Faith Life, October 2016

Finding Faith in Unexpected Places

Ryan and wife, Keely.
Ryan and wife, Keely.

You probably won’t have much luck finding a parking spot at City Pork Brasserie on Jefferson Highway — and you can blame Ryan André for that.

He’s the executive chef at the bustling restaurant, and his unique creations have garnered lots of attention and guaranteed a large and loyal customer base for City Pork. In fact, the restaurant is so successful, owners are preparing to open a third location. So what is André’s key to success? It could be that he incorporates international cooking styles with interesting ingredients that you don’t see very often, usually beginning with classic southern dishes and then adding unexpected touches.

Originally from Gonzales, his parents were both great cooks, André says. He took an interest in cooking at a very young age, often helping conduct taste tests for his mother as she cooked sauces and gravies in the family kitchen. When he entered college, he wasn’t sure what his major would be, but he assumed he would end up working at a chemical plant. To help pay for school, he took a job at J. Alexander’s restaurant. Six months later, he dropped out of college, absolutely certain that he’d found his passion — cooking.

Cooking lessons
He eventually graduated from the Louisiana Culinary Institute and worked for several local restaurants, including Stroube’s, Le Creole and Capital City Grill. His most valuable experience, however, came from his time at Commander’s Palace, internationally recognized as one of New Orleans’ finest dining spots.

“I really learned a lot at Commander’s,” he said. “And not just about cooking. I learned about discipline, attention to detail, creativity, the importance of patience, and the qualities of a good manager.”

All of those lessons have come in handy in his current role at City Pork, a job that keeps André busy from dusk to dawn. He could probably be just as successful in a bigger market (Chicago, San Francisco, New York) if he were willing to move, but he’s not. André is surprisingly down-to-earth, happy to remain close to his Louisiana roots, and proud of his Christian faith.

Finding a purpose
Yes, that’s another unexpected element in André’s bio. The handsome young tattooed chef is a family man who credits his wife Keely with helping him find meaning and purpose in his life. Married for 10 years, the couple has two children, Reagan and Kael.

“I had a lot of ups and downs in my life before I met Keely,” André said. “The restaurant industry is tough. You work long hours under a lot of stress. There’s a lot of alcoholism and drug abuse. Keely is my rock. She brought me into the church and it changed my life. I know I can get through tough times now. My faith keeps me focused.”

A Test of Faith
His faith was tested in August when he joined the thousands of people in the Baton Rouge area whose homes were damaged by the city’s historic Thousand Year Flood. His home took on six inches of water and claimed most of the family’s furniture and belongings, and one of their cars. “At 10 a.m. that Saturday morning, there were a few puddles in my yard,” he said. “By noon, we were packing our suitcases and whatever we could salvage. We ended up at a shelter and glory to God, a friend of ours saw us and gave us a place to stay for a few days.”

“From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank Eric and Jessica Weaver for their help. I want to thank my in-laws, my family and some of the guys that work with me at the restaurant. They were all such a blessing.”

Serving others
While André was working on his home, his colleagues at both City Pork locations were volunteering their time and efforts to help others in need. The restaurant served more than 5,000 meals to flood victims, and took up donations of toiletries and paper goods for families that had been displaced. André says he’s proud of the way the staff pulled together to bring comfort to people in a time of desperation and sadness.

“The flood was an overwhelming hardship … but we remain optimistic knowing that God is good and that we can get through anything as long as we keep trusting in him,” André said. “I pray for everyone who went through this — that they stay strong and encouraged that God is here beside us always.”

City Pork has two locations: 7327 Jefferson Highway, (225) 362-7170; and 2363 Hollydale Ave., (225) 300-4550. A third location will open soon at 6721 Exchequer Dr., (225) 248-6453. For more information, go to

BRCLM Lagniappe, October 2016

Scenes of Love From the Flood

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October 2016, Reading For Life

A Review of: Patti Pelican and the Gulf Oil Spill

by Kelli Knight


Healthy Life, October 2016

It’s Not All About Weight

by Pennington Biomedical Research Center

Have you heard the new phrase “skinny fat”?—it’s where you look trim and in shape, but your body is suffering from poor health, perhaps due to a poor diet, a lack of exercise or both.

“It can be dangerous,” says Dr. Annadora Bruce-Keller with Pennington Biomedical Research Center. Bruce-Keller studies the importance of the interrelationship between our guts and what we put into them, and the role that plays in the health of our body and brain.

“We want people to know that you can be healthy with a range of body types. Through our research we are finding that health is less about the number on the scale and more about how well your body is operating,” noted Bruce-Keller.

Dr. Annadora Bruce-Keller
Dr. Annadora Bruce-Keller

In one 2014 study, Bruce-Keller and her colleagues from Pennington Biomedical, Drs. J. Michael Salbaum and Hans-Rudolf Berthoud teamed up with scientists from LSU’s Health Sciences Center in New Orleans to learn more about the connection between nutrition and brain health. They found that the kinds of food we eat may have a significant impact not just on our body and its performance, but on our brain’s function too.

In their study published online in the journal Biological Psychiatry, Bruce-Keller and her fellow researchers discovered that an unhealthy gut microbiome stemming from a high fat diet may be bad for our brain. Our gut microbiome is the ecological community of bacteria that shares our body space, and it is formed in part by what we eat. What their study showed is that a microbiome shaped by an unhealthy, high fat diet increases anxiety, decreases memory and causes other negative cognitive changes.

These findings are part of groundbreaking new evidence that a high-fat diet can influence our gut bacteria enough to disrupt the way our brain works, and they also underscore the important relationship between the gut and the brain—something that could be a target for new drugs and other therapies in the future.

Their study is truly fascinating. The research team isolated the gut microbiota from obese mice that were fed a high fat diet and from healthy mice that were fed a lower fat control diet. The gut microbiome from the high fat diet was transplanted into one group of healthy, young mice, while the microbiome from the control diet group was transplanted into another identical group of young, healthy mice.

After running a battery of tests, Bruce-Keller noticed striking differences between the two groups of mice. While neither group became obese, the mice who received a gut microbiome from the high fat mice showed consistent signs of mental deficits, including decline in memory and an increase in compulsiveness and anxiety-based behavior compared to the mice given the healthy control diet.

Further testing revealed increased inflammation in the intestines of the mice with the high fat bacteria, and subsequently in their blood and brains, likely because the unhealthy microbiomes affected the structural integrity of the intestines leading to leaking and translocation of bacteria into the bloodstream, Bruce-Keller said.

