Faith sparks help for Louisiana flood victims

Casey Stegall reports from Baton Rouge


When tragedy strikes, faith and charity always prevail.

After severe flooding devastated the Baton Rouge area over the weekend, at least six people died and over 20,000 needed to be rescued from the rising waters. as numerous rivers reached historic levels of flooding.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards called the flooding a "truly historic event" and last Friday announced a state of emergency.

On Sunday, the governor declared a federal state of disaster in the Tangipahoa, St. Helena, East Baton Rouge and Livingston parishes.

Among the victims was an elderly grandmother in Rapides Parish, Louisiana -- who saved the life of her four-year-old grandchild in a powerful act of heroism, as reported by KALB-TV. When their car was swept away by the flash flood, the woman held the child up out of the water for safety. The four-year-old was ultimately rescued while the grandmother, sadly, succumbed to the flood waters.

Relief organizations such as the Red Cross and the National Guard rushed to the scenes of the flooding as local organizations put together relief efforts.

Other volunteer organizations responded to the calls for disaster relief, including the Louisiana Baptists and the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

Charles Ellzey, 40, the pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Livingston, Louisiana, responded to a call from David Brown, director of missions for the Eastern Louisiana Baptist Association, to open the church to over 300 flood victims.

"On both sides of us, the water was really severe," Ellzey told LifeZette. "We got about 300 [people] in the gymnasium, church and Sunday school."

Ellzey also obtained permission to open up Doyle High School across the street to provide shelter to 200 more victims of the flood.

On its website, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge wrote, "We'll be around for the long haul, assisting families to rebuild their lives to become whole again."

The relief effort continues -- and local station WAFB shared footage over the weekend of a woman and dog being rescued from a vehicle by three Good Samaritans passing by in a boat

The men struggled to break the passenger side window of the red convertible to save the woman as she yelled, "Get my dog, get my dog!" The rescuers were able to save the dog from the sinking vehicle as well. (See the dramatic rescue below.)

Volunteers are cooking around the clock, according to Ellzey, with provisions donated by local businesses for the flood victims at Bethel Baptist Church.

Ellzey's own faith helped him generously aid his fellow Louisiana residents.

"It has everything to do with my faith. This is an opportunity to be the church and not a spectator," Ellzey said. "It's a time to be a minister, to meet the needs of people -- an opportunity to demonstrate the Gospel."

Reunions between grandparents and grandchildren, and between a mother and her sons, have taken place in the past few days at Bethel Baptist Church after families were separated for days by the flooding.

When asked what those who are far removed from the situation could do to help, Ellzey relied on his faith for the answer.

"Pray that God would be glorified in the midst of this and that people would turn to Christ. The physical difficulty is one thing, but there are people who need to know that Christ died for their sins," Ellzey told LifeZette. "Their greatest need is for their soul."