She rummages through the boxes of stuffed animals before finally settling on one. Breanne then picks up the stuffed bear, hugs it and holds it close as she continues to scour the piles of toys waiting for new owners.
She rummages through the boxes of stuffed animals
before finally settling on one. Breanne then picks up the stuffed bear,
hugs it and holds it close as she continues to scour the piles of toys
waiting for new owners.
Breanne is 9 – or to be more accurate and use her own words, “Nine-and-a-half and fixing to turn 10.”
Hurricane Katrina may have robbed her of all her
possessions, but it did not take her joy. “If I still have my doggie
and my kitty, I’m happy,” Breanne says.
Fortunately for her, Breanne’s golden retriever,
Daisy, and her cat, Gracie, made it through the hurricane unscathed, as
did all of Breanne’s family.
Still, like so many others, they were left with few
earthly possessions. And so, they came to Grace Memorial Baptist Church
in Slidell, a disaster relief center offering hurricane victims
clothing, food and supplies – all free of charge.
In the church’s parking lot, a 100-foot tent covers
the boxes and racks of donated clothes that become part of the
wardrobes of hurricane victims with nothing left.
“We’ve had literally hundreds – people from all
walks of life and people from all over,” says Margaret Grow, a Southern
Baptist disaster relief volunteer from Rogersville, Tenn. “Most of them
are devastated, and most of them don’t have much of anything left.”
Some come to the church because they are hungry or
need supplies. Others just need a listening ear and a shoulder on which
Janelle Bly fit into the latter category. She and
her husband had stopped at the church on a Saturday for breakfast. As
Bly finished eating, the tears started flowing.
“She just said every three or four days she has a
meltdown and just has to cry,” volunteer Margaret Bradley of
Greenville, Tenn., recounts.
In response, Bradley sat down next to Bly and did her best to provide words of comfort.
“Jesus still loves you,” she said. “And we love you.”
The two women sat with Bradley’s arm around Bly’s shoulder. They hugged and prayed together.
“I’m a hugger and I’m a crier,” Bradley says. “I said, ‘Honey, just cry it on out.’”
Hurricane Katrina robbed Bly and her husband of
their home and their possessions. Now, Martin Bly is leaving for a new
job in Houston, Texas, in a few days, and Janelle is staying behind to
resume her own job as a schoolteacher.
Bly says she did not know how she could keep going.
Bradley acknowledges that she often wonders the same thing. She says
she goes to bed every night mentally and physically exhausted from the
day’s activities. She says she prays for strength, and every night, she
thinks there is no way she can continue in her efforts.
“But I get up in the morning, and (God’s) given me the strength to do it one more day,” Bradley says.
Mike Boyd serves as pastor at Wallace Memorial
Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., and has been serving as chaplain at
the Slidell disaster relief site. He says he tried to minister to
everyone who came to the church for help.
“Everybody who came in, I shared the gospel with in
some fashion,” Boyd recounts. “Sometimes, I was able to go a little
more in depth. I prayed with just about everybody I came in contact
Boyd encountered one family of four generations of
women. The husband of the great-grandmother, in his 80s, had refused to
evacuate their home. Rescue workers found his body inside the house.
“Obviously, I spent some in-depth time with them,”
Boyd says. “I prayed with her, talked to them about the Lord, too. But
in those times, you’ve got to do evangelism with a tremendous
sensitivity. I’m not going to sit there and hammer them.”
Through the tragic circumstances, Boyd says he was
surprised by how many people were smiling. He says he also has noticed
a strong sense of community that is uniting those affected by the
People even are inviting strangers into their houses, and all are working together to pull through, he notes.
“There are no Democrats or Republicans,” he
maintains. “I’ve not even heard that here. There are no rich or poor.
There are no black or white. It’s just people.” (BP)