While this study helps to take the focus off of weight as a primary indicator of health, it also suggests that it is the difference in bacterial diversity in our guts that makes a difference when it comes to behavior and brain chemistry—not the just presence of obesity or insulin resistance.

So what does this research mean for us when it comes to picking out our meals for the week at the grocery store or when we’re perusing the menu at a local restaurant?

Hans-Rudolf Berthoud
Hans-Rudolf Berthoud

Bruce-Keller says our gut microbiome changes by the hour, so we need to be mindful to form healthy habits of eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, more healthy fats and less saturated fat. In addition, she suggests eating yogurt with a probiotic, which can help balance the bacteria in the gut and can introduce healthy bacteria that may be missing in our diet. There are also plenty of over-the-counter probiotic supplements that your doctor may suggest.

What was Bruce-Keller about to eat for lunch when we spoke with her? She was preparing to enjoy a small bowl of fruit with kefir (which also aids “good” bacteria) on top. True to form, this scientist practices what she preaches.

Fellow researchers J. Michael Salbaum, Hans-Rudolf Berthoud contributed to this study, along with scientists from LSU’s Health Sciences Center in New Orleans (David A. Welsh, Christopher M. Taylor, Luo Meng and Eugene Blanchard, IV). You can read the complete study, entitled “Obese-type Gut Microbiota Induce Neurobehavioral Changes in the Absence of Obesity” online.

Man on the Street, October 2016

Man on the Street: Witnessing God’s Love During the Flood


Millennial Life, October 2016

Kaylee Hughes Finds Joy in Her Faith Despite the Storm

by Trapper S. Kinchen
The UNO men’s basketball team and Hughes’s family in front of their flood ravaged home.
The UNO men’s basketball team and Hughes’s family in front of their flood ravaged home.

As millennials, we find ourselves at a serious developmental crossroads. We have just begun to face life head on – our dreams raw against a world-weary storm of frustration – and each of us is busy learning how to cope with adversity. With a little faith, we can overcome the ache of disappointment and embrace positivity.

Sixteen-year-old Kaylee Hughes lives in the center of Livingston Parish with her parents and three younger sisters. Their charming, single-story, brick home is situated on the Hog Branch tributary of the Tickfaw River, about 45 minutes from Baton Rouge. Lush meadow vistas and thick stands of oak trees dot the landscape around their tiny community.

Hughes is the eldest of four daughters. She and her younger sisters, Jaycee, 14, Maggie, 7, and Harlie, 3, attend Holden High – a kindergarten through twelfth grade public school – where her mother teaches. Her father works alternating three-week shifts on an oil pipeline in Alaska. But, the Hughes family is very close, and their deep familial bond helps buoy them during times of crisis.

At the beginning of August, Hughes embarked upon her junior year of high school. She settled into basketball, softball and track practices, began working on new material for her church choir, and hunkered into a study routine. But, on August 12, the creek behind her home began to rise.

Hughes marking the water line in her family’s sunroom.
Hughes marking the water line in her family’s sunroom.

Like most Louisianans, the Hughes family is familiar with the wild force with which natural disasters often strike. Two years ago, their house was severely damaged in a fire. Her family soldiered through a lengthy renovation process before finally getting resettled. Then, this past March, when the melting snow from the Midwest began draining southward, their home took in nearly a foot of water as the Tickfaw River distended to almost twice its normal size. They had only been back in their house for three months when the recent flood struck.

Hughes, her mother and sisters, along with an aunt and cousin, spent Friday, August 12, equipping for what the National Weather Service promised would be a historic flood. “All day Friday, we were busy sandbagging and buying water pumps, but we weren’t expecting the river to crest until Sunday, so we decided to sleep in our own beds that night,” Hughes said.

Exhausted from a hard day’s work, Hughes quickly fell asleep. But, under the cover of darkness, water was swiftly breaking over the embankments of Hog Branch Creek. Before long, the brisk muddy current had reached her house.

“I was lying in my bed, reached over, and felt water,” she said.

Hughes’s youngest sister, Harlie, standing by the ruined contents of their home.
Hughes’s youngest sister, Harlie, standing by the ruined contents of their home.

In the nick of time, Hughes’s grandfather collected them in his lake skiff. While he shuttled the family to a cousin’s house, they came across a cluster of panicked evacuees. “We had to rescue a few people. There were a bunch of kids with a couple of wailing moms. We finally got them to dry land by the fire station. We gave them all the food we had and a tarp to keep the kids dry,” she said.

Through the fray of the rising water, Hughes and her family stayed focused and calm. After the tide receded, they returned home to evaluate the damage. The creek had risen five feet into the house, leaving a heavy brown line on the living room wall. Everything, even keepsakes stored on high shelves, was ruined.

Hughes is all too familiar with parting with her belongings. This is not the first time she has had to start from scratch. But for Hughes, coping with her family’s displacement is the most difficult aspect of the destruction.

“The hardest part for me is feeling like I’ve invaded other people’s space,” she said. Hughes says it is impossible to get settled now that she cannot go home, now that there is no longer any place that feels completely hers.

National guardsmen Murray and Hopson at the Livingston Parish Courthouse.
National guardsmen Murray and Hopson at the Livingston Parish Courthouse.

Since the flood ebbed, a swell of volunteers has come to the aid of Hughes’ family. Different relatives have taken turns housing them, the Holden basketball team initiated a cleanup effort, and despite their own personal losses, members of the Holden community have reached out to help.

In the wake of devastation, there has been no shortage of volunteers from different parts of the state arriving to help flood victims rebuild. The SLU tennis team came to Holden to assist with a cook off and clothing drive, and the UNO men’s basketball team lent a hand to the Hughes family, leading the effort to clean out their house.

It is impossible to overstate the important role fast-responding volunteer programs play immediately following a natural disaster. As soon as the floodwaters began rising, our Louisiana National Guardsmen began operating in affected areas. Our men and women in uniform are crucial to recovery initiatives, and they are always prepared to risk their lives for citizens in danger.

Immediately following the flood, I spoke with a national guardswoman stationed at the Livingston Parish Courthouse. Kalley Murray, a 19-year-old servicewoman, has been a part of the Louisiana National Guard for over a year. She and her commanding officer, Daniel Hopson of Delhi, La., sat down to discuss how the military was leading recovery efforts.

Murray is from Sulphur, La. Both she and Hopson have experienced many natural disasters, but they appeared particularly touched by the trials facing local flood victims. “It’s heartbreaking. People have lost everything. The damage is devastating,” said Murray.

She and her fellow guardsmen have actively worked to secure the battered communities of South Louisiana, patrolling ravaged neighborhoods and lending helping hands. Murray and Hopson both emphasized the importance of engaging in community outreach directly after a catastrophe.

