Nashville Flooding Takes on a Spiritual Dimension

Rooftops looking like buoys in the ocean from above.

Residents traumatized by the loss of so much, so quick.

A history-steeped Southern city ravaged by an unwelcomed rush of natural fury.

This easily could describe New Orleans in August 2005.

Instead it describes parts of Nashville in May 2010.

Individuals and businesses near the flood-swollen Cumberland River are only beginning to clean up damaged or destroyed properties assess damage and begin to put the pieces of their lives back together.

Rev. Thomas McKenzie of the Church of the Redeemer knew the large storm system was causing problems when it rolled through last Saturday. He e-mailed the roughly 300 congregants urging them to stay home if conditions made it too difficult to get to church the following morning.

“We had a pretty low turnout and we had people contacting us saying they wanted to make it but they couldn’t make it out of their neighborhood,” McKenzie told Everyday Christian on Friday afternoon. “Some of these people were only two blocks away from the church. That’s when we first really started to realize the severity of the situation.”

Much of McKenzie’s week has been spent assisting and marshaling help for about half of the membership which suffered damage ranging from damaged driveways, submerged cars and houses which are a total loss.

“The funny thing about this flood is the hard hit areas are everywhere,” McKenzie explained. “It’s not like as if you were aiming at a map and hit it with a rifle. It’s more like a shotgun all over (Nashville) north, south, east, west and middle.

“I’ll be going to a worksite through an upper middle class area with a Porsche in the driveway at the top of the hill and at the bottom of the hill it’s (Hurricane) Katrina.”

While Redeemer members are doing their best to help one another, they haven’t turned a blind eye to those who are suffering more.

“We were at a house earlier this week clearing things out,” McKenzie said. “We had plenty of people to help. We looked across the street and here was this poor woman all by herself struggling to get things picked up. We sent some of our people over to help.”

He added that most of the immediate critical needs of finding temporary shelter or making houses livable until repairs can be made have been taken care of for the most part. He also encouraged people who are interested and able to give to relief agencies such as the Red Cross or Samaritan’s Purse to help with supplies and work toward achieving some financial footing.

“Getting people into longer term housing and connected to financial support is going to be vital,” he said. “We aren’t in this position, but if I was at a church doing a campaign for a building project, I would think seriously about putting that project on hold and redirecting resources to the people around you that need it most. A disaster like this has a lot of obvious spiritual effects. When we’re asked to consider what is said about the comparison between treasures on earth and in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20), Jesus wasn’t kidding. People can really grow spiritually through a crisis although it can be quite painful.”

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