“Pray – Severe flooding in EKY. Water rescues are underway – pray!”
One of the pastors in my association wrote those words in our private Pastors’ Facebook group. It was 7:30 AM on Thursday, July 28, and I read those words while sitting in a hotel room in Dearborn, Michigan, ready to enjoy the final day of my family’s vacation.
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, the situation was worse than even my pastor friend knew. Multiple counties in eastern Kentucky were experiencing catastrophic flooding, including portions of my home county.
Entire towns were underwater. Hundreds of homes, businesses, and churches were destroyed. More than a thousand rescue operations would soon take place. Nearly forty people lost their lives.
It’s no stretch to say that this was the worst natural disaster in eastern Kentucky in my lifetime.
It’s now been ten days since the flood. To say these days have been difficult for eastern Kentucky would be a gross understatement. And yet, God is faithful. Lamentations 3:22-23 reminds us: “Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!”
Since the waters have receded, I have seen God’s faithfulness in so many ways. I’d like to share five of those ways with you.
Immediately following the flood, I – like so many others – began to receive calls, text messages, emails, and social media direct messages from concerned family, friends, and ministry colleagues. Most knew I was out of town when the flood occurred, so most reached out to see how they could help.
In the days since the flood, I’ve heard from many people I’ve never met. I’ve heard from pastors, fellow associational mission strategists, and concerned laypeople from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and all over Kentucky.
It’s been so encouraging to hear from many concerned about the devastation caused by the flood. Each person I’ve talked with has expressed a desire to help, which is a clear sign of God’s faithfulness. God is using concerned individuals from all over the nation to assist in our time of need. May He receive all the glory for it!
Less than 24 hours after the initial flood, another flood occurred throughout the affected area – a flood of generosity. Churches, businesses, relief organizations, and individuals began to donate food, water, cleaning supplies, personal care supplies, and other needed items in record numbers.
The Kentucky Baptist Convention offered to help churches and pastors affected by the floods financially. Churches and associations – large and small – began to pledge financial support to assist in relief and rebuilding efforts. Just this morning, the pastor of a church in my association – with a worship attendance under 100 – quietly handed me a $10,000 check for the association’s flood relief fund! Now I know how Paul must have felt when he witnessed the Macedonians’ generosity described in 2 Corinthians 8.
God has shown His faithfulness through the abundant generosity of His people, and I’m confident He will continue to do so in the months ahead!
One of the core tenets of Southern Baptist belief and practice is cooperation. We believe we can do more by working together than we can do alone. That’s certainly true when it comes to disaster relief. There is simply no way we could recover from the flood’s devastation without the help of others. We are better together.
Currently, over 100 disaster relief volunteers from Alabama are serving in Pike County. They are cleaning out mud from homes, churches, and businesses. They are tearing out carpet, flooring, and drywall. They are tossing out everything that can’t be salvaged. They are delivering supplies. They are preparing meals. They are doing laundry. They are counseling and praying with flood victims. They are serving as the hands and feet of Jesus.
And hundreds more just like them are serving in other counties throughout the region. In fact, I know that disaster relief teams from at least seven states have sent volunteers to help. And more states are on standby and will likely be called out soon.
In addition to the cooperative efforts of Southern Baptists, it’s been wonderful to see Christians from many different denominations working together alongside local government authorities. By God’s grace, I have had the opportunity to participate in daily meetings of my county’s Emergency Management Command Center to learn how we can meet the needs as they arise throughout Pike County and beyond.
God is faithfully coordinating flood relief efforts in some incredible ways. To Him be the glory!
In Romans 12:1, Paul writes, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.”
As I mentioned earlier, there are likely 1,000 Southern Baptist volunteers on the ground right now – not to mention all the other relief organizations. These folks have left their homes and families to serve people they’ve never met. They could be doing so many other things with their time, but they have chosen to come to the mountains to help.
God’s faithfulness is on display as flood victims throughout eastern Kentucky witness the sacrificial service of strangers. It’s a tremendous blessing to witness.
Eastern Kentucky is one of the most unchurched regions in America, with 90% of the population not attending church on any given Sunday. In my home county, it’s even worse, with 92% of the population not attending church. And those are pre-Covid numbers.
This means that 9 out of every ten flood victims don’t attend church regularly. Many haven’t stepped inside a church in years. Many have probably heard about Jesus, but they may have never heard the gospel clearly articulated.
That’s why God is showing His faithfulness amid this devastation through countless opportunities to share the gospel. As volunteers clean out the mud, they may also have the chance to share how Jesus can cleanse us of unrighteousness.
Paul declares in Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Therefore, I firmly believe that the Lord can use this flood to bring about a great spiritual awakening to a region that has been spiritually impoverished for far too long! Would you join me in praying that it would be so?