"The Need Calls Us to Return and Return We Will"

October 21, 2021

Below is a letter from Jim Balthazar, a member of an ERT team from Westlake United Methodist Church in Austin, TX, of the Rio Texas Conference. This 6-person ERT team came to Louisiana on October 10th and stayed at First United Methodist Church in Houma where they worked for five days in the Hurricane Ida zone. 

Jim's report was for his church back home, but we found it to be emblematic of the spirit of ERT teams who have come to help us in Louisiana. The report also highlights the hospitality of churches in the Louisiana Conference as they continue to host teams from all over the world.  

"Hearts and Stomachs Full of Love"

We returned from South Louisiana over the weekend with our hearts and stomachs full of love.   Our hosts at Houma First United Methodist were warm and gracious to us.  They fed and housed us and looked after our every need.  Even some homeowners whose house was nearly in ruins fed us lunch if we worked on their home.

So we tried to return the love by doing whatever we could to help those who needed it most.  However, the devastation and destruction were so widespread and pervasive, that it was easy to become overwhelmed by what lies ahead for the people of South Louisiana.

Blue tarps, missing roofs, and destruction were everywhere from Houma southward. 

Traveling along the numerous bayous, piles of debris lined the roadways, and utility trucks with their bucket lifts were stringing new power lines as we were bumped over the old ones laying on the road.
In the house shown to the right, the owner stayed in this house during the storm, but when the roof blew off, he made it to his boat shown in the background and rode out the storm there.   This kind of damage was evident everywhere we went.

The region around Houma saw sustained winds of 140 mph for 6 hours.  Shingles got ripped off, walls collapsed, or roofs became massive flying kites.

Surprisingly there was no flooding from tidal surges.  All the damage we found was structural and roof damage and thus rainwater soaked walls and floors within.  6 weeks after the storm, you can imagine the wet, moldy conditions we found.  Drywall, paneling, plywood, and insulation all had to be removed.

The people of South Louisiana are incredibly resourceful and hardy.  Most houses already had been tarped.  But some owner-installed tarps were already coming loose, so fixing damaged tarps will always be on our to-do list.  But mucking out was and will be our primary effort.  Every house with missing shingles or roofs has mold and it needs to get removed.

Volunteer groups are not as prolific as they were with South Texas due to the remoteness of South Louisiana, so we can’t just work 5 days and call it done.  The need and desperate conditions call us to return and return we will the week of November 8th.  

The facilities at the Houma First United Methodist Church where we stay are very comfortable. Multiple rooms to spread out, cots, 5 showers, and two large kitchens. Not to mention a big demand by church members to cook dinners for us along with gracious South Louisiana hospitality.

We had a great team last week and we got a lot of work done.  We worked on 12 different homes during that time and enjoyed visiting with the homeowners, sharing their pain, but reveling in their joy and positive outlook.

Sign Up to Volunteer

You too can volunteer in Louisiana. We are ready for you, your church, your Sunday School class, your youth group, or your ERT team.  

Together, we will assist those who need help in Louisiana.

When you sign up, someone from the Office of Missional Engagement and Outreach will match you, your skills, and your availability to an area of need in Louisiana. We thank you for your willingness to help us recover, to provide the hands and feet of Christ, and tangibly love your neighbor.  

Sign Up to Volunteer

Support for this project was provided by a grant from UMCOR
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