By Message Staff
College students, retirees and church staff members are coming together to minister to those affected by tornadoes that devastated parts of Louisiana Feb. 7.
Members of the Louisiana State University Baptist Collegiate Ministry teamed up with a church from Wyoming to work on three homes heavily damaged from the powerful storms in New Orleans East. Like previous disasters such as the August 2016 flood, the students stepped up again to help a hurting community.
“This was another good reminder of how thankful I am for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and BCM students,” said Sarah Farley, associate director for the BCM at LSU. “BCM students had the desire to help and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief provides the means to do so. The need is great here in south Louisiana both in New Orleans and still in Baton Rouge.”
The disaster hit home for Ari Saravia, a sophomore at LSU. Her family’s home in Millerville took in 3 feet of water and when the opportunity to give back to someone in similar need was available, she signed up to help.
“Being able give back today was fulfilling to say the least,” she said. “Hearing descriptions of the tornado, empathizing, picking up debris, tarping a roof, sharing a meal, and praying with the people of New Orleans were the highlights of the day. I’m always thankful for the opportunity and ability to do something small to help out in times like these.”
According to David Green, a volunteer with Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief, 12 chainsaw and tarp teams are assigned to the New Orleans East area. Joining volunteers from Louisiana are teams from Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas.
Of the 75 jobs assessed so far, two have been completed. Green said Monday, Feb. 13, was the first day when most teams have begun to start working at homes.
More than 100 volunteers from Celebration Church’s campuses in the New Orleans area have assisted in debris removal and roof and window tarping. Additionally, the church has more than 40,000 bottles of water, baby goods and toiletries at its disaster relief center, 8821 Morrison Road in New Orleans, according to Lonnie Tucker, New Orleans campus pastor at Celebration Church.
At one of the homes they visited with supplies, the team prayed with the homeowner and her daughter. After listening to the homeowner’s story and giving her a hug, Tucker’s wife, Frankeya, asked if she needed another hug. Tucker said such stories are common after a disaster such as last week’s tornado.
“Pray that people would see and commit to Jesus though our efforts,” Tucker said. “Also, please pray that the resources would be a blessing for those who have suffered loss and that the local churches and agencies would work together in harmony. Finally, pray for a replenishing of strength, energy and safety for all disaster relief responders.”
Lonnie Wascom, director of missions for Northshore Baptist Association, said some volunteers from his association helped to clear debris from Suburban Baptist Church in New Orleans East, which was heavily damaged during last week’s tornado. He expects more volunteers to work in the New Orleans area in affected areas in the coming days.
A team from the Carey Baptist Association of churches in southwestern Louisiana is among those working in New Orleans. They worked on two homes Monday, Feb. 13, and plan on staying in the area at least a week, completing assessments, chaplaincy, chainsaw and blue tarp assignments.
“We want to be the hands and the feet and the heart of Christ to those who are hurting,” said Rob Tibbits, pastor of Crossroads Church in Vinton, which was a major staging area for disaster relief operations for the March 2016 flood response. “We want them to be able to see what the love of Christ looks like through our service.
“When Vinton flooded in March people from all over came and ministered to us,” he said. “We are now doing the same for others. As a follower of Christ, it is difficult to see your brother in need and not respond in love. For those who cannot go, we ask that they pray for those who can. Together we can make a difference for the kingdom of God.”
On the Northshore, a chainsaw team from Eastern Louisiana Baptist Association has worked in Watson since Tuesday, Feb. 7. They have completed 10 jobs so far.