First UMC, Minden provides shelter during Louisiana storms

March 10, 2016
As travelers made their way Wednesday along North Louisiana roads and highways, many found themselves trapped as one road after another became flooded and impassable. By 9 p.m., First United Methodist Church in Minden had opened their doors to a dozen adults and children needing shelter from the storms that had dumped anywhere from 9-11 inches of rain on the area surrounding the North Louisiana church.
 
Jeff McBride, communications director for First UMC, reported that people were already waiting when the church opened its doors last night. “The First Baptist Church across the street is also sheltering folks. They were able to share 36 cots with us, and we have the potential to go up to 50.”
 
Although the 12 that slept at the church were able to leave Minden on Thursday morning, they desperately needed a place to lay their heads the night before. “Essentially, they were bottlenecked. I-20 at Highway 80 was closed. Every time they tried another road, they discovered it was closed. Many drove in circles for an hour and a half with no place to seek shelter,” said McBride.
 
Wanting to help, First UMC, Minden contacted Mayor Tommy Davis to let him know that the church was prepared to take in people seeking help. “The sheriffs did a great job of communicating our offer to those in need,” said McBride. “We had a wonderful group of folks staying with us, and really enjoyed getting to know them. One couple was traveling to a wedding, one family was headed back to Dallas with their children. They were all so appreciative of the help.”
 
Sarah Keith, one of the grateful travelers, posted this on First UMC’s Facebook page: “Thank you so much for your kindness in providing our family with a place to sleep last night. You are a testament to Christ’s love.”
 
For McBride, one of the most heartwarming aspects of the church’s outreach effort was the rapid response from volunteers. “We sent out a quick email to our members. In no time at all, we had close to 15 volunteers on site, helping to set up cots for our guests. Our ‘lunch ladies’ stepped up and prepared a full, hot breakfast for everyone. Others picked up needed items like soap and other toiletries. Volunteers also purchased snacks and drinks. I was so impressed.”
 
The church stands ready to assist if additional help is needed, with a two-day roster of volunteers already committed to serve. “We were really blessed to reach outside our walls in this way, to serve the community for Christ,” said McBride.