On Tuesday, Aug. 2, I toured as much of the southeastern Kentucky flood area as I could in one day — starting in Hazard and swinging through Hindman, Whitesburg, Neon, Martin, McDowell, Myra, Jenkins, Carrie and more. My sole purpose was to encourage pastors, leaders and Disaster Relief volunteers in the good work they are doing to alleviate pain and suffering and share the gospel of Jesus.
It was an incredible day, and I plan to return soon. Here are five observations from my time in the hard-hit area:
1. People have been through a lot — Thirteen counties in the southeastern Kentucky region have a national disaster declaration. At the time of this article, 37 people are known to have lost their lives due to the flooding. The community of Neon looked as if the entire town was covered in mud. The Fleming Baptist Church building was especially hard hit. I spoke with the pastor, Bro. Brent Thompson, about the extreme flooding they experienced. He was obviously disappointed, but at the same time optimistic and hopeful that God will see them through this challenging time.
2. People want to help — Pastors Nick, Joe, Trevor, Mitch and Aaron are just a few of the dozens of pastors I personally have been in contact with who want to help and who are helping. Church leaders and members from across the state and from multiple other states are praying, giving and traveling to alleviate the suffering of so many others. At a time when our nation is divided on so many fronts, we can rejoice that the Christian community still responds in force when there is a need somewhere in our nation or in the world.
3. People are resilient — While in the region that day, I saw people cleaning out their homes, gathering up their belongings and taking care of their property. I saw a grandfather shoveling mud while his grandson helped in the best way he could. I witnessed state workers going above and beyond to not only do their job, but also help make life better for those they were serving. Hundreds of people were out delivering meals and supplies to their friends and neighbors. Amid all the destruction I saw people sitting on their porches enjoying conversation and comforting each other.
4. People want respect — One vivid image I took away from my time in the area was a spray-painted message written on the side of a ruined household appliance that read, “Please drive slow, we have been through enough.” There are always lots of people driving through and looking at the devastation when these types of disasters occur. These folks were just asking people to be respectful.
5. People need the Lord — The 37 people who died in the flood did not expect to die that day. Some of them may have been unprepared to meet the Savior. Tragedies like the one in southeastern Kentucky remind us that people need the Lord, and they need us to tell them about Him.
I talked to Disaster Relief workers who shared that three people were saved that day. I spoke to a local pastor that same evening and heard him share about a young couple that he had just led to the Lord. Just today, I received a text of another salvation, and a second stating there have been nine salvations recorded from the DR workers alone. I feel certain this story is being repeated across the region.
Continue to pray for the people of southeastern Kentucky — the ones impacted and the ones showing up to help. May God get much glory and may God’s people be used by Him to bless many others.