Geaux Therefore

Washed Away

By Obbie Todd

“How fast is it rising?” I asked a stranger in an obvious panic. Normally, neighbors don’t congregate in the street unless it’s the Fourth of July. But today we weren’t gazing at the sky. Every eye was fixed on the muddy water that was quickly engulfing our road. The flood was here. Bob…Mark…Tom…I was feeling some well-deserved embarrassment for the fact that it took a natural disaster for me to introduce myself to the man who lived two doors down from me. “Fast,” he replied with a lengthy Louisianan accent and a sly grin. I didn’t get the humor.

This neighborhood had never flooded before. At least that’s what they’d told us when we were deciding whether to buy flood insurance. We hadn’t. After all, our elevated neighborhood was over a mile from the Amite River. One of the highest neighborhoods in Denham as a matter of fact. Even the “83 flood” hadn’t breached these streets. Unfortunately my confidence was vanishing faster than the sidewalks at the end of this road. I paced back and forth, listening to other homeowners as my wife peered out from our porch. As I walked back, I noticed that the water had made its way into another yard in a matter of minutes. My heart was now in my stomach. This was our very first house. We’d purchased it nearly a year ago. Now it was no longer safe. As I stepped back inside, Kelly studied my face to confirm what she already knew. “We need to leave baby,” I said slowly. I was feigning calmness. “Seven weeks,” I thought to myself. Just seven weeks ago we’d brought our newborn twins home for the first time. Now we were leaving indefinitely. Where would we go? I didn’t have time to think.

Tears were welling in my wife’s eyes. “I don’t want to leave,” she insisted. It wasn’t defiance in her voice. It was disbelief. An hour ago these streets were dry. Now this wet surge was claiming houses by the minute. I wrapped my arms tightly around her and mustered poise for the night ahead. It’s a funny thing to pack for a trip to an unknown destination for an unknown amount of time. In addition to the frenzy of suitcases and car seats and pictures and valuables, there was a litany of questions I couldn’t seem to answer. “When are we coming back?” “How high is it going to get?” “Where’s that stupid suitcase?!” When you have but minutes to decide what to keep and what to lose, organization succumbs to chaos. My mind began to race as I sifted through my closet and dresser, deciding in an instant what mattered and what didn’t. Tie? No. Boots? Yes. Cologne? No. Thirty minutes ago I was an indulgent American watching Netflix on the couch, waiting for my wife to finish dinner. Now I was a survivalist.

Down the hall I could hear my wife enduring a similar test of pragmatism, deciding what was essential and what was superfluous. “We’ve got twenty minutes!” I shouted to Kelly from across the room. It was probably less, but I knew my wife didn’t work well under pressure. Neither of us did really. We were buzzing through the house like two frantic bees, desperately searching every corner and cranny, picking up baskets and bags, pitching everything inside the mini-van we had purchased two weeks prior. A new family…in a new home…in a new van…in a 20-minute trial by fire. Baptized into adulthood by muddy water bubbling up from our drains. I quickly doubled-checked our inventory and was momentarily taken aback at just how few valuables I actually owned. The rest was…stuff. For just a few seconds it was a small comfort. This flood was about to wash away our possessions but not our lives, our American consumerism but not our livelihood. I glanced out at the yard to monitor the water. It was now in our yard. Time to go.

I called out to Kelly that we had only a couple minutes at best. Then I asked her to pray. I ran down the street to greet another nameless neighbor several houses down, away from the flood. I spotted a truck in his driveway, and asked him if he had room for some larger baby items for our twins. He instantly said yes and jumped in his truck. When I returned to the house, Kelly had loaded up our van, and was forcefully shutting the door. After one last sweep, I loaded Kelly and the twins inside the truck, and sent them off across the neighborhood to drier ground. I followed behind, plowing through the floorboard-deep water, unsure if I’d make it. But I did. We all did. As we approached higher ground, I glanced back at the house, and then to the clutter of baby items in my backseat. We had enough, with or without a house. I exhaled and breathed a sigh of relief. All of my fears had suddenly been washed away. There’s nothing like a couple newborn babies to bring thankful hearts into a home. And there’s nothing like a natural disaster to make sure they stay that way.

Obbie Todd is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Theology at NOBTS. He also serves as the youth pastor at Zoar Baptist Church in Central, Louisiana. 

This article was originally hosted on the Vernacular Blog at