Hughes' home during the flooding.
Hughes’ home during the flooding.

Hughes and her sisters have certainly done their part in contributing to disaster relief. “We went to some teachers’ houses to help them clean up,” she said. They have also been very active in helping their church, the First United Pentecostal Church of Denham Springs, rebuild.

Faith is the primary reason Hughes has not, through all the wreckage, lost hope. “My relationship with Jesus is a building process. Living for God isn’t easy. Our church leaders have taught us to dig deep. When you go deeper, that’s when you find the joy of the Lord,” she said.

The Hughes family is focusing on the future. Whether or not their home gets rebuilt is in the hands of an insurance adjuster. But in the meantime, they are sticking together as a family, remaining grateful for their many blessing and praying for a resolution.

Hughes insists on staying positive. “I keep thinking ‘You’re going to get to the other side.’ I’m just trying to have fun with it,” she said. “We’re going to talk about this experience forever. So, we’ve got to do the best we can with it.”

Even though we live in an imperfect world, the Lord is constantly working all things for good. It is impossible to control what crosses our paths, yet how we respond to tragedy is completely up to us. We can crumble beneath the weight of a setback and surrender to circumstance. Or, like Kaylee Hughes and Kalley Murray, we can tap into our faith and find joy in a crippling situation.

Traumatic experiences – like the recent flood – have the potential to define our character. Perseverance can grow out of pain. Determination can blossom from distress. It all depends on whether we have the spiritual strength to stand, facing the squall of disappointment, and press forward.

October 2016, Pastor's Perspective

A Pastor’s Perspective on the Flood

by Steve Foster
Mayor Kip Holden with Martin Rangel and two other members of Centro Biblico.
Mayor Kip Holden with Martin Rangel and two other members of Centro Biblico.

From August 12-13, life pressed “pause” in Louisiana.

Two and a half feet of rain fell in two days. More than 110,000 homes and businesses flooded. Lives were interrupted. Neighborhoods were devastated. Families were displaced. Possessions were lost.

It was the storm with no name. A storm that statistically only has a .1 percent chance of happening in any given year; the proverbial “thousand-year storm.”

Numerous families in our church were directly impacted by the flood.  All of us felt it in some way.

Life pressed “pause.”

And in the pause, God reminded us of at least four things:

  1. We are not in control. Despite all of our radars, weather forecastsand impressive technology, we are powerless to stop a storm or a flood of waters. We are not as strong as we think we are.
  1. Things in this world are temporal.God has given us all things richly to enjoy(1 Tim. 6:17), but we can’t clutch onto any of them. They can be swept away in an instant.
  1. We need a firm foundation in life. Jesus reminded us that storms in life are to be expected (Matt. 7:24-27).The question is,“What foundation is your life built upon?” The only eternal foundation— the only true refuge, fortress and source of stability—is the Rock, Jesus Christ.
  1. We need a supportive familyaround usThe flood reminded us that we can’t live this life on our own. We were designed for relationship and we need one another. The church is to be the spiritual family that bears one another’s burdensin times of crisis (Gal. 6:2). Like a physical family, we often fail but there is still nothing like having a body of committed, Spirit-filled, authentically-flawed-but-growing believers around you in the midst of a trial.
The Mexican consulate at Centro Biblico.
The Mexican consulate at Centro Biblico.

We have experienced that in our own local church. The flood has awakened us to our need for one another. As we have wept together, prayed together and worked together, we have seen some relational barriers removed and new relational bonds formed. In the midst of the mud, mold, sweat and stench, we have ironically tasted the sweetness of fellowship.

We have seen the greater body of Christ respond as well. As the floodwaters receded, churches and Christian charities came flooding in to help. Since the days of Katrina, the body of Christ has learned to mobilize into action whenever a disaster hits.

A member of our church, Steve Grantham, lost everything in the flood. I talked to him two weeks later and asked him how he was doing. His response?

“God is good and faithful. We often don’t know where life is going to take us, but we do know that the steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand [Psalm 37:23-24].”

People lining up to receive assistance at Centro Biblico.
People lining up to receive assistance at Centro Biblico.

Steve proceeded to tell me that, in addition to our own local church, he has had believers from all over the nation helping at his house—people from Louisiana, Mississippi, California, North Carolina, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Missouri. Times of work often transformed into times of worship. And the outpouring of love has sustained and refreshed his soul.

The flood has not only drawn us closer to one another in the church but also expanded us further out into the community.

Centro Biblico, a Hispanic church plant supported by our church, has become a hub for ministry in the Hispanic community. Though it is located right in the heart of an area that flooded (Millerville and Old Hammond Hwy), amazingly it did not flood. This allowed the church to focus on the immediate needs of those around them.

Hundreds of people have come to Centro Biblico daily seeking physical assistance from FEMA, the Mexican and Honduran consulates, and the Red Cross. At the same time, their hearts have been opened to their spiritual need for Jesus Christ.

Pastors Jose Wing and Martin Rangel have expressed their amazement at how God has used their small fellowship to minister to so many.

A group from Community Bible Church serving at Caring to Love Ministries.
A group from Community Bible Church serving at Caring to Love Ministries.

“God has given us a lot of opportunities to give Him glory. It is not about us but about Him. You can feel frustrated about all that happened unless you focus on Him.”

As Jose and Martin counsel and pray with people, they often hear, “We have lost everything.” They often reply, “You have lost a lot, but you haven’t lost everything. You still have your family. You still have life. You still have hope. And though you may have lost some valuable things, you can find what is most important, Jesus Christ.”

None of us were expecting the flood. Few were prepared for it. All of us wish that it never happened. But God is a redemptive God. He can use trials and suffering in this world not only to transform our character but also to surprise us with unexpected blessings.

We just have to keep our hearts and our eyes open.

It is often in the “pause” that we come to experience God in ways like never before.

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!

The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah 

Psalm 46:10-11

Cover Story, October 2016

Our Community Sees God Working for Good Through the Flood

by Susan Brown
craig and michelle morgan, center (homeowners, not in orange) June Jake (nashville, tenn.) virginia mcvay (Pineville, la.) sabrina may (blue ridge, ga.) caroline o’brien, (long rock, colo.) and dick and Pam Yakovich (rock island, ill.) 2nd row bruce white, michael mcvay (Pineville, ga.) bruce milanc (bridgeville, del.), Judy buvere (indepenance, la.) steve workman (oceanside, calif.) Kenny Hubbard (star, n.c.) Paul Coe, (Baton Rouge, La.) Len Coleman, (Shuqualok, Miss.).
craig and michelle morgan, center (homeowners, not in orange) June Jake (nashville, tenn.) virginia mcvay (Pineville, la.) sabrina may (blue ridge, ga.) caroline o’brien, (long rock, colo.) and dick and Pam Yakovich (rock island, ill.) 2nd row bruce white, michael mcvay (Pineville, ga.)
bruce milanc (bridgeville, del.), Judy buvere (indepenance, la.) steve workman (oceanside, calif.) Kenny Hubbard (star, n.c.)
Paul Coe, (Baton Rouge, La.) Len Coleman, (Shuqualok, Miss.).

