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As floods threaten Louisiana, volunteers prepare
Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press
May 19, 2011
5 MIN READ TIME

As floods threaten Louisiana, volunteers prepare

As floods threaten Louisiana, volunteers prepare
Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press
May 19, 2011

VIDALIA, La. — Crews of able-bodied Southern Baptist

volunteers have been transporting the prized possessions of the elderly and

infirm in Vidalia, La., across the Mississippi River to storage in Natchez,

Miss.

Just in case.

“I see no problems with our levee system functioning as it’s supposed to,”

Reynold Minsky, president of the Fifth District Levee Board, has stated. “We’re

going to have a three-foot clearance,” Minsky, a deacon at First

Baptist Church in Lake Providence, La.,

projected, referring to floodwater levels at the district’s 257 miles of levees

that haven’t been seen since the 1930s — or maybe ever.

Rumors of impending devastation have been swirling during the first half of May

as river waters were coursing down from where the “Mighty Mississipp” gains

strength from the Ohio River. Minsky as well as Corps of

Engineer officials and city/state leaders said the dangers of rumors that fuel

panic were worse than the flooding that could come when waters pass Lake

Providence in northeast Louisiana near the Arkansas and Mississippi borders and

continue flowing 100 miles south to Vidalia and beyond.

“We’re stressing to our people not to panic, but just to be prepared,” said Bill

McCullin, pastor of First Baptist

Church of Vidalia. “Yes this is a serious situation but leaders

are doing everything they can do.

“This (possibility of flooding) has unified a community that needed to be

unified,” McCullin continued. “People are thinking about each other. Even

though we’re at the early stages of this, we can still see God at work.”

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, in a May 4 visit to the area, said, “We know we’re

facing historic levels of water coming through Louisiana,

but we’re determined to do everything we can to protect people’s lives,

property and livelihoods.”

Photo courtesy of the Vidalia, La., Chamber of Commerce

As Mississippi River floodwaters rush through Vidalia, La., a local pastor says prayer is needed that God would calm the hearts of Christians and that they use the opportunity to bring others to faith and trust in Jesus.

In Vidalia, the levee has never been tested beyond 58 feet, said McCullin of First

Baptist Vidalia. “Beyond 60 feet they really do not know. (The

Army Corps of Engineers) has confidence is in its ability to hold what’s

coming, but their uncertainty is that they don’t know for sure.”

City leaders encouraged Vidalia residents to move treasured possessions to Natchez,

which is on a high bluff, the pastor said. “They’re not predicting they are

going to have a problem,” McCullin added. “I’m trusting in what the Corps of

Engineers reported.”

A town meeting was held May 4, to quell rumors and give solid information, but

the room could only hold 50 people, so McCullin invited the mayor to First

Baptist the next evening for a repeat session. About 300

people participated in the second gathering.

Especially worrisome for Vidalia is its $75 million Riverfront

Center, situated between the river

and the levee. The Riverfront Center

includes a medical center with state-of-the-art equipment, a hotel, convention

center and welcome center, plus two water wells. Everyone agrees the riverfront

area will flood. The Corps of Engineers, National Guardsmen, city workers and

volunteers are surrounding each of the four buildings with “Hesco baskets” —

4-by-8-foot canvas containers filled with sand. Pumps would be placed inside

the Hesco walls to remove any seepage.

In a worst-case scenario, First Baptist’s offices

would move to First

Baptist Church

in Natchez.

The Mississippi River flooding won’t stop until it gets

to the Gulf of Mexico.

At this point, prayer is what’s needed most of all, McCullin said — prayer that

God would calm the hearts of Christians and that they would use the opportunity

to bring others to faith and trust in Jesus.

“Once it hits the crest, it will take about a month to six weeks for (floodwaters)

to get down to the 48-foot flood stage. Will the levee system hold that much

water for that much time? … I would rather prepare for the worst and get the

best,” McCullin said. “We’re stressing to our people not to panic, but just to

be prepared. It’s just better to be safe.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Willoughby is

managing editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist

Convention.)

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