Kingdom Building – Flooding Louisiana (with God’s Love)

It was arguably the worst house we’d been in all week – not that it lacked for competition! Over two weeks since the floodwaters had risen several feet up the walls in this home, closet floors were still stacked full of soggy clothing. Pots of grease and cooked food stood in pots on the stove. Piles of personal belongings awaited triage in several rooms.

We were getting used to the rats nests behind the drywall in these houses, but the ammonia smell (not from cleaning products) Rat debriswas overwhelming as we tore up the kitchen floor.

God knew what we needed to get us through that day…

Our devotional that morning centered on building God’s Kingdom. A kingdom is a territory under control of a king. God, for the purpose of providing a greater way to reveal His glory, has temporarily relinquished control of some “territory” to the enemy. That provides us with the opportunity to reclaim some of that territory for the Kingdom of God.

Luke 17:21 tells us that, “the kingdom of God is within you.” The territory we’re reclaiming is in our hearts – the hearts of those we serve, those we serve with, and our own.

Truth and love are the weapons we use in this battle. 1 Peter 1:22 tells us, “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren,fervently love one another from the heart”

There’s an old story about a man walking down the sidewalk in a big city. He saw a construction project across the street. As he watched the work, his curiosity grew about what they were building. So he walked across the street to where a man with a brick in one hand and a trowel in the other was working. “What are you doing?” the man asked. Without looking up, the worker grumbled back, “I’m laying brick, what does it look like?” This was an accurate answer, but not what the man was looking for.

So he walked down the street until he found another bricklayer and asked, “What are you doing?” The worker glanced up and answered, “I’m just earning a paycheck.” Another accurate, but not particularly useful answer.

He approached a third bricklayer and again asked, “What are you doing?” This worker looked the man in the eye and with great pride replied, “I’m building a cathedral!”

The point is that our perspective matters. Yes, it’s true that we’re tearing out drywall and wet insulation, pulling nails, hauling out debris, and other laborious tasks. We’re also listening to, encouraging, and helping people. And there’s a sense that we get a “paycheck” — the reward of feeling good about being a blessing to these flood survivors.

But the endurance to make it through a job like this one required us to draw strength from a higher motivation:  We’re using the truth and love of Jesus Christ to win back “territory” from the enemy for the Kingdom of God. That passion overcomes seemingly insurmountable obstacles!

Report From the Field: Flooding Louisiana (with God’s Love)

I haven’t had the time — or more accurately, I haven’t had the energy — to post anything since coming to Louisiana. Full days of hot, sweaty, smelly, sometimes emotional, hard labor doesn’t leave much to run on by the end of the day. But you can get a sense of what my days have been like by checking out the Hope Force International Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/HopeForce.  There are at least 15 pictures of me, plus links to a couple of video clips that I make cameo appearances in.

Removing wet fiberglass from under a floor
Removing wet fiberglass from under a floor

Every one of the 16 homes I’ve worked in during the past 11 days has at least one heart-wrenching story, ranging from great faith to great despair.

The injection of hope that comes from getting a major boost in the cleanup effort from a team of volunteers for a day or two can be transformational. I’m surprised by the number of people trying to do this huge job on their own or with little help.  And there’s a race against the clock: Before long the mold in many homes will get bad enough to require hazmat suits to complete the cleanup effort.  And for many people, it will be months or even a year or two before they can move back home.

Imagine not only losing your home, but also your cars, place of business, and even your church to floodwater contamination.  That’s not an unusual story. And if you wonder why most people don’t have flood insurance, it’s because they’re not in a flood plain — this hasn’t happened here before.

Working on people’s homes opens the door for our physical workers and our trained chaplains to spend time with the homeowners, helping them process through their circumstances. Love in action is a powerful source of healing, joy, hope, and even peace in the midst of life’s toughest challenges. And this kind of action requires love that comes from a source outside ourselves:

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

1 John 3:16-18

From http://ChristInMyCoffee.wordpress.com

Flooding Louisiana (with God’s Love)

Tomorrow morning (8/20) I head to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Hope Force International has asked me to deploy to help with flood relief work. So far, about 40,000 houses have been damaged and 86,000 people have applied for federal disaster aid.  Floodwaters are still rising in some areas. Damage is considered comparable to Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

Each symbol represents a property in the Baton Rouge area seeking assistance. Source: crisiscleanup.org
Each symbol represents a property in the Baton Rouge area seeking assistance. Source: crisiscleanup.org

As is typical in these situations, exactly what I’ll be doing depends on what needs done while I’m there. Last year in South Carolina, that included handling the team’s administrative work, talking to homeowners to assess whether or not we could help them, tearing out wet drywall and insulation, and managing a warehouse for a day.  Some of you may recall the story of the young man who came to faith in Christ as a result of the several days we spent working on his mother’s house. He couldn’t understand why we would do this when there was nothing in it for us. Just one example of the love of Christ opening the door to the truth of Christ.

I welcome your partnership in this ministry.  Please be praying for me, the Hope Force staff and volunteers, and especially the people we engage with.

There are two ways you can participate financially. You can help cover my costs, like airfare and two weeks’ car rental (about $1600 total because of the last minute booking and scarcity of flights and cars in the area). You can do this by check or online through my church at https://graceorange.churchcenteronline.com/giving/donations. Select “3100 Missions – Flood Relief AW” in the “To” box.

A NOTE FROM GRACE CHURCH OF ORANGE:   We appreciate your financial support of our short-term mission projects.  Please make your check payable to Grace Church of Orange and send it to 2201 E. Fairhaven Ave. Orange, CA 92869.  On the memo line of your check, please specify that your donation is for Missions-Flood Relief. Be aware that IRS regulations do not permit tax deductible donations for specific individuals, so indicating a person’s name may affect the deductibility of your donations.  (Please check with your tax advisor.)  If you would like for the person to know about your donation, you may include a note with your name on it.  If for any reason your donation is not needed for this project, (such as more funds received beyond what is needed), it will be applied to other missions efforts.  If you give $250 or more you will receive a statement of your donations in January of the following year.  Please contact the church office at 714-633-8867 if you have any questions.

You can also support Hope Force International’s efforts directly.  See Hope Force’s website at http://hopeforce.org.

I plan to return home on September 4.  Thank you for doing your part to help those in need!