“Before the flood, we were engulfed in anger, hate and even violence. But the church went to God in prayer and asked him to deliver the city. We’re not talking about violence and hate anymore,” said Pastor Donald Hunter of New Beginning Baptist Church near Plank and Hooper roads. “I am a living testimony.”

The rev. Hunter’s story resonates because it is our story: devastating loss followed by demonstrations of divine love. Pain giving birth to progress. All three of Hunter’s kids lost their homes: in Central, Monticello and Villa Del Rey. He was able to get them out unharmed. “God didn’t take any of their lives, not a hair off their heads,” he said. “When you drive down the street and see the mess and smell, you realize God is good, because his mercy endureth forever.”

“There is something with the profession that he is good,” Rev. Hunter explained. “God then turns what we see on the roadside to his glory. Out of this he will transform this city into being new again.”

“At times like these, God’s people stop being so focused on being a church, and we’re almost shocked into being The Church,[all who believe in Jesus Christ], said Greenwell Springs Baptist Church Executive Pastor Andy Stafford. “We open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit moving and stop trying to do things by our own power. So, we think of what we can do, but when things are so obviously out of our control, we have to turn to the Lord. That’s when he really shows us just how faithful and how amazing he is.”

Out of the muck and chaos, stories of gratitude continue to emerge. A man originally from Cuba sent his wife and four children to find refuge while he stayed to fight the floodwaters at their home near Millerville Road. When the water reached five feet, he survived by climbing on top of his truck. “Through the night he had to fight off many snakes,” said Pastor Guillermo Mangieri of Istrouma en Espanol (Istrouma Baptist Church), speaking through interpreter Carlos Schmidt of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

Al and Toni New, Chaplain Coordinator Team.
Al and Toni New, Chaplain Coordinator Team.

“The water receded and the whole family came back. They just put plastic on the floor and a blanket and they slept on the wet floor for two nights until a disaster relief team from the church provided mattresses and other bedding. Like many other churches, Istrouma continues to minister through relationships forged in the aftermath of the flood. Another team reached the home of woman who lived alone. “When the disaster relief team came she said, ‘You are an answer to my mother’s prayer in Cuba because you are coming and helping me now.’ And she received Christ,” Schmidt said.

The church continues to embrace the families reached by its disaster teams. After housing, feeding and clothing a family of new believers, members brought them home. “We prayed for them and then they read Psalm 46 and said now I understand that it’s Jesus who takes care of me. It is proven that he cares for me,” said Schmidt.

 Volunteers from Samaritan’s Purse, Tracy Allison, Angela Wallace, michelle worley-Hurt, and lyndagayle daniels.
Volunteers from Samaritan’s Purse, Tracy Allison, Angela Wallace, Michelle Worley-Hurt, and Lyndagayle Daniels.

“What we do know is God has sent his people here to help you get through this,” said Chaplain Al New of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team. “We don’t know why it happens. Some day we will. God has sent an army of people here to make sure you get the help you need.”

“It’s pretty easy to pick out those who are trusting and believing in the Lord because they say, honey, everything’s going to be alright. We’re okay, we know the Lord. He’s getting us through this,” New said. “Then you run into somebody who doesn’t believe. And they’re angry at a God they don’t believe in because they just lost everything.”

That example has reverberated through the lives of Greenwell Springs Baptist Church members Craig and Michelle Morgan. Currently on assignment for Exxon-Mobile in Saudi Arabia, Craig and Michelle received a message from their daughter that both their home and his parents’ home on Highway 16 in Denham Springs were flooding. They were on an anniversary cruise out of Copenhagen, Denmark, but were able to get information through Facebook and Skype.

“My sister called my mom on her cellphone and said, ‘Y’all need to back the truck out from under the carport and put a ladder in it, in case you need to get on the roof,” he said. When water reached their knees in the bed of the truck, they climbed onto the roof and eventually flagged down a rescue boat. It was his dad’s 79th birthday.

“My family has been on this piece of property for at least 80 years. We have never seen water in any of these houses,” Morgan said. The water reached 6 to 7 feet.

Susan Brown meets with Kay Taylor from Cumulus Media.
Susan Brown meets with Kay Taylor from Cumulus Media.

Stuck on a cruise ship with no available port, the Morgans realized the enormity of the rebuilding task. They connected with a young cruise employee and shared their story. “She said, ‘I can’t imagine how strong you two are because if I had lost everything, I would be in shambles. You are carrying on as if nothing had happened,’ Morgan recounted. “I said, ‘Well, I don’t want to give you a false impression that we haven’t cried a few tears, but if you want to really know why we’re so strong it’s because we’ve made a conscious decision to honor God with our lives. We put him first and we know that we’re in his hands.’”

“We’re hanging onto a couple of scriptures. One is: ‘Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all’ [Psalm 34:19]. And the second one is: ‘Sorrow [weeping] may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning’ [Psalm 30:5],” Morgan explained. “She said, ‘You are an example to everyone.’”

“If all this had to happen for us to be there for her, it’s worth it all; God used it,” said Michelle. “It’s going to take time and it’s not going to be an easy road,” said Craig. “But the big thing is that everybody has come together, the whole community’s come together to help one another out. People of all ethnic backgrounds are pulling together to help each other. That’s been the biggest thing I’ve seen.”

Kay Taylor, regional account manager for Cumulus Media (WXOK), agrees. “Things don’t happen without a reason and a purpose,” Taylor said. She watched the Amite and Comite rivers suddenly rush to meet beside her house in the Brentwood subdivision in Baker. As the water rose, flooding her cars and home, a man with a large truck appeared and drove her family to safety. Taylor said the flood insurance she paid for 25 years is a matter of dispute because her mortgage was sold to a company that considered her home well beyond the flood zone. Still, she calls herself “super blessed.”

“I have no clothes. I have no shoes. I have nothing. I’ve got my life, and I’ve got my God, so I’m good. I can’t live in the past, and I won’t let things dominate my life,” said Taylor, a member of Interdenominational Faith Assembly.

franklin graham of samaritan’s Purse personally visits flood ravaged home. Touring with him is Donald Trump, Mike Pence and a team of others.
franklin graham of samaritan’s Purse personally visits flood ravaged home. Touring with him is Donald Trump, Mike Pence and a team of others.

