Water Doesn’t Care, But We Do
February 9, 2017
By Evan Jones
Seeing the destruction from the August 2016 floods in Baton Rouge, LA firsthand has opened my eyes to the neutral position of water in the wake of a disaster. Last week, I traveled with a team from FirstChurch to Baton Rouge to help repair homes but hadn’t prepared myself for what I would see. I had no idea. I remember seeing news coverage of homes under water. Then the news moved on to something new, and so did I. I assumed that the flood had affected a small section of Baton Rouge – maybe one that was close to the Mississippi River? I assumed insurance companies, or at the very least FEMA, had taken care of it. I assumed that volunteer groups would help the poorest of the poor – maybe a couple hundred homes? Nothing to worry about too much. Solvable.
Within 10 minutes of arriving in Baton Rouge, all that I assumed was washed away by pervasive damage debris. Driving through a middle class neighborhood, piles of sheetrock, cabinets and flooring lined every street at almost every home. Maybe the city just hadn’t gotten around to collecting it yet? Wrong again. The city picks up debris weekly. These were just THIS WEEK’S piles.
This is what it looks like when 110,000 homes are all trying to rebuild. 110,000. Not a small section of Baton Rouge. Worst still, the majority of these homes were not in a flood plane, and therefore not covered by insurance. Water doesn’t care if you have insurance. Those with means were able to call a friend who is a contractor and get their home repaired quickly while they stayed in a hotel for a few weeks. The vast majority of others are stuck. Stuck in homes with no walls, a kitchen stripped of all the contents with a crude sink just to get fresh drinking water and wash the few dishes they have left. Stuck in a home with bare concrete floors. Stuck with little money to buy sheetrock (if they can even get it, the stores can’t keep up with the demand). These are hardworking people who don’t have the means or ability to do the work themselves. Water doesn’t care if you are living paycheck to paycheck.
This trip changed me. I can’t stop thinking about the piles of debris, the bare walls with no insulation, the crude sinks constructed of 2X4’s and the home owners working hard to rebuild their homes and their lives. The experience thwarted my assumptions in favor of understanding. Our work opened my heart. I can do more. We can do more.
I am going to back to Baton Rouge in March with a group of young adults in UrbanLife, and I am already thinking about the next trip after that. I hope you will consider joining us. Revive 225, the ministry that coordinates home repair, has projects ready to go for people of all skill levels. If you choose to show up, we can teach you the rest. The people of Baton Rouge need you. They need us. Because water may not have cared about their plight, but we do.