TAC Cabinet and Congregations Helping the Least, Last and Lost Following the Louisiana Floods

Date Posted: 1/26/2017

During 2016, most of the parishes in North and South Louisiana were slammed with over six trillion gallons of water, flooding some homeowners twice in a six-month period. Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey is seeing the impact of these events on the Louisiana Annual Conference. “We still have churches in areas of great impact wondering if their people will come back. We know after Hurricane Katrina some people never returned to New Orleans. That is why it’s critical for us to provide a sense of place and get folks back home.”

The Texas Annual Conference has generously responded with donations in excess of $160,000 for Louisiana, but the need for hands-on help still remains. According to Habitat for Humanity, it takes an average of $30,000 to refurbish a 1,500 square foot home that took on between 2-3 feet of water. In January, several members of the TAC Cabinet traveled to Louisiana to bring encouragement and help in the rebuilding. This video highlights their experiences and depicts the needs that linger.

“We were all humbled to work on a modest home that had to be completely gutted due to flood damage,” shares Rev. Gail Ford Smith. “The family has been displaced all this time, living with others, so we felt the urgency of completing our tasks of priming, painting and installing doors, cabinets and baseboards. It was stunning to learn another 160,000 houses are in similar shape, which means that many families are uprooted.  Imagine what a difference this Annual Conference could make with our neighbors in Louisiana if churches sent work teams.”

Dr. Elijah Stansell adds, “As a cabinet member, I believe that hands-on mission work is one of the most significant ministry engagements we do. These acts of kindness feed my passion and doing the gospel mandate is actualized. I will not allow any scheduling to hinder me from participating.”
“I fear the needs created by the flood will be forgotten,” shares District Superintendent Rev. Alicia Coltzer. “Many people are still living in hotels. Working with UMCOR and Habitat for Humanity was a great experience.” Adds Alicia, “FUMC Baton Rouge is prepared to receive teams and it is close. All you have to do is contact them, and they help you find people to serve. These are our neighbors and if anyone should have compassion for people in areas that flood, it is the people of the Texas Annual Conference.”
 
Bishop Scott Jones Beckons Texas Churches to Help
Bishop Jones urges, “The Louisiana Conference is well organized and ready to make use of volunteers willing to help our neighbors who are still homeless after the floods last fall. The partnership they have established with Habitat for Humanity assures that our teams from the Texas Conference will be able to hit the ground running and make a real impact on the progress of rebuilding.”
 
According to Rev. Scott Moore, Executive Director of the TAC Mission Center, the process to help is very easy. “Churches or groups of churches can gather their prospective teams and select dates that work for them,” Scott explains.  Team leaders can click “volunteer” at http://www.louisianadisasterresponse.com/, and follow the instructions on the screen.  The system will request contact information for the team leader, the number of people on the team, the dates they wish to work, if they have a particular area of the state they are more interested in assisting, and if they need assistance finding housing.
 
According to Scott, teams can stay at host churches (arranged with the help of the Louisiana Conference) or at local hotels. The Louisiana Conference and its partner agencies will supply the necessary tools and equipment, although teams can also bring their own if they are so inclined.  Much of the work right now consists of painting and light construction work -- hanging sheetrock, installing cabinets and doors. “If the team has members with particular expertise in carpentry, electrical, or plumbing, for example,” he says, “efforts will be made to find a project home that needs that specialized work.  However, for most of the homes no specific construction knowledge or experience is needed. On site coordinators will supply needed expertise and supervision.” 
 
The Need is Great
Surprisingly, there are still hundreds of thousands of homes throughout the state that need work done.  Some homes still have not been cleaned out since the flood.