God’s protective covering, described in Psalm 91, and his cleansing work are evident in the community, Taylor said. “You have to listen and see what has happened. This is the worst flood in a hundred years. Baton Rouge, we’re a praying city,” she said. “And God spared us a whole lot. But there’s too much evil. Killing the Sterling young man, killing the three innocent cops. God is not pleased with all that, so he’s just trying to get us in line and keep us right.” Taylor hopes that individual lives, as well as homes, will be rebuilt. “You can have a good life – you and God,” she said.

The rebuilding process creates opportunities to “get into the storm before the storm,” according to Billy Graham Rapid Response Team Chaplain Al New. Chaplains go to home sites with each Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief team from their temporary headquarters at Greenwell Springs Baptist Church. “A lot of people already had issues in their lives, and that’s what the chaplains are dealing with on a daily basis out here – not so much the storm that brought us here, but the storms that they were going through. It may be a divorce or illness or need for reconciliation. We’ve seen families that were not getting along so well become united through this flood.”

The spontaneous outpouring of help is a good sign of future success, New said. “These people are strong people and they’re used to hard lives. So, coming into here, driving in and already seeing rows and rows and rows of debris at the side of the road – you don’t see that normally anywhere else. Usually they’re waiting for somebody to come and do it. But they’re way ahead of the game here because they chose to help each other.”

“I just want everybody to stay prayed up and know that God is faithful and that everybody understands their purpose in life – to be a blessing to their family, but to their neighbor also,” Taylor said. “We need to just to be decent, good people, do what’s right and try to line up with God’s word. ‘But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you.’”

Editor’s note: For assistance or volunteer information, Samaritan’s Purse may be reached at 985-402-4350 or

BRCLM Lagniappe, October 2016

Recovering From Flooding Means Finding New Beginnings

House2Home225 – a new nonprofit – is helping flood victims turn houses into homes once again.

by Sharon Furrate Bailey

a16e2ee7bb02ea077a354f4745d5d518Alexandra Napoli is one of a kind. She is a wife, mother and visionary who has a gift for helping others. She has a giving heart, and always puts her best foot forward when she gets involved with an organization. I witnessed her efforts firsthand while managing special events and publicity for the Arthritis Association of Louisiana. At the time, I barely knew Alexandra, but she volunteered her time and energy to help us make the event a success. She went home and created every backdrop for artists to display their beautifully painted or embellished gloves on for our fundraiser. She was truly our angel – were it not for her efforts, the gloves would not have been so beautifully displayed.

Since that event, Alexandra has stayed active in the Baton Rouge community. She has assisted The Dunham School with many of their events, as well as worked with Trafficking Hope. So, what’s next for Alexandra?

When she saw the devastation so many experienced due to recent flooding, she decided to start her own nonprofit. After working all day alongside her sister at the Celtic Media Center shelter, she left with a vision, and began the process of creating House2Home225 to assist people who had been affected by something horrific. She quickly got to work creating a website ( and selecting board members.

Donations for houses packed in a trailer.
Donations for houses packed in a trailer.

Be it flooding, fire, job loss, or any number of other things that can affect one’s livelihood, House2Home225 will be a place for people to go and find help for the rebuilding process. Those who need assistance can visit the website where they will be able to complete an application, have it reviewed, and then meet with Alexandra to have their need assessed.

Alexandra has developed strong relationships with licensed contractors and vendors throughout the area, as she works in, and has a passion for the field of design. She has experience working with both commercial and residential clients, and has many connections in the furniture business and construction industry, which gave her the confidence necessary to launch House2Home225.

Her current work has been focused on gathering donations such as mattresses and various other home furnishings, and storing them at her husband’s business, Kirk’s has the Works. It is truly amazing to see the many items that have already arrived!

Alexandra truly puts her faith into action. She doesn’t sit around waiting – quite the opposite. Two scriptures come to mind that capture Alexandra’s humility and servant heart:
“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” – Acts 20:35

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” – Luke 12:48

Alexandra rarely has to be asked – she sees a need and begins trying to find a solution. Please take time to visit the website at There are tons of ways to get involved whether you want to volunteer your time or make a donation. Let’s help people rebuild their homes and create a space that can once again be their personal sanctuary.

BRCLM Lagniappe, October 2016

Water Sees No Color

by Taylor Frey

seeing-the-home After riding in a boat for 15 minutes and wading through two and a half feet of water, Derrick and Cheree Franklin finally made it to the front door of their home. Derrick stuck the key in his door and before turning the knob, he whispered, “It’s the moment of truth.” As he opened the door slowly, the reality of what had happened in the days prior sunk in. Their hometown of St. Amant was flooded as the Amite River, Bayou Manchac, Blind River and other tributaries in the area backed up with massive amounts of rainwater. Derrick looked around in amazement, his wood floor planks floated on top of the murky water along with other household items he has worked for and collected throughout his life.

Side by side, the Franklins carefully moved forward, one foot in front of the other, pushing aside the floor planks. Cheree grabbed her husband’s arm and began crying at the sight of three feet of water inside their home. But her tears were not hopeless, because hanging high and dry on the center of their living room wall was a picture frame with a quote that read, “Faith is not believing that God can; it is knowing that He will.”  One thing the Franklins say they know for sure is that God will be glorified through this tragic event. The Franklins strongly believe that God has already been glorified as the people in the community reach out to one another. “He’s using the church right now to reach out to the community, to be the light that we are supposed to be as the body of Christ,” Derrick said.

Derrick and Cheree.
Derrick and Cheree.

The Franklins are members of The Church at St. Amant, a church that prepared more than 120,000 meals, brought thousands of people back to their homes by boat, and clothed and sheltered thousands. They continue to provide for and serve the community as it heals. But when Derrick says the church, he isn’t talking about The Church at St. Amant specifically — he is talking about the worldwide church.

“I love the relationships being built right now,” Cheree said. Gesturing to Jarrett Simoneaux, the boat driver who picked them up to bring them to assess the damage of their home, she continued, “We will never forget this young man who is bringing us to our home.” Simoneaux’s home was spared in the flood, but he came from Donaldsonville to help his neighbors. “I don’t like seeing people hurt, and I want to help people in whatever way I can,” Simoneaux said. Although Simoneaux does not classify himself as a part of the “Cajun Navy,” he is still among the thousands of Cajuns who volunteered their boats and time to help people.

