August 31, 2005
(AgapePress) - To say the situation in New Orleans is bleak is putting it mildly. After facing threats to their lives, victims of 'Killer Katrina' now face the prospect of having to leave the area entirely for perhaps months so relief workers can begin the daunting challenge of draining flood waters from a city usually flooded with merry-making tourists.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, engineers in New Orleans are scrambling to repair two broken levees; the mayor is estimating that hundreds, if not thousands, of city residents are dead; and a public health emergency has been declared for the entire Gulf Coast. And as the flooding continues to grow worse in the "Big Easy," Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco has ordered everyone in the City of New Orleans to leave -- including the estimated 25,000 people holed up in the Superdome, who will be bused to the Astrodome in Houston, Texas.
Faced with widespread looting in New Orleans, Governor Blanco is asking residents of the hurricane-ravaged city to spend today in prayer. "That would be the best thing to calm our spirits and thank our Lord that we are survivors," she says, adding: "Slowly, gradually, we will recover; we will survive; we will rebuild." Some of the looting is taking place in full view of police and National Guardsmen.
Officials are estimating it could take as long as a month to drain all the water from New Orleans -- and six to eight weeks to get power back on in the city after the water is drained. "We are looking at 12 to 16 weeks before people can come in," New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin told ABC television earlier today.
Helping to Right Lives Turned Upside-Down Relief teams from Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Florida, Alabama, and other states are working in the hurricane-ravaged areas of the Southeast. Associated Press reports that more than 1,000 Baptist volunteers have been mobilized to help victims of Hurricane Katrina in and around New Orleans. But Joe Conway of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief says they have not been able to reach the hardest-hit areas. They have been "thwarted at every turn because of the devastation of the storm, the rising flood waters, the damage to infrastructure," he says.
Under normal circumstances, the feeding and clean-up crews would be based at Southern Baptist churches. But according to Conway, the destruction from Katrina is so widespread that they have not been able to find a single church to work with in the New Orleans area.
Despite the obstacles, volunteers with the Baptist relief group will take part in a variety of short- and long-term relief efforts, says Jim Burton, director of volunteer mobilization for the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
"First of all, we'll offer mass feedings," Burton explains, "but also we'll go with clean-up and recovery crews who are able to use chainsaws to clear debris, but also to do mud-out work in homes that have been flooded."
And the aid will not stop there. "We'll also go in with mobile shower units, offering showers to victims as well as volunteers that are in the affected area," Burton continues. "We will even also be able to offer childcare and laundry services to victims of disaster."
Burton says it is obvious people's lives have been devastated -- and relief teams have an opportunity to have an impact on those lives.
"You never realize how much someone's life has been disrupted until you have also been through a disaster," the SBC official shares. "And right now there are literally hundreds of thousands of people whose lives have been turned upside down.
"We're being told that some of the shelters could be open as many as 90 days, and some people may not be back in their homes for another year. So we need to do everything that we can to bring some stability to the lives of these victims."
The chairman of the Christian Emergency Network says Christians are uniquely prepared to help hurricane victims. Since Katrina made landfall, Mary Marr says her organization has sent numerous alerts through its website, encouraging believers to shine the light of Christ during the aftermath of the disaster.
Marr says believers can help out -- without being on site. "I would not recommend going to that area at all because you can actually do more harm by getting in the way of those people who are trying to do their jobs," Marr says.
"And I would also not recommend sending items to organizations unless they specifically address that need, because sometimes they can spend more time trying to distribute the things that they do not need, or remove them or get rid of them, and it actually takes away from their time."
So how can Christians help out? Marr encourages them to donate to ministries involved in recovery and rebuilding efforts, to pray for victims and emergency personnel, and to share the love of Christ during this time of tragedy.
"If you take some spiritual aids along with, maybe some tracts that you have on hand or a few Bibles, just throw those in," she suggests. "And if you're on the highway for several hours, what a wonderful way for you to share how the Lord has really helped you, and how you can really then help and offer hope to those people who are so desperate."
The Christian Emergency Network was organized after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as a way to coordinate and mobilize Christians in times of natural disasters.
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