By Jason W. Bland
As I drove home with my wife from a concert on August 11, 2016, the amount of rainfall was already astonishing. It didn’t stop for the next two days, and by then we had received more than 32 inches.
From our home, my family and I heard the news reports of road and bridge closures effectively cutting us off from our church and our church family.
Frantic calls started—first requests for help moving and trucks, then cries of alarm when people found the roads were already too deep to drive out.
I feared the church would be a total loss, like the neighborhoods surrounding it, but our main campus was preserved as an island. People began to arrive—church members, neighbors, people in boats.
Some had grabbed bags of belongings before escaping their homes, but most came with only the dripping clothes they were wearing.
Florida Boulevard Baptist Church was no stranger to disaster, and neither was I. The church served people through Hurricane Gustav in 2008 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
And although I’d been senior pastor at FBBC for only a little over a year, during my first pastorate Hurricane Wilma destroyed my church in Lake Worth, Florida, in 2005.
This time, however, was different. The historic flood directly and personally affected our aging congregation. More than 100 church families lost their homes.
In Livingston Parish, just across the Amite River from our main campus, local news reported that 90 percent of homes were lost, including our satellite campus, which was drenched in more than 4 feet of water.
At our main campus, a small team of leaders received and settled refugees in classrooms and offices. Kitchen supplies were sure to be insufficient to keep everyone fed, but God multiplied cans of fruit salad and baked beans, and we had plenty for all who came hungry.
Slowly we found all of those missing. The waters receded, and the next phase of ministry began.
JASON W. BLAND is pastor of Florida Boulevard Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Read more about the ministry of Bland and FBBC during the flood and the lessons he learned as a pastor in “Stronger Together: 10 Lessons I Learned Leading My Church Through a Natural Disaster.”