"I don't think I've fully comprehended it. said an emotional Rev. Jackie King. "I've seen people arrive here to the church and say, 'I just spent $90 on cleaning supplies with $90 I don't have.' I've stood with church members as they stare at their home and silently ask 'Where do we start?' as they stand in their driveway absolutely paralyzed.  

Yet, in the midst of a massive clean-up, residents here paused Sunday morning to do what they've always done at First United Methodist Church of Denham Springs - pray, sing and worship.

Church members were casually dressed, including Rev. King herself. Some were still wearing rain boots but all were happy to gather and worship together as a congregation in the midst of yet another challenge for this church in the heart of Denham Springs.

In the 1920's this church suffered a flood of its own and several years ago the church survived a crushing fire.

While the church stayed dry, the challenge is all the more intense as nearly every church member is affected by the damaging flood waters. Travelling to the church is perilous as one must weave through streets packed with piles and piles of debris. It's impossible to escape the visual reminders of a decimated parish.  

Since Monday, the church itself has served as a staging ground for supplies, clothing, food and flood buckets or as Rev. King says with a huge smile, "Maybe it's more like a gas station because these folks' tanks are empty from so many worries and concerns! My hope and prayer is that this place can serve as a place of refuge so that they can recharge and go back to what they need to do at home." 
 
Even in today's massive digital age, cell service in this area remains spotty and Rev. King still hasn't had a chance to connect with all of her church members. In a way, today was the first time she was able to lay eyes on some of the members. "It was just wonderful to literally see their eyes, see their smiles, even in their exhaustion" said Rev. King. "It's been incredibly stressful not knowing and it did everyone's heart good to see one another."

Rev. King's message Sunday was one of determination and hope in the midst of challenge. With Isaiah 43:2 as a backdrop, she leaned heavily on the word 'through'.

"I think one of the most beautiful words in all of scripture is the word 'through'' said Rev. King. "Think of how Psalm 23 would sound without the word 'through'. 'Even though I walk through the valley of death'. Notice David didn't say "even though we walked around the valley of death.' Friends, God will see us through this." 

Rev. King says messages have been pouring in from Facebook to text messages and she's felt the prayers of Methodists all over the world. "I had someone as far away as Israel message me and say they're praying for me and I can't tell you how much that means to me." 

Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey visited two Denham Springs churches Sunday, beginning her day at First Methodist Denham and concluding it at Roberts United Methodist on Julia Street, also staved from flood waters.

At both services, Bishop Harvey offered words of hope from the Conference Office, "We are in this together. You are not alone. I can tell you the United Methodist connection is as strong as it has ever been and quite frankly, it has us uniquely positioned."

"Donations are pouring in from all over the country." she said. "But I will tell you this - now is the time to lean on one another and support one another. And you have! I have been all over this parish and the support I've seen has blown me away. I am seeing the hands and feet of Christ in amazing ways!"