TAC Teams Answer the Call to Help Waterlogged Louisiana – Again

Date Posted: 2/23/2017

Spring and summer floods in Louisiana have created a backlog in the recovery process and Texas Annual Conference groups are heading over to help.
“April showers bring…May mission teams?”  Although that’s not how the rhyme normally flows, Louisiana Disaster Response Director Debra Davis hopes it will be true, as they are particularly low on volunteers scheduled to help with flood recovery in April, May and beyond.
Although Texas has been deluged with the after math of record amounts of water in recent years, the historic flooding in Louisiana in August alone cost more than $8 billion. Thankfully, donations from Texas and help via Texas conference teams are still impacting the need in both states.
“We are eternally grateful for the support of the Texas Conference in both our spring and August flood recovery efforts,” shares Debra. “Several teams have already come and several more have registered to come over the next few months. We have had Texas teams in Leesville, Monroe, Baton Rouge, and Denham Springs.  The need is still great and we truly cannot do this without our connection. The Texas Conference has been proof for us of the connection at work and we appreciate the extra hands and feet of Christ on the ground as our Texas friends continue to be a caring Christian presence in the aftermath of devastation.”
As a Disaster Response Coordinator, and member of the Texas Annual Conference Disaster Response Ministries, Rick Carpenter, First UMC, Huntsville is quick to rally others to take action. In response to the 2016 TAC call for teams from each of the districts, Rick Carpenter registered a team of four of the disaster team experts from Huntsville FUMC (West District) and one district disaster relief coordinator of the Central North district from Conroe FUMC via the LA UMC Conference website. Notes Rick, “We brought our team in early December and I was encouraged by the ease of the registration process.” 
Rick’s Texas team enjoyed great accommodations at Blackwater UMC in Baker in North Baton Rouge and received guidance onsite and visits by LA UMC coordinator Charles Goss. “We did mostly framing work, getting into drywall and mudding as we were able,” adds Rick. “We worked onsite with a team from Oklahoma in step with the Greater Baton Rouge Habitat for Humanity Disaster Response. I had not worked with them before, so that was an honor. They made great partners, and I think TAC should consider partnering with them as well.”
FUMC Huntsville member Conan Henry shares that “this type of missions trip is not for everyone but certainly does not require any kind of construction experience to participate. Anyone who is called to help people after a disaster can get involved. All you have to do is be ready to dedicate a few days, be ready to take a short trip, and not be afraid to roll up your sleeves and get dirty.”
In his experience, travelers are as self sufficient as possible with the intention of not being a burden on the communities they serve. “It is always humbling to see how well received we have been each and every time we are deployed.”
He adds, “The most important part of what we do is not so much the actual work but to be there for the survivors. Our main objective is to show through our hard work, kindness, and love the power of Christ and how faith can help everyone overcome life's challenges.”
Volunteer During Holy Week
Perritte Memorial UMC member Gil Hanke, who currently lives in Nashville and heads up the General Commission on United Methodist Men, is mobilizing another Texas team to join forces with other conferences and head to Denham Springs, LA during Holy Week. “I talked with one of our deployed UMM staff members in Louisiana this week and he was sleeping in his home for the first time in six months, and could testify that the aftermath has been just awful,” he shares. “Mark told me that many of the guys he is in ministry with lost everything, including businesses but that the church weathered the storm and became a help station. I ended up calling 18 people to pray and encourage them, and was relieved to hear them say that they were all in it together and encouraging each other.”
Gil views this type of hands on ministry work as therapeutic. “In my job we talk about being the church and think about it a great deal, but this work truly brings me personal renewal. It is hard to imagine the homes that have not been cleaned out since August, so we will bring the tools we think we need and we will do whatever the coordinators tell us needs doing,” he adds. “I’ve found that our presence there is often as important as our work. Just being there communicates that these folks are not forgotten and that people from far away care deeply about them.”
TAC Mission Center
In Texas, The Mission Center's role is to inform churches of the opportunity for disaster mission service, provide tools and equipment as needed and to direct them to the coordinator for the project.  Executive Director Rev. Scott Moore says, “The way teams get engaged in Louisiana is to register their team at louisianadisasterresponse.com. The Conference Disaster Director in Louisiana is Debra Davis, disasterresponse@la-umc.org. Her assistant is Nancy Waller, disasterresponseadmin@la-umc.org. Adds Gil, “I am who I am, because of the mission work I have done through the Texas Annual Conference.” If anyone wants to join Gils’ group during Holy Week, contact him at ghanke@gcumm.org.
HelpTexas, Too
Adds Scott, “We are still working flood recovery all over the conference. If someone wants to know about our volunteer opportunities they can contact Christine Riggle, criggle@txcumc.org, or me. We will direct them to the local contact person in the area in which they want to volunteer.”