Following is a firsthand account from two students who recently traveled to Louisiana to spend a weekend assisting in the ongoing cleanup from Hurricane Ida, a category 4 storm that made landfall on August 29.
Cali Rogers, a sophomore at Arkansas State University, Jonesboro
The opportunity to go to Louisiana to help clean up from Hurricane Ida arose and I took it. I had no idea what we were going to be doing, all I knew was it was going to be nasty. That motivated me even more to go.
On our way there I noticed how Hammond, Louisiana was still experiencing the effects of the hurricane 20 days later. As someone that was not directly affected by Hurricane Ida, I had moved on from Hurricane Ida, because it was no longer being covered in the media. For southern Louisiana, they are living through the aftermath. It was hard for me to understand how much this affected families in Louisiana, because as a college student I do not have a family or house that I am responsible for.
The first morning we were there, we were separated into teams. My team was tasked with “mud out” also known as a flood recovery. We went in and took the bottom two feet of the wall out of the entire house so we could spray mold killer.
While we were working, my team and I got to hear the amazing testimonies of the Disaster Relief guys we worked with. I quickly realized that I could learn from the experiences of our friends in the yellow shirts. The family whose house we were cleaning out had a son around the age of eight years old. He saw all of the big kids working and wanted to help them out. He helped us sweep and remove the pieces of the wall. We learned that the young boy loved The Flash, and could run as fast if not, faster than The Flash himself.
Before we got to work the next day, the woman whose house we were about to work on asked if she could pray over us. It just warmed my heart that the woman we were helping wanted to pray for us, not just for us working on her house, but our lives back home too.
This experience has shown me that my walk with Christ is supposed to be visible in everything I do. Even through tearing out walls or cutting and removing trees from people’s yards, I can share the love and service of Jesus Christ in the way I walk with Christ. The Bible calls us to be lights shining in the darkness, and what a dark world we live in today. Disaster Relief gives us the opportunity to be a part of the Lord’s work, while also being able to help those that need it.
Through this trip, I realized that Jesus did not pick and choose who he was going to serve. He served everyone that needed it. This trip and the people I met showed me what it looked like to truly have a servant’s heart. If I had the opportunity to go on another disaster relief trip, I would absolutely take it. I would bring everyone I know along with me, so they can experience the Lord in an entirely new way.
Abby Herring, a sophomore at the University of Central Arkansas, Conway
The experience I had volunteering with Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief was one I will never forget. Not only was it my first mission trip experience, but I got to see the hands and feet of Jesus at work in so many ways. From the moment we arrived and were greeted with utmost kindness, to having a warm meal, to seeing the leaders openly invite the Lord into each and every project it was truly an amazing time.
I went with no clear expectation of what was going to happen. That weekend I got to be a part of painting the choir stage with some of the most welcoming women I have ever talked with. Not only were they encouraging while sanding and painting, but they openly shared how the Lord was working in their lives, and even treated us as if we were their own grandchildren. The fellowship we shared was a gift from God.
After finishing that project, we drove over to see the work another group did on a house that had tremendous water damage. I got to walk through and see the vacant, treated walls that remained and the gutted kitchen that so many hands worked to clean out. Though I was only there for a short time, I got to hear the gratitude and hope the homeowner had thanks to all the work that group did. Further, he shared how he was going to carry on the positive difference that group made on his life towards others in his community. He was a dear man.
We moved on to the last project for the day which was clearing a gentleman’s yard that had multiple trees down. There was more work than any one person could do, but as a collected unit we were able to clear nearly his entire yard and had a great time doing so. From the encouraging words we voiced to each other to numerous funny moments we shared together, it was a joyous time working out in the yard. Most importantly, the gentleman we were helping got to see that too. I do not know his background, but from how his attitude changed from when we got there to when we left, we were able to show him the goodness of God.
Not to say that there is anything good in us, but because of the ultimate gift of Christ we are able to have God’s goodness dwell in us and shine through us when we follow Him. This particular gentleman got to see Christ shine through us and thanks to Disaster Relief he now has a Bible and a person to contact if he wants to follow after a life changing decision with Christ.
At the end of the day, we all got to take a hot shower and eat a well-cooked meal together. The friendly faces that helped make each of these things possible were the best. There was never a moment where I did not feel 100% taken care of, and that all accounts to the love and care of all the Disaster Relief members.
The following day consisted of a single project that warmed my heart. We got to go help a truly selfless woman clear up her yard which had multiple large trees down. I got a chance to talk with her in between carrying tree limbs. She had spent the majority of her time helping clean up her mother’s house which had had a tree come down on the roof. So, it was really special to get to give back to her the help which she had been showing to others.
Additionally, I got to hear her share her faith in the Lord as our Ultimate Protector. In the midst of the hurricane, she and her son remained in their mobile home. She told me that she prayed and knew that the Lord would take care of them, and He did. That project was the most special to me, seeing her face light up at the end when our group leader gave her a Bible signed by all of us was really moving.
The experience I had with Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief was truly incredible in the lives that we got to help and those we got to serve beside. The verse that talks about how God is good all [the] time could not be more true because the hope that lies in Him surpasses all circumstances, including hurricanes.