In December of 2016, members of the Texas Annual Conference's cabinet traveled to Baton Rouge Louisiana where they helped repair damaged homes following the devastating floods.
After the flooding of Hurricane Harvey, members of the Louisiana cabinet felt a strong desire to return the goodwill.
“It’s an opportunity to be the physical hands and feet of Christ but also to provide the emotional support,” says Rev. Wybra Price, Shreveport District Superintendent. “We can bring that gift of an unconditional loving God and to extend the the gift of grace as that grace was extended to us. Texas is one of our nearest neighbors and Scripture says ‘I was in need and you ministered to me’. Sometimes our neighbors are in need and so we’ve come to Texas to share in the gift of their time in need.”
Hurricane Harvey displaced nearly 30,000 Texans as it devastated the southeastern coast in August and, just like the August 2016 flood in southeastern Louisiana, Harvey dumped a massive amount of rain - 19 trillion gallons.
"For me, it wasn't so much that we needed to repay the favor of Texas coming to Louisiana. Instead, it was just a matter of widening our circle," says Rev. Tom Dolph, District Superintendent of the Lake Charles District. "There was a storm that dumped a bunch of stuff on a lot of people and for a few months now, I have been working in Lake Charles and Vinton and Moss Bluff and now we've reached a point where we need to widen the circle of help."
For the Louisiana cabinet, that help meant two different projects. The first mission - install new sheetrock and walls in a flooded Orange, Texas home. Next, help an elderly lady who, after having fallen twice, was having a difficult time managing the steps outside her trailer. The crew, led by Rev. Laraine Waughtal, Director of the Office of Missional Outreach and Engagement and Scott Moore of the Texas Conference, decided to build a custom ramp for the woman.
“We know as Louisianians what it's like to go through a great flood. They've gone through the same thing, and this is our opportunity to be connectional, serving one another and serving God in a time of need,” says Waughtal. “My heart cries for what people have been through, and I am reminded, once again, about how we need to be there for one another. We are God's people, and we can overcome this!"
For Rev. Gary Willis, District Superintendent of Monroe, the reasoning for the trip west was simple. “We have suffering people and this is where Christians go,” he says. “When 60% of the homes in this county flooded, well - there are a lot of people here who are suffering. This could be seen as a small project, but it's part of the larger connection of work inside the United Methodist Church."
Rev. Gloria Fowler, Director of Congregational Transformation and New Church Development was also reflecting on the connectional nature of the United Methodist Church. “We've seen connectionalism in so many ways and it's now it’s our chance to be part of the global church. We can do so much more when we are united and working for God’s glory.”
“Love has to be concrete," says Rev. John Cannon District Superintendent of the Acadiana District. “We can’t just talk about Jesus Christ and what that love means without taking action and so when people are in need, and we can help, and we can help, then that is what we need to do.”
“We are there to help them get from that place of despair and to see the new life that awaits them,” says Rev. Jan Curwick, New Orleans District Superintendent. “We can walk that journey with them, helping them move from this tragedy that has come upon them to a point where they are restored.”