In the New Testament, Hebrews 6:19 reads, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
That is why many of the cleaning buckets recently assembled for flood survivors by the youth of the Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home in Ruston bear the image of an anchor, said Becca Deich, pastoral care assistant at the home.
The connection between these youth and the tens of thousands affected by historic Louisiana floods this past August may not be obvious at first. “The truth is, these kids know what it’s like not to be in their homes. And in some cases, to never see their homes again,” said Deich, who serves with the Rev. Edith DeVilbiss Finch, chaplain for the children’s home.
These youth know what it is like to survive the storms of life, said Deich. “You’re removed from your home. You go from one foster home to another. One or more of your parents go to jail. Like in a storm, these kids are tossed back and forth. They have no say in their lives.”
The verse from Hebrews seemed a perfect choice for the bucket outreach project, said Deich. “Throughout their short lives, there has been nothing to tether these kids to the ground. But we help them to know that they do have an anchor—an anchor in Jesus. It doesn’t matter where you go or what you do. You can always come back to Jesus. He will keep you secure.”
The youth served by the children’s home regularly organize community outreach projects. “They love to give back, to contribute. Prior to being at the home, they haven’t had opportunities to do that,” said Deich. “These projects are very healing for the kids. It helps them to recognize that others have suffered, too.”
People are sometimes surprised by the passion these children have for outreach, said Deich. “They have been through so much abuse and neglect, it is hard for most of us to comprehend. Many times people feel pity or compassion for the kids, but they don’t always expect the kids to give back. But every time they do something for others, their little faces just light up. These children are valuable. They can give back and do something powerful.”
The cleaning buckets decorated and assembled by the youth made their way down from Ruston to Baton Rouge on Labor Day weekend with a disaster response team that included three staff members from the Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home.
Dr. David Wheeler, who serves as vice president of clinical services for the home, was excited to serve on the team. “To not come would be difficult,” said Wheeler. “To come, even for a short time, is so rewarding. At least we can contribute to some part of this massive recovery."
Brandy Callaway and Ashley Absher, therapists working at the children’s home, were also members of the North Louisiana team. “We’ve been just itching to get down here,” said Absher. “When we watched the news coverage, and saw the standing water, we were hurting for everyone affected.” Callaway, Absher and Wheeler are pictured above.
Other members of the team hailed from McGuire, Grace, Trinity and Lea Joyner Memorial UMCs, as well as a Presbyterian church in Ruston.
The group was housed at Blackwater United Methodist Church, located in the hard-hit Baker/Central area northeast of Baton Rouge. “Around 80 percent of our congregation flooded,” said John Dixon, a member of the church pastored by the Rev. Jonathan King. “Although some of our church buildings flooded, our sanctuary and the Fellowship Hall were spared.” Dixon is pictured, above, enjoying breakfast in the Blackwater Fellowship Hall with some of the members of the North Louisiana team.
Dixon volunteers with early response efforts in the Louisiana Conference, helping to welcome visiting teams staying at the church and assisting with work assignments. “Almost everyone affected was without flood insurance. That’s why it’s so important right now that teams come to assist these folks,” said Dixon. “I was one of the fortunate few that didn’t flood. At the moment, I have three families living in my house. And so far, there hasn’t been a cross word.”
The Early Response Team coordinator for the Louisiana Annual Conference is the Rev. Bob Deich, who just happens to be the father of Becca Deich. “My father is not really a talker, he’s a doer. He likes to get his hands dirty, and he relishes being a part of peoples’ lives,” said Becca. “He feels closer to the presence of God when he is serving others. And yet, he always says that he is the one that benefits more from the lives of those he is serving.”
Working with the youth at the children’s home touches her life in the same way, said Becca. “I always learn so much from their lives and their struggles. While we were painting the buckets, we realized that the home of the father of one of the boys had been flooded. And one of the girls, originally from New Orleans, was born around the time of Hurricane Katrina.”
“The girl’s mom lived in one of the poorest parts of New Orleans and was probably pregnant with her daughter at the time Katrina hit. While we worked on the buckets, the girl shared with me, ‘My mama always said be strong,’” said Deich.
The youth at the Louisiana Children’s Home demonstrate that strength every day, said Becca. “They know what it’s like to lose their things. Some left their homes with just a few clothes in a garbage bag. But here, they know that someone cares. That there is hope. And ultimately, armed with the right tools, they feel empowered.”
Story by Betty Backstrom, Communication Liaison for the Annual Conference