Editorial Introduction: Baptists Ministering In The Midst Of Disaster -- By: Steve Lemke

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 04:1 (Spring 2007)
Article: Editorial Introduction: Baptists Ministering In The Midst Of Disaster
Author: Steve Lemke

Editorial Introduction:
Baptists Ministering In The Midst Of Disaster

Steve Lemke

Acting Director, Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry

On August 29, 2005, the greatest natural disaster in American history struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Some of the greatest devastation from hurricane Katrina was on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where the storm surge wiped out houses and businesses anywhere near the Gulf Coast, and hurricane-force winds crashed tree limbs into power lines and houses, causing even greater devastation. New Orleans, which is 80 miles inland, suffered only modest damage from the hurricane Katrina winds. The New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary campus, for example, could have been operational again within a week or two.

And then the levees broke. In many ways, Katrina was more the greatest engineering disaster in American history than the greatest natural disaster. Water poured through the broken levees like a mud tsunami, demolishing hundreds of houses in its wake. The flood waters flowed into many residential areas in New Orleans, submerging many houses five to eight feet deep. Although the academic classrooms, offices, and library of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary suffered only minimal flooding, the houses and apartments of residential areas were flooded. This was not the kind of flood that receded in a day or two, but the waters continued to flood the houses and businesses for weeks. The Seminary family was not able to even step on campus until over a month later, when in early October many of us attempted to salvage what if any possessions we could. My own house was flooded with about four feet of water, and at least another foot of mold grew above that. It was impossible to salvage my Jeep Cherokee in the garage, much less most of our appliances, clothes, towels, furniture, books, electronics, and on and so forth. Like most Seminary faculty and students living in first floor apartments, we lost most of our possessions.

Each family went through a nightmare for the next few months, dealing with insurance and FEMA claims, finding a place to live, getting clothes, helping our children get adjusted to new settings in which they had no friends, enrolling them in new schools that had already begun the school year, and starting over again. Some of us relocated to the Atlanta area, living over five hundred miles away from our families. It was a horrible experience that we pray never have to go through again. Many in Southwest Louisiana and Southeast Texas had similar experiences a few weeks later from the impact of hurricane Rita.

But in the midst of this tragedy, we saw the hand of God at work. Baptists from all over the nation expressed an outpouring of the love of God not only to...

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