A picture frame that remained untouched by the floods hanging in Derrick and Cheree Franklin’s home.
A picture frame that remained untouched by the floods hanging in Derrick and Cheree Franklin’s home.

Another way the Franklins said they see God being glorified is in the lack of racial tension and division present since the flooding occurred. “With all of this that is happening, where’s all the racial tension and division?” Cheree asked.

The Franklins say they don’t believe it is a coincidence that three and a half weeks after the Baton Rouge police shootings and riots, the floodwaters came. “Everyone kind of wanted to know where we were in the black verses the white [issue].” Cheree and Derrick, both African Americans said, “We don’t fall in either of those [labels]. We’re Christians. We don’t see color. We see souls.”

The color lines blur as disaster relief shows people helping people with no color barrier or prejudice. Derrick added, “You hear nothing else about that right now. It’s all about saving and helping whoever we possibly can, whenever we possibly can.” He said it drives him crazy how the media hangs on a topic for so long and over exaggerates it. He boldly proclaimed, “If we focus on Christ the entire time, we’ll never get to those other barriers.” And even in the midst of losing almost everything he owned, he was still able to say, “This is awesome, if you ask me.”

BRCLM Lagniappe, October 2016

A Tale of Two Storms

An Anxious Heart Revealed

by Georgia Small
scripture on the studs in georgia small’s stepdaughter’s (Jordan) house.
scripture on the studs in georgia small’s stepdaughter’s (Jordan) house.

Friday, August 5, 2016, and the days that followed, remind me of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Since I lived in New Orleans when Katrina was approaching, I evacuated to my mother’s house in Baton Rouge. Friends and families scattered in many different directions – wherever they could find lodging – and we spent many hours in traffic as the roadways clogged with evacuees. When the storm came on Monday, we lost power and our cell service. The phone lines were overloaded, and it was extremely difficult to check on loved ones. As we watched the nightmare unfold, we learned that New Orleans was flooding. Many people had stayed behind, and their rescues were dramatic. The stories from the shelters were scary and heartbreaking. Even in Baton Rouge there was anxiety because of low supplies of gas and food, and rumors of muggings and carjackings. It was horrific. As our power came back, we watched the awful story unfold on the news.

We kicked in to a fight or flight mode of living — high anxiety and hyper-focused on how to survive the day. There were so many things to worry about: Is everyone I love safe? Is my home dry and unharmed? Will I have a job when I return? These were the questions we all dealt with, and many were answered with, “no” or “not yet.” Hurricane Katrina hit on Monday, August 29, 2005, and it was October before the first few neighborhoods were allowed to return. New Orleans has had a long road to recovery since then.

Friday, August 12 of this year, as we prepared for heavy rains in the Baton Rouge area, we did what we always do in Louisiana — we loaded up supplies in case we had to stay put for a while. We expected closed roads and dangerous driving conditions, but no one anticipated the horror to come. By Friday night we saw this was no ordinary storm. People were getting trapped in their neighborhoods, and the rain was still coming. By Saturday, it was obvious many who were not in flood zones would flood. Major roadways were flooded. Boat rescues began. Nearly 90 percent of the homes flooded in Denham Springs, which is where my stepdaughter lives, so it was getting personal at my house. As we became more and more concerned, my husband tried to find a way to reach her. We took a deep breath of relief as we discovered that a friend of hers had rescued her by boat.

The rain kept coming and the waters kept rising. Baton Rouge, and then Ascension Parish where I live, began to flood. More roads closed as the waters rushed across them. More homes flooded.  As I write this on August 20, the damage is still not complete. There is still what is termed “back flooding” in an area near my church.

georgia’s daughter, Annika small, baking cookies for her sister whose house flooded.
Georgia’s daughter, Annika small, baking cookies for her sister whose house flooded.

During this entire week, my anxiety has been extreme. Despite my house and neighborhood not being affected, I have had trouble sleeping and eating and, at times, have been unable to stop shaking. It is as if the whole experience of Katrina had been lurking below the surface in my mind, and this storm had reactivated my fight or flight response, which has led me to wonder why. Katrina was horribly traumatic for me, but my story had a happy ending. My apartment was spared. Although my job fizzled out, losing it led me to a new life in Baton Rouge. I joined a wonderful church, became involved in an amazing ministry, met my husband and have since had two wonderful kids. So why am I so anxious and worried? I have seen God’s goodness and his provision time and again. As I contemplated this provision, I had a revelation. A catastrophic event like this exposes the dirty little secret that I am most afraid of: I am not in control. In my daily life I am a planner. I am not super-organized, but I have a schedule and a “to do” list. I like things to go according to plan. This flood was not part of my plan. Not thousands of people suffering with flooded homes, businesses, schools and churches. Not flooded roads that trapped us in our neighborhoods. Not cell phone outages, or store closures, or empty shelves or curfews or lootings, or any part of it. On a normal day I can pretend that I am in control, but not today. No way am I in control today.

When I cannot control my circumstances, my faith gets tested as a Christian. In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus admonishes us not to be anxious. In verse 27 He says, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Hmm… so my worrying and stressing and pacing like a caged animal is not going to change any of this? No. So what am I supposed to do? Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Ok, so trusting in the Lord does not depend on my understanding what is happening. Good news because I do not understand all of this suffering. So if I can’t spend my time worrying, what am I to think about? Philippians 4:8 says to think on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise. Doesn’t that sound like it’s talking about God and His word? So this is where reading the Bible and storing His word in my heart can help me. Psalm 23 can be my lifeline. The Lord is a good shepherd, and He will care for me even in the valley of the shadow of death. Deuteronomy 31:6 tells me that I can be strong, courageous and unafraid because the Lord my God goes with me, and He will not leave me or forsake me. This is good news!

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not minimizing the horrible suffering all around our region right now. I am not saying that we should not cry out to God in lament. The Psalms teach us that we can pour our heart out to God about whatever troubles us — and we should. Even Jesus modeled this on the cross as He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But, as we cry out to God, we have to cast our cares on Him (Psalm 55:22). Anxiety exposes a denial of God’s goodness. Finding the root of my anxiety is helping me to let go of it — slowly, and with two steps forward and one step back. I pray that as our community moves forward from this disaster that we will remember to whom we should give our trust. “… The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

Family Life, October 2016


by Tonya Woodridge-Jarvis
Tonya Woodridge-Jarvis, The Refresher
Tonya Woodridge-Jarvis, The Refresher

On the day of your birth several years ago, God designed a plan of preparation for you. He was there when they put cake in your face on your first birthday. He was on the road with you taking your driving test. He was even there with you when you thought you were old enough to take your first drink. Jesus was there when you fell in love for the first time. He has been there and will always be there.  And although it seems like sometimes you can’t find Him, or you feel like He is not showing up on your behalf, always remember that He shall not tell a lie, and every step you take, good or bad, He is there in the midst of it all.

