MONROE, MI – A few weeks ago,what were you thinking when you heard reports of flooding in Louisiana? I thought, “Oh my God, they need you Lord, be with them Lord.” Later, I would receive a call out from Michigan Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. The call came from a familiar voice, Judy, but this call also came from the Lord. I needed to respond to the voice messages that Judy left on both of my phones. By calling back I was saying, “Here am I Lord, send me.” This was the start of my journey to Louisiana with a “mudout team”.
Although I have had some disaster relief training and experiences, I never before served with a mudout team. Judy assured me I could be trained on the spot, and learn along the way. Now that I think of it, that was exactly what Jesus did with his disciples. He walked and talked with them along the way, teaching them, training them for their ministry in the world.
As God put together the mudout team of volunteers, to my joy and surprise, I would work with three people I served with in Flint. These three people gave water there for many, many, many weeks. I only served one week. So I know these three men are dedicated to serving God and their fellow men and women. It was my privilege to work with them again. There were seven of us that prayed, traveled, ate, slept, and worked together. My bunkmate, Diane, was also our chaplain on the trip.
When we arrived in Louisiana we met up with Pastor Joshua Spinks at The Way Church in Denham Springs, LA. We saw several flooded churches in the area, and many homes devastated by the flood waters. Our first day on site was day nineteen after the storm had circled above the area for fifteen hours raining down and flooding the community. With some 233,000 souls in the parish, 80% of them were displaced due to the flooding. People fled to family, friends, church members, shelters, and motels outside the flood zone. The Way Church, which had sheltered many also had a cleaning supplies and a food pantry operating out of their fellowship hall. In addition, Joshua and his wife Tabetha were sheltering people in their home, as were other church members. The Way Church also housed and fed us while we were there. Pastor Joshua never took a day off, instead insisting on caring for the many needs of the community.
So, what does a “mudout team” do? Our first assignment took us three days. We removed sheetrock four feet high, then swept, power washed, and sprayed with a shock treatment to kill mold. Maybe the most special time was when we met and prayed with the widow homeowner and her family helpers. As we wrapped up the job, each of us signed a disaster relief bible and gave it to them.
Our next assignment was similar, but many, many, many more nails to be removed. While on a run to the hardware store Diane and I met a young man getting his supplies who expressed gratitude that we had come. He told us the Red Cross brought him water and meals daily while he worked. Words seem somewhat insufficient to explain the deep gratitude everyone shared with our team while there. I was reminded of what Christ suffered for our sins as I bandaged the hole I had made in my hand pulling nails. The homeowner shared she had suffered through a tornado back in January that destroyed her roof, and then told of losing a loved family member in an accident not long afterward. Now, she is dealing with a flooded home and trying to care for a child with great health challenges. I observed a women of true faith in the Lord. Her strength and joy through it all was admirable. Our team signed and gave her a Bible, and prayed with her before leaving what was barely a shell of a home.
It was very hot in Louisiana, but the spirit of the people was awesome. They cared for one another, helped one another and looked to the Lord. We were five men and two women, and our ages ranged from 24 to 70. For that one week we were a team, and we worked together bound in Christ’s love.
If I could provide one encouragement to others it would be that when God calls – answer! God doesn’t give us the spirit of fear. He calls us to fellowship with Him in prayer, and show love for one another. I cannot out give God. He always blesses me more. He loves us! When my wounds and bruises heal, I’ll go again. From what I saw, I expect volunteers will be needed for some time to come.
God has a place of service for every member of the body of Christ. Volunteer. You are needed. Disaster relief training is coming up in October at Bambi Lake, but like me they may train you along the way, you know, like Jesus did!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carla Strunk is a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer. The Disaster Relief Team from across Michigan included Kendall & Kameron Bailey, Diane Brooks, Brian Buckerfield, David Wyatt, Donal Bezeau, and Carla Brown Strunk.