This past week, our newsfeeds were inundated with stories and updates about the incredible destruction that came with Hurricane Matthew. We have prayed, cried, watched, reached out to loved ones, and done what little we can do to help. But like every other news story, once the storm passed and the headlines began to fade, we began to forget about the people who are still left to pick up the pieces. We follow the latest headlines and our hearts follow what our eyes see. It’s not that we stop caring, but we stop seeing the needs that are still left to be met.
At the end of September, our LeadHer Team had an opportunity to visit 10 different chapters in the Southeast region of the country on our #LHRoadTrip. We were incredibly honored to experience the beautiful community of support and love that each chapter has created. We were invited in to experience their stories both individually and collectively, and I walked away in awe of the movement that each chapter represented. The inward depth of their faith and the relationships that have been created was a beautiful contrast to the outward heart of each chapter to pour out into their cities and towns. We would like to share one of those incredible stories here:
In August of 2016, the city and area around Baton Rouge suffered destructive flooding that killed over a dozen people and caused the loss of 60,000 private homes. For days, our nation watched and prayed. We grieved over the destruction in our own backyard but months later, thousands of families are still trying to rebuild what was lost, and the news headlines have turned elsewhere.
Getting an opportunity to visit our two chapters in the Baton Rouge/St. Tammany Parish area allowed us to hear stories from those directly impacted, visit with individuals who have been working on the frontlines of the trauma, and hear about how even months later, these women have not lost the passion or motivation to continue to give to those still in need. Every Saturday morning since the flooding, a group from our St. Tammany LeadHer Members still cooks a Jambalaya meal for storm victims and relief workers. With this generous meal, they continue to give out hope, love, and support. Many of these women pour out in so many other areas, and many of them experienced their own losses in the flooding, yet they felt called to outwardly love the community they are in without time restraint. Meanwhile, LeadHer Local Baton Rouge connected with single mothers who were directly impacted by the floods. They committed to helping these families get back on their feet however they were able.
After hearing these stories, we left our LeadHer Baton Rouge night feeling humbled. These two chapters are boldly living out what it means to be a LeadHer. They were stepping out as leaders to use their gifts to impact the community around them for Jesus.
In 2012, LeadHer Local St. Tammany Launched. Formerly located in Mandeville LA, this chapter has survived transitions in location and leadership but the sisterhood created has never wavered. These women are committed to their faith, to the opportunity to serve, and to the ability to grow and develop their faith. In 2015, LeadHer Local Baton Rouge launched with the same hear. While these chapters are quite a distance from one another, they share the same passion to pour out. Blessing single moms devastated by the floods, bringing meals to and playing bingo with those battling cancer, and cleaning the building of the local Pregnancy Care Center, these chapters demonstrate the power of loving with action through community.
We use the word community often in LeadHer. It is used to describe each individual chapter as well as the whole of LeadHer. A dictionary definition of this word is, “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals”. Biblically, a commentary definition shares that community is a compound word that means, with unity. Philippians 2:1-11 describes that community is, “agreeing wholeheartedly with one another, loving one another, and working together with one mind and one purpose” (verse 2).
While our neighborhoods and cities are often referred to as our communities, it is rare that we experience this kind of authentic unity that binds us and empowers us to activate change. We believe that when we gather together with one another, unified in our faith, and focused on the goal of impacting the world for Christ, we create a force, a community that is unstoppable.
The community created in the LeadHer Local Chapters in the Baton Rouge area have become unstoppable. Their fingerprints are all over the hope that is being handed out each Saturday morning, the generosity that is being given out in the form of clothes and meals, and the love that is drawing people in crisis closer to an opportunity to meet Jesus.
We may each live in a community, but it is only with great intention that we choose to love with unity.