Phase 1: Born 

The Bible speaks of Jesus talking to Nicodemus explaining what it means to be a born again believer. Jesus answers, “Very, truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit, (John 3:5).

If you are not a believer and you want to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, say this simple prayer: “God, I know that I have sinned against you. But, I confess Jesus as the Lord of my soul. With my whole heart, I believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. I accept Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, and according to His Word, right now I am saved in Jesus name. Amen.

Now that you’ve gained and recognized your faith in Jesus Christ, you’ve also developed a direct and personal relationship with God, and you’ve had a chance to experience His grace and mercy on your life.

Phase 2: Growth 

One of the greatest myths ever expressed is this — as a believer, I won’t experience hardships. That is a complete lie! As a believer, you will experience some of the toughest hardships there are. Not because God is picking on you, but because He is grooming what’s on the inside of you. A person who has never run a race can’t decide to compete in the Olympics tomorrow. One will need to train for numerous races before he has enough stamina to compete in that type of race. The same principle applies to faith; if you’ve never had to show endurance, then you’ll never know how much you have. The Bible says in Matthew 17:20, “For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

When your loved one went to be with the Lord, He [Jesus] was there to comfort you. When you were laid off and didn’t know how you were going to pay your bills, He was a provider. When your child got into trouble, when your spouse started working on your last nerve, when the business deal fell through and the stock market crashed and you lost terribly, God was right there in the midst of it all, talking to you, keeping you calm, preparing you to endure the remainder of the race. Your faith grows your endurance. God’s Word is your coach and ultimate trainer. And guess what, you eventually will win the race!

Phase 3: Power 

You’ve lost a lot and have now entered into a dark tempest of doubt like nothing you’ve experienced before. You have clouded judgments, and you’re seeking various mechanisms for your divine intervention. You guess that God still loves you, but you wonder why He is allowing this to happen to you and others around you. You’re surrounded by the foul odors of devastation, depression and denial.

By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith,” (Hebrews 11:7).

Are you hoping for a miracle, or are you praying for one? There is a difference. Remember Noah and his faith? Take the limits off of God. Open the door for him to work. Noah risked everything to build the ark when it wasn’t even raining yet. So in faith, see the things that you want to change and pray without ceasing about them. You need to seize it before you see it – in other words, seize the moment by faith before you see the moment in faith.

If you sit and think about the different storms in your life, you’ll quickly realize that being born again, growing in your faith, and the power of faith are the phases that God uses to increase your endurance, and ultimately to prepare you for what’s to come.

Family Life, October 2016

Wade in the Water

by Josh Pitre

josh-pitreAs the waters recede and we begin to pick up the pieces, it appears that the shattered parts of our lives start to come back together. Harder to identify, may be a deeper psychological trauma that has been created by the tumultuous situation. The emotional distress caused by storms, floods and other types of natural disasters often goes unnoticed until the chaos subsides and our lives begin to settle. Sitting in the turmoil, thoughts may intrude asking disturbing questions, seeking answers to ideas surrounding God’s presence in the midst of this hardship, or even doubting his regard for His children. As we begin to heal physically, emotionally and spiritually, we have to revisit the moments of anguish and address the questions that interfere to fully recover from these experiences. Just as the waters came, rose and abated, so must our emotions as we engage them in a healthy manner.

When thinking about emotional recovery, there are three phases to consider. These stages, as described by Dr. Judith Herman in her book “Trauma and Recovery” (1992), include: Safety/Stabilization, Remembrance/Mourning, and Reconnection/Integration. As these phases are experienced, it is important to remember that no one is expected to navigate them alone. Each person wrestles with these steps differently and at varying paces, but the process for each survivor is the same. In knowing each level, and having the ability to recognize the process, no one will need to experience the journey without guidance. Having the knowledge to identify the stages in one’s own self or someone else can increase the community necessary to support one another.

During Safety and Stabilization, one who has experienced trauma may have difficulty regulating or coping with everyday emotions. For example, while searching for something as insignificant as ChapStick, someone with a history of normal emotional responses may dissolve into tears. While processing through traumatic events, it is important to remember that listening will prove to be the most healing thing we can do. Offering advice and trying to “fix it” does not allow the person experiencing the trauma to grieve. Take into consideration that their reaction is related to a greater trigger and not the current situation.

Remembrance and Mourning is important to allow the survivor an opportunity to share their story. This phase may be done with friends, family or a professional therapist. During this phase, we can best support those who have experienced trauma through empathic listening. We must remember that everyone experiences trauma differently. An individual mourning after a trauma may include recognizing the loss that occurred. For one person the grieving may be concrete, such as the devastation of their physical home, or more abstract, such as loss of security. Identifying the ending of some aspect of a survivor’s life before the trauma and taking time to feel the weight of the contrast, can pave the way to reconnection.

Reconnection and Integration is experienced when an individual is able to move past the event and begin to visualize their life on the other side. This does not demand that the person is “over it” and no longer reflecting on the trauma with emotion. However, the circumstance has less control and debilitating triggers for the survivor. This stage is a period of rebuilding and embracing a life tainted by the event, but not destroyed.

Each person is able to navigate these phases at varying paces, and each journey is individualized. The most helpful way to aid those touched by trauma is providing encouragement and support as they traverse the path of recovery. A survivor experiencing the process must have grace with themselves and allow pain to be present. The method necessary to fully heal may require wandering through the destruction wrought by the event — for only then will true cleansing occur.

Josh Pitre, MSW, LCSW

Josh is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. He has worked with many populations internationally and locally. He first became aware of his passion and desire to help others while in high school.  Since then, he has traveled to China, India and Venezuela to support and counsel those in need. He currently serves as Dean of Students at a local Charter School were he works closely with students and their families to ensure that not only their academic, but also social and emotional needs are being met. Josh and his wife Allyson also offer therapeutic services through Veritas Counseling Center, a means to provide affordable counseling to the community. To learn more about Josh and Allyson’s counseling services, visit the Veritas website at

Faith Life, October 2016

Matthew 25: Ministries Brings Help and Hope to Flood Victims

by Ben Williams

img_7081In August, Matthew 25: Ministries deployed from Cincinnati, Ohio to assist the people of Louisiana after the devastating flooding they experienced. The team brought with them nearly 10,000 pounds of initial relief supplies including personal care and cleaning kits, paper towels, toilet paper, diapers, baby wipes, first aid and safety kits, masks, gloves, ice and blankets. In addition to these supplies, the team brought the mobile Tide Loads of Hope vehicle which washed nearly 500 loads of laundry while on the ground.

