Close your eyes and picture this…murky, swirling flood water three feet deep in every home and business, as far as you can see. Your rescue boat sputters from place to place picking up people, pets and precious family keepsakes. As the water recedes in a week and the roads made passable, you return to a home filled with mud and debris. The dank smell makes you gag. The thought of starting over brings tears yet again.
The stories are sad, but hope springs eternal. And that is where we come in. Our mission team worked the first week of April 2017 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It was composed of participants from Asbury, Lynnewood and San Ramon Valley UMC, plus our loyal cook from Minnesota, Ruth.
The massive flood of August 2016 still a raw memory, our project was to gut and repurpose a church and most of the adjacent building into the Louisiana Disaster Response Center. While the small remaining congregation will continue to worship in the Fellowship Hall, the rest of the facilities will be converted into mission team housing, offices and storage, a desperately needed recovery resource.
Each day we worked feverishly on deconstruction and the start of building the new design. It was challenging and exhausting, but so rewarding. We enjoyed meeting church members, hearing their stories and sharing team comradery. Our evenings included great home cooked meals, lots of laughter and a devotional time. We slept in the gymnasium and Sunday School rooms of another nearby UMC Church, sharing the space with a UMC work team from Illinois.
Every mission trip has a distinctive feel and some unusual moments. Among them on this trip – Ruth slept the first few nights in storage room of the Church-operated Thrift Store. One morning while she was in the kitchen, a store volunteer gathered up all of Ruth’s possessions, slapped prices on them and moved them to the Store to be sold! We were entertained as Ruth told us about scrambling through the Store trying to retrieve all her stuff.
We paid special attention to rebuilding the congregation’s worship space in the Fellowship Hall and were quite touched by the heartfelt thank you from the congregants who had suffered so much. The handmade quilt from the Asbury Quilting Group will hang proudly as a remembrance of our work
We are all grateful to have been of service to our new friends in Baton Rouge. We expect to return next year to continue rebuilding lives.
In Mission Together,
Steve Elliott, Roger Everett, Mary Ellen Huey, Doug Huey, Cynthia DeLand, Dick Crawford, Tim Evans, Bob Hoffman, Ruth Coffing, Steve Wilson, Burt Rodgers and Ron Logan