A Wave of Volunteers Labor in Flood-Ravaged Louisiana

September 6, 2016 • United States
Samaritan's Purse volunteers have been busy at three locations across south Louisiana.

Hundreds of volunteers poured into south Louisiana Labor Day weekend to serve in Jesus’ Name

Volunteer in Louisiana

“Where do you want to go when you get well?” Sonia would ask her dad when she called him at the hospital. These “phone vacations,” as Sonia refers to them, helped her and her father find just a little more happiness together as the end of his life approached.

Talking about her dad’s death three years ago is still hard. On a hot, humid afternoon in Louisiana, with tears and sweat dripping from her face, Sonia told Samaritan’s Purse volunteers how the recent flooding destroyed her parents’ home and swept away so many reminders of precious memories.

“This was my mom,” Sonia said as she stooped over to pick up an old photo frame from a pile of destroyed furniture and personal belongings in front of the home. Sonia’s mom died several years before her dad, and when her dad couldn’t continue living by himself because of his health, Sonia moved in to care for him.

Volunteers from across the country made their way to south Louisiana during Labor Day weekend to serve flood-weary homeowners like Sonia, who lives about 20 minutes from Greenwell Springs Baptist Church, our host church and base of operation in East Baton Rouge Parish. Throughout the weekend more than 200 volunteers stayed at Greenwell Springs—the most in-house volunteers for a Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief response since Hurricane Katrina.

Sonia stands in front of soaked belongings from her parents' home.

Sonia stands in front of soaked belongings from her parents’ home.

The holiday weekend also brought an increase in volunteers to our deployment sites in Lafayette and Ascension parishes. So far our nearly 1,500 volunteers have spent more than 27,700 hours helping to remove debris and mud and insulation, clean floors, and spray for mold.

At Sonia’s home our volunteers removed mud, water-logged belongings, and moldy drywall and insulation. Her home is one of more than 100,000 that were affected across 20 parishes.

When the water started rising in Sonia’s neighborhood the only way out for her and her grandson and pregnant daughter was the next door neighbor’s canoe. “He (the neighbor) said, ‘Get in, I’ll swim you out.’ The water was already way over his head,” Sonia explained.

Sonia, 52, struggled through tears as she relived childhood memories while our volunteers worked in her home.

“My dad always wanted to feed the hungry. He would put long tables out here,” Sonia said, pointing toward the carport, “and bring these big iron pots and cook for the neighborhood, usually red beans and rice or jambalaya. My mom would cook all kinds of desserts.”

Life is hard right now, but Sonia is trusting God and grateful that He brought her hope through Samaritan’s Purse. “It’s wonderful that people care enough to come,” she said. “When something like this happens you realize how many people do care.”

Salvation in the Storm

When David Pertl arrived at his last job site for the day in Gonzales (Ascension Parish) he did what he always does—work hard and share the Gospel. David is from Arkansas and began volunteering with Samaritan’s Purse seven years ago.

“I really felt a huge desire to share the Gospel in a greater capacity,” he said. “[Volunteering] has been a call from God.”

David and others on his team were working in a basement that had flooded. “We pulled nails, did sweeping and vacuuming, and spraying for mold. But it was all about getting the Gospel to Mitch,” he said.

“It was all about getting the gospel to Mitch.”

David asked Mitch, the homeowner, if he knew he would go to heaven when he died and Mitch couldn’t say for sure. The team shared the Gospel and Mitch received Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

“It’s been a wonderful weekend,” said Samaritan’s Purse program manager Randy Corn who is overseeing the Gonzales deployment. “I’ve seen God working through many different avenues—through our volunteers, our homeowners, our churches. We’re here to not only do the physical work but to be intentional in sharing the Gospel.”

So far, among all three sites, 70 people have come to faith in Jesus Christ. This includes 22 people saved on Saturday in East Baton Rouge through the witness of our staff, volunteers, chaplains, and the outreach and feeding ministry of Greenwell Springs Baptist Church.

From Texas to Louisiana

Denisa Bundick and her friend Kayla Josey hard at work in Louisiana.

Denisa Bundick (right) and her friend Kayla Josey hard at work in Louisiana.

Denisa Bundick and three other women from Angleton, Texas, made their Labor Day weekend one of service because they know what these Louisiana homeowners are going through. In July, when floodwaters came for Angleton and Brazoria counties, their church–Life Foursquare Church—stepped up as host church for Samaritan’s Purse.

When they saw Samaritan’s Purse volunteers helping homeowners in their community “it was the most beautiful thing,” Denisa said. She and her friends quickly got involved and volunteered often. “There was a need and we weren’t going to sit back and not do anything,” Denisa said.

Because they saw God work through the response in Texas they came to serve in Louisiana. One of the first homeowners they met were Pat and Andrew McLin. The McLins lost nearly everything—not one piece of furniture was salvageable and most of their belongings were destroyed.

After 38 years of carrying flood insurance these retirees dropped the policy two years ago because the cost was so high. And they never expected to need it.

“We never dreamed this would happen,” Pat said.

With help from Samaritan's Purse, Pat and Andrew McLin are recovering from floods in Louisiana.

With help from Samaritan’s Purse, Pat and Andrew McLin are recovering from floods in Louisiana.

The couple was rescued from their home by boat and then bounced from shelter to shelter until the water receded and they could get to their son’s house about 25 minutes away. When they finally returned home a stinky, muddy mess awaited. “It was awful. My tubs were full of mud. It was a muddy river,” Pat described.

Pat couldn’t believe all the volunteers who showed up at her home to help clean and spray for mold—a bright light in the storm.

“It is the biggest blessing I’ve ever heard of,” she said.

Many more volunteers are needed in south Louisiana. Please continue to pray for our disaster relief response. Pray that more people will come to faith in Jesus Christ as we serve in His Name.