It's been nearly 500 days since the August floods of 2016 and there is still plenty of work to be done.
Meanwhile, to the west, the remnants of Hurricane Harvey in the Lake Charles area are still being addressed.
"When we think of all those affected by wind and water, their needs are easy to imagine: clean floors, rebuilt walls, a sofa to sit on," says Rev. Tom Dolph, District Superintendent of the Lake Charles district. "What is not so evident sometimes is our need to give. If we have come to discover God’s great love in our life, we need to respond. The best response to being loved is being loving. We are not just responding to a storm, we are responding to love. Why not now?"
At this time, the Office of Missional Outreach and Engagement is accepting teams (4 or more persons) to register and assist those impacted by the August 2016 floods as well as Hurricane Harvey in the Lake Charles District.
Rev. Laraine Waughtal, Director of the Office of Missional Outreach and Engagement knows many of us are in the midst of preparing for the busy Christmas season. "In this Christmas season, we celebrate the greatest gift ever given, the birth of our Savior," says Waughtal. "God gave himself to be with us and teach of God’s great love for us. What greater gift can we give in this season than the gift of ourselves – our time and our talents – to help other people to recover and have their homes and hope restored."
There's Still Work to be Done?
It might be surprising to see that work is still being done, most specifically in the Baton Rouge area, but it comes as no surprise to Waughtal.
"It is not surprising at all that we are still working on the 2016 floods," she says. "The magnitude of over 150,000 homes flooded is a huge project. Even if only 10% of those people need help that is 15,000 homes. We have only been working on repairing and rebuilding homes for a little over a year. Not even a huge contracting company can get that kind of volume of work done in a short time."
Volunteers and donors have been and will continue to be the backbone of support provided by the Louisiana Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. "We are beyond grateful for all of the donors who continue to give and the volunteers that give anywhere from a day to a week and even months to help repair homes. Not only do you repair and give people back their homes but we assist in repairing and restoring lives," she says. "To see the smiles, the light come back in people’s eyes and a bounce in their step - it not only touches our volunteers deeply but it reminds us that through our bold imagination we too are God’s instruments and voices of hope."
What Makes a Team?
"Teams can be made of youth (youngest being junior high) and/or adults and the work includes everything from insulation, sheetrock, flooring, cabinetry, and painting," says Waughtal. "And I think it's important to note - you do not have to be an expert in construction. All skill levels are needed and appreciated."
Housing with showers will be available at area United Methodist churches that have been identified by the Conference office and once a team registers, they will be contacted by area volunteer coordinators. "These volunteer coordinators make things so much easier for everyone involved," says Waughtal. "They will help you with final details, paperwork, and other items. The construction coordinators will also contact you as time grows closer to discuss jobs sites and tools."
The Office of Missional Outreach and Engagement is standing by to schedule trips through all of 2018 and they expect work in both areas to last into 2019.
Responding to a disaster may seem like second nature to many in Louisiana but there are many moving parts for churches and congregations. It is for that very reason that Connecting Neighbors exists.
Connecting Neighbors is a new program from UMCOR that gives congregations the tools and information they need to guide the development of their disaster-response ministries.
It's one thing to be 'prepared' for a disaster and an entirely different thing to be 'ready'," says Waughtal. "Congregations that invest their time in “Connecting Neighbors” training are better prepared for what emergencies may come, able to draw on local resources more quickly in the wake of a disaster and more confident that United Methodists will be a resource for community recovery."
Connecting Neighbors includes three programs designed to help ready churches and congregations. They include:
Ready Congregants focuses on preparing individuals and families to be disaster-ready. Participants will be inspired to take action in order to prepare themselves, their households and others before and immediately following a disaster.
Ready Churches emphasizes the importance of protecting church property and the people within the property, before and immediately following a disaster, and of appropriate use of church property in disaster response.
Ready Response encourages churches to explore their capacity for various disaster response ministries and to consider ways to engage community partners and how they can respond after the disaster to their community.