No doubt, the last few days have been trying for our families, our church, and our community. The recent tornado ripped through the Ruston area and even reached as far as Downsville with its devastating consequences. Houses have been destroyed, trees uprooted, businesses smattered; and even more tragically, two lives were taken from us. Yet, we have already seen the Lord move in a variety of ways.
The community itself has been bound together through this adversity. I thought of “The Art of Neighboring,” a study that some of us went through last year, and how its principles have come to life before us. We have truly seen neighbors helping/interacting with neighbors . . . perhaps for the first time! Meaningful relationships have already been forged in this crucible of difficulty, and my prayer is that these will have long-lasting impact.
The work that has been accomplished in such a short time is simply amazing. By this past Saturday, we already saw phenomenal progress made in our community. As a matter of fact, some friends of mine from areas like South Mississippi and South Louisiana texted me Saturday and Sunday, and they inquired about sending up teams. I told them that I wasn’t sure they would be utilized effectively here. So much of the work would already be done before they hit the ground! From various churches and organizations (and just neighbors being neighbors!), the Ruston family was mobilized into the city to cut trees, remove debris, provide meals, etc. I am especially grateful for my staff and for our church family who got out on that initial Thursday to make a difference. Some of you were in “organized, official” groups while others of you stepped up right where you were. How awesome to see our faith family distributed across the community! A reporter asked one of our group leaders, “Is this all a church group?” To which the leader responded, “Yes, Temple Baptist Church.” The reporter remarked, “Oh yes. That is the one on the interstate. I’ve seen it as I have driven by it several times.” But you know what, he had not truly seen the church as he passed by the campus . . . for the church is not the physical building. That reporter saw the church this past week! He saw “flesh and blood” ministering and serving as it should be! You and I are the church!
And what about the ministry of The Springs! Two years ago, this would not have been possible, but with God’s provision (which literally means “to see before”), He allowed us to have an opportunity to be there in that specific area of Barnett Springs for “such a time as this.” While our main campus did not have power, The Springs did. That aspect alone allowed it to become a “hub” there. Thanks to our partnership with Rolling Hills and Louisiana Baptists, we were able to serve over 6,000 meals at The Springs. And that was just the beginning of ministry! So many great things occurred! I hope you will especially help me thank George Lee and his team as they worked so hard.
What I am saying is that God is redeeming these tough moments for His glory! None of us should be surprised by this. Jesus Christ has always been in the redeeming business. If He can take care of our eternity, He most certainly can take care of the “here and now.” He can bring good out of disaster. We are testimonies to that! Let’s declare that as we help people around us. Remember that we are not just on humanitarian missions; we are on Christ missions. Tell people the motive for your assistance—the love of Christ Himself!
We still have a long way to go in the recovery. Pray for those affected. Help as you can. Encourage when the opportunity comes. But give thanks for how He did protect us from further human capital, and trust that He will use this for His glory and our good. See you this SEND Sunday as we come together again for one service at 9 a.m. in the Sanctuary and Bible Study afterward at 10:15 a.m.! And never forget, you are dearly loved!