“What does hope look like in Southwest Louisiana?”
The Rev. Dr. John Robert Black opened his Sunday message with that question, and he explained that life will get better in this area following dual disasters — the coronavirus pandemic and Hurricane Laura that left unbelievable damage in its wake.
Black is senior pastor of St. Luke-Simpson United Methodist Church in Lake Charles. He said it is understandable that residents of Southwest Louisiana are frustrated, angry, confused, feeling helpless, disappointed and challenged.
“We are living like no one else,” he said. “We feel like we live in a different country.” He added that lives are completely normal in surrounding areas that are just one hour and 15 minutes away.
The main scripture for Black’s message was Jeremiah, Chapter 29, and verses 10-11. The words of the prophet came after the kingdom of Judah was conquered, Jerusalem was destroyed, and the Israelites were held captive by Babylon.
Jeremiah said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘When 70 years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
Meanwhile, Jeremiah advised them not to expect to return immediately to their homeland, as false prophets had told them, but to settle peaceably in their place of exile and seek the welfare of their captors.
The message was that life, as the people had known it, wasn’t coming back anytime soon. Rev. Black didn’t say we would be in our current state of affairs for 70 years, but said, “God will deliver us — not tomorrow, not next week, but we will not stay in exile forever.”
“It will come one day down the road,” he said, and it’s OK to feel angry. Jesus did.” It will be a time whenever we will be like everybody else, he said.
Many of the citizens in this area are facing problems they have never seen before. Few escaped the ravages of Hurricane Laura. Businesses haven’t been spared either, and that is long-term damage. Some places of business simply won’t or can’t return.
One-third of my roof was ripped off by the hurricane’s strong winds, but even that is minor compared to what some of my neighbors are facing. The same winds tore down over half of the back of the home of Etienne and Betsy Stoupy and their two young daughters. The future of my gracious neighbors is uncertain at the moment.
I did what my insurance agent said and called a number of contractors right after the storm. I left my name and number, but there were no immediate responses. I knew they already had their hands full.
I had no idea of what to do next. How could I after making a living sitting at a typewriter and computer for almost 60 years? Thank God for Dr. Joe Fierro, my son-in-law who “took the bull by the horns.”
Joe had already made contact with Striker Roofing and Construction Co. of Dallas and Houston to handle the damage caused on Joe’s home by a falling tree. It wasn’t long before he lined up Striker to repair my roof damage and install a new roof. I am happy to say the job was completed Tuesday.
Yes, there is still more to do, but things are definitely looking up. That is the hope Dr. Black was talking about in his Sunday message. I told him after church about one of those big trucks hauling off most of the major construction materials and other debris in front of my home and what a hopeful sign that was.
I can’t say enough about my family and friends who have made this transition so smooth from the beginning. For some reason, I never lost that hope that Black said is our salvation.
“Hope is people who still worship,” he said. “If you are worshiping, God is pleased. Give God your praise, worship and heart.”
Black talked about the tremendous job churches and church-related organizations have been doing to speed up our recovery, and he added that schools are up next.
Stress increases addictions, he said, and advised us to get some rest and exercise and how important it is to find joy, even in the face of adversity.
While listening to that Sunday message, I kept thinking about that great old church song, “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less, Than Jesus Christ, My Righteousness.”
“What does hope look like?” Rev. Black asked. “Faith that God will ultimately deliver us from our troubles. Hope is the belief we will be free from anxiety,” he said.
Keeping the faith has gotten me through many troubling times in my life, and I have no hesitation in recommending it to others.