Prayer room spot reveals God’s presence through the flood
Sometimes a sacred place looks like an oddly shaped oval of dry brown carpet.
When the Rev. Clifton Conrad and his wife, Kathleen, returned to their home after days of flooding in Baton Rouge, they found an assurance of God’s grace in the spot where Kathleen kneeled every day to pray.
In her prayer room, in the middle of soaking wet carpet, was a “bone-dry” piece of carpet just the size of her knees.
“Sacred space” is how she described it.
The Conrads, like all of their neighbors and thousands of others in south Louisiana, were driven from their homes by the sudden flooding that happened on Aug. 14. They left not knowing if their house would ever be a home to them again.
When they returned on Aug. 16, they started assessing the damage. “The refrigerator was still humming, the microwave was flashing the correct time and to the naked eye, everything looked OK,” said Clifton, who is pastor of Camphor United Methodist Church.
The front two rooms had the worst damage. Clifton said when he stepped on the carpet in both rooms it went “squish.” But in the room his wife had made her prayer room was that one dry spot.
“I looked at where her prayer rug had been — she always kneels at the foot of that rug — and it was bone-dry,” he said.
He called Kathleen and told her to look and touch the rug. She was reluctant because the floors were “nasty” with sludge and mud racked in by the floodwater. But she could see and then feel the dry spot.
“It served to me as a comfort; I feel and have always felt God was with me. My reflection for scripture is in God’s word: ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ The dry space was a physical visual of that scripture,” she said.
Conrad took a photo of the rug and put it on Facebook.
He posted the photo and wrote: "This is my wife's prayer room on the day we returned to find that our home had been impacted by the flood. The carpet in the prayer room was soaking wet except for the light colored part in the photo, which was bone dry. It is the place where she kneeled to pray."
That post started getting thousands of hits. The Rev. Todd Rossnagel, director of communications strategies for the Louisiana Conference, also posted the photo on the church website. Watch video interview with Conrads.
“Without advertising, the post has reached 591,354 people,” Rossnagel said. “It has been shared 4,325 times and over 24,000 people have reacted to it.”
Clifton said he wasn’t trying to make any grand statement about faith. “I didn’t challenge anybody about their faith or make it any big theological statement. I just presented it as it was.”
Kathleen said that, to her, it was confirmation “that God’s presence remains with us in spite of what we go through.”
Clifton said 20 families from Camphor United Methodist Church were really hit hard by the flood.
“In a flood, four inches is just as bad as four feet,” Clifton said. Sheet rock and insulation have to be torn out, furniture has to be put out on the curb.
“Yeah, it hurt me to have to carry out my sound bar and my recliner, but that’s just stuff you are going to have to leave behind for someone else anyway.”
Clifton said he believes God doesn’t save people from anything, but God saves people through things — like Noah and the flood, like the Israelites and the Red Sea.
“God didn’t save us from the cross, God saved us through the cross. Disasters are going to happen. I feel God is firmly in control and we just have to continue to trust God.
“But I have a good spiritual story to tell now,” he said.
Gilbert is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. The Rev. Todd Rossnagel, director of communications strategies for the Louisiana Conference, contributed to this report. Contact Gilbert at (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.