This story was previously shared by the Presbyterian News Service on October 14, 2016
Group continues work after August flooding damages or destroys more than 60,000 homes
December 29, 2016
Rebuilding continues for thousands of people in South Louisiana whose homes were damaged or destroyed by flooding when the Amite River crested at 46.2 feet near Denham Springs in mid-August, breaking the previous record of 41.5 feet set in 1983.
Video URL: https://vimeo.com/185477988
In late September, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance opened a volunteer host site at First Presbyterian Church in Hammond, Louisiana, and is now hosting mission teams to begin the long-term recovery work for flood survivors.
According to General Presbyter Ron Sutto of the Presbytery of South Louisiana, the majority of home owners didn’t have flood insurance because the area hadn’t flooded in thirty years.
“The importance of PDA walking with them beyond the immediate crisis is so important,” he says. “People realize that Presbyterians all over the U.S. really care and love them. It touches you in that place God frequents, in the very heart of our souls.”
PDA national response team member Kathy Broyard was on the ground working in Baton Rouge within a week of the flooding, helping assess both short- and long-term recovery needs. She says as volunteers come in to help survivors, PDA will assign teams for certain projects based on their skill set and what needs to be done for certain survivors’ homes.
“There will be some drywall work and painting,” says Broyard. “Sometimes we even get into a whole house rebuild.”
Baton Rouge resident and Faith Presbyterian Church member Karen Pride was in her home with her two children when the flooding started. “Water was coming through every inch of the house,” she says. “The whole perimeter. Then the hardwood floors started popping up.”
The grandson of Pride’s neighbor came in a boat to get his grandparents. He took Pride and her two children with them to high ground, where Pride’s brother and his wife were.
“They took us to their house,” says Pride, “where we spent the night only to wake up Sunday morning to flooding in his neighborhood. The national Coast Guard had to come in and get everyone in his neighborhood.”
“It’s kind of like we experienced flooding twice, yes,” she says.
But Pride and her children didn’t have to stay in a shelter thanks to the generosity of a church member at Faith who took them into her home. Within a few days she returned to her house to begin the muck-out work. The first thing she noticed was the water line on the outside of the house.
“It was like, wow! We could’ve drowned in here,” she says repeatedly.
In that moment, Pride felt like there was “a big fog” in her mind. She was unable to think clearly. The church member she was staying with suggested they call Sutto. He immediately put out an email saying, “We have a [Presbyterian] pastor’s wife who recently lost her husband. She has two small children and is down low; anybody who can help, please do.”
One of PDA’s local partners, RINO out of New Orleans, responded to the request to help Pride. They bleached and washed everything in her house that was breakable—then dried it, packed it and moved it to her storage unit, and even bought her lunch.
“Who does that? Only a Christian community,” says Pride. “The caring aspect really got a hold of me.”
That is one of the reasons why Broyard became part of PDA’s national response team. As a hurricane Andrew survivor in Florida in 1992, she remembers what it was like to lose one’s home. Every disaster recovery site she goes to brings back memories of volunteer teams who helped her pull out soggy carpets and furniture.
“Then when it seemed like nothing was happening, PDA came in with additional teams to help me rebuild,” she says. “It just brings joy. I’m so glad I can give back this way.”
“You can see the exhaustion folks feel at the various stages of recovery,” adds Al Thompson, another member of the PDA national response team. “They continue to need people to walk and stand with them.”
Paul Seebeck, Mission Communications Strategist, Video and Digital Asset Management
Today’s Focus: Presbyterian Disaster Assistance in Louisiana
Let us join in prayer for:
First Presbyterian Church Hammond, Louisiana Staff
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray
Living God, we thank you for the opportunity you have given us, the means you have provided for us, and the desire you have created in us to use our God-given skills to provide for and encourage those less fortunate. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.