Denham Springs, La.—A church van apparently caused a stir in one flood-ravaged town in south Louisiana.
A 12-person team traveled to hard-hit Denham Springs on Saturday, Aug. 20. The disaster relief volunteers—from Longview Baptist Church in Deville, 120 miles to the northwest—were only able to mud-out a couple of houses.
The next week, however, Longview’s phone lit up.
“(O)ther people in the neighborhood saw our van, wrote down the name of our church, Googled it to get our number I would guess, and have been calling non-stop since Monday,” pastor Robby Poole recounted to Louisiana’s Baptist Message on Aug. 26.
“This (cleanup) is not going to end this week, the next week, next month, or next year,” Poole told the newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
“These families desperately need our help. We are being the hands and feet of Jesus and the gratitude of these families’ faces speaks louder than words,” the pastor said. “It is important these people know they are not alone.”
Longview is one of hundreds of Louisiana churches outside the 20-parish flood zone that are sending volunteers to tackle mud-out, mold removal and related services for stricken churches and homeowners, the Message reported.
An estimated 5,100 disaster relief volunteers from across Louisiana and 23 state conventions, including Kentucky Baptists, have been deployed, according to the Message, since the historic flooding began Saturday morning, Aug. 13, after 48 hours of likewise-historic rainfall.
The unfolding recovery effort will be “the biggest mobilization of manpower since Hurricane Katrina,” John Hebert, the Louisiana convention’s director of missions, stated.
The monumental task facing Louisiana encompasses a now-estimated 61,000 homes that were destroyed or damaged. For Baptists, the challenge also extends to an updated total of 75 flood-battered churches and 70 pastors whose homes were lost or damaged.
Hebert is hopeful for a large influx of volunteers during the three-day Labor Day weekend.
“Look, I thank God for the help and support we have been getting from all over the United States,” Hebert said. “So far, we have received $260,000 in donations, received countless truckloads of much-needed supplies and food, and lots of prayers.
“But now we are praying God will stir a great army of volunteers to come and help us try to get ahead of this thing,” Hebert said. “To every volunteer, church, association and neighbor, I just want to say God bless you.”
Coy Webb, disaster relief director for the Kentucky Baptist Convention sent out an urgent plea for volunteers and chaplains last week.
Twenty-one volunteers and two chaplains worked in the Denham Springs area the week of Aug. 23-31, and 16 more volunteers and three chaplains are already scheduled to serve Sept. 7-15. Additional disaster relief teams are expected to be sent in the near future.
“Volunteers are not required to have mud-out experience, as we will have qualified leaders who can provide training and direction on site,” Webb said. “If you love Christ, have a heart for people, and a willingness to work, we can use you.” (BP/WR)