The team distributed supplies throughout the greater Baton Rouge and Denham Springs areas. In total, we distributed approximately 785 detergent pods, 1,210 personal care kits, 1,110 cleaning kits, 9,800 rolls of paper products, 125 cases of diapers, 1,010 packs of baby wipes, 255 first aid and safety kits, 225 pairs of safety gloves, 1,250 safety masks, 600 bags of ice, and 25 disaster relief blankets. All of these items were generously donated by Matthew 25: Ministries’ disaster relief partners, as well as many families and individuals throughout the city of Cincinnati.

img_7087The flooding itself was certainly one of the most devastating to impact the United States in recent memory. As the team distributed supplies throughout the affected areas, it quickly became evident that while there was so much devastation, there was also hope and determination in the hearts of the people. Everywhere we looked, there were neighbors helping neighbors, and even more impactful, strangers helping strangers. No matter what situation an individual was in, it seemed there was more concern for the people around them. There were several occurrences of people declining aid supplies asking us to give them to people who needed them more, even though that individual was clearly in need of assistance. This truly spoke to the character of the people of Louisiana.

Tides of Hope with ministry from cincinnati, ohio. Mark Stehlin, Ben Williams and Burke Grismere.
Tides of Hope with ministry from cincinnati, ohio. Mark Stehlin, Ben Williams and Burke Grismere.

Though the Matthew 25: Ministries’ team is no longer in Louisiana, we are not gone. We are committed to continue sending truckloads of supplies for as long as there is still a need. It will be a long process of recovery, but I know the strength and resiliency of the people of Louisiana will continue to shine through as cleanup continues. It is never easy to respond to disasters especially ones as devastating as this one, but it is always such a blessing coming into contact with so many caring people all working toward the same goal. I always say that we go to help those in need, but rarely do I return without feeling encouraged by the people we assist. We will continue to keep you all in our prayers and ask God’s blessings on you in the difficult months to come.

Faith Life, October 2016

Cajun Army to the Rescue

by Lisa Tramontana

cajun-army-logoMany South Louisiana residents went to bed the night of August 13 to the sound of a steady rain — only to be awakened in the middle of the night by neighbors or family members urging them to leave their homes. The flash floods that had started the day before were now a full-fledged disaster. Thousands of homes and neighborhoods were flooding faster than anyone had expected, and the calls for rescue were coming in fast and furious to first responders.

Thank God for the Cajun Navy, a loosely organized group of private citizens willing to help transport flood victims to safety. The “captains” came from everywhere. Word spread that anyone with a boat and the desire to help was welcome and most important, badly needed. State and local officials worried about so many private citizens headed into the flood waters, but at the same time, were grateful for the assistance.

Sgt. Don Coppola of the Baton Rouge Police Department told local media that it was a real struggle to keep up with the number of rescue calls, especially as the flooding situation worsened over the following days. He said there was no way law enforcement could have rescued as many people as they did without the help of the Cajun Navy.

A CNN story about the group aptly described it as “possibly the nation’s most important neighborhood watch.”

This group got together to demo a home in Sherwood Forest. The photo was posted by Darcy Vallery.

Chris King of Prairieville was one of those Cajun Navy captains, along with his friends Joshua and Nicholas Loupe of Morgan City. On the Saturday of the flooding, King had been in close touch with a fellow employee who lived in Denham Springs and needed help. Joined by another family (and co-worker), she now had six adults, two toddlers, two elderly family members and several dogs in her home, which was rapidly filling with water. Although she had called for help, no one had arrived yet.

King and the Loupes set on their way, completely unaware of how dangerous the trip would be. In fact, the rescue would take 11 hours, and more than once, King was unsure if they would be successful. “We’re all men of faith,” he said. “Before we even put our boats in the water, we stood and held hands and prayed. We asked God to watch over us, to give us wisdom and keep us safe. I think because of that, we didn’t have a lot of fear. We kept going even when we thought it might be smarter to turn around and go back.”

Once the rescue was complete, King found himself at home still wanting to help. He and the Loupe brothers started talking about a Cajun Army —  volunteers to help with a more “boots on the ground” approach. “We are called to love our neighbors,” he said. “And this seemed like a way to connect meaningful work with people who want to serve.”

Chelsea Shoun Adams posted a thank-you note to Lili Brumme and Nick Nelson, who were bicycling along the Mississippi River Trail earlier this month, and interrupted their journey to help out the Cajun Army for a few days.

Two days after setting up a Facebook page, King had 82 volunteers offering to help in any way they could. He eventually started a website to manage the growing demand for information and resources, and by the first of September, already had 3,000 volunteers.

“I got calls from people all over the country,” King said. “I couldn’t believe how many people wanted to help. I tell you, God has created something amazing and I’ve got a front-row seat.”

The Cajun Army first organized work crews to help people gut and clean their homes. Other groups hauled trash, demolished sheetrock, delivered supplies, served food, and provided transportation and shelter.

Even though the most immediate needs (shelter and safety) have been met for most people, the Cajun Army’s work continues.

An elderly blind woman with a husband in his 80s heard about the Cajun Army and in tears, called King to ask for help. The couple had placed all of their possessions in storage and she needed to get it out by the following day or she would lose everything. “I made some phone calls and we took care of it,” King said. “Another elderly lady had gone back to live in her house even though it’s filled with black mold. Her neighbors called us because they were worried about her health. We were able to get her to leave until it’s safe for her to return.”

anna-fontenotKing says he has witnessed untold miracles, large and small, since the Cajun Army was formed. “Over the years, I’ve been a youth minister and I’ve been involved in church leadership, spiritual retreats, prison ministry … but I’ve never seen anything like this. This is the most powerful thing I’ve ever been involved in.”

Helping others, especially in times of crisis, can be overwhelming. “When Josh and Nick and I made that 11-hour trip in our boats, we were focused on rescuing our friends,” King said. “But when it was over, it hit us like a ton of bricks. We had gone through so much emotion. We felt fear, joy, worry. At times, we were defeated, lost, terrified. It was a lot to go through.”

The Cajun Army will be available as long as there are people who need help and people who want to serve. “Not every volunteer is a person of faith,” King said. “Even if they don’t all identify with a church or religion, they identify with Christian values. My hope is that we will all continue God’s work together. It’s not okay to keep going about your everyday life while there are so many people who are still suffering. It’s going to be a long road to recovery …”

If you would like to know more about the Cajun Army, go to You can also search for Cajun Army on Facebook.