When word came through Encompass’ Crisis Response Network that 40,000 homes had been flooded in Louisiana in August 2016, Western Reserve Grace Church and Penn Valley Church saw an answer to that question.
Brian Orme and Rick Sames from Penn Valley worked with Western Reserve’s Vernon Higaki to put together a trip to see firsthand how their communities could help those in crisis. They put out a call, and God’s people responded. Within a week, Vernon and three other team members were headed to Louisiana.
They arrived to see the full extent of the disaster. Because there had never been a flood in that area before, 75% of the flooded houses were not insured for flood damage. Families were left to find their own way to put their homes back together. “People’s lives were on the street,” Vernon says. “It was pretty sobering.”
They stayed six days, working with two different couples to gut their homes, stripping everything down to the studs so that the houses could be sealed up and dehumidified to eliminate the danger of black mold. Only after that could rebuilding begin. The team wore watertight suits with aspirators in 95-degree heat, demonstrating the hope of Christ through their own sweat and tears.
The work of these four individuals was only the beginning. Western Reserve Grace Church rallied to the cause, and two more teams were assembled. The first traveled October 29, and the second will go in late March 2017, taking advantage of the high school’s spring break so that teens can participate along with adults. It may take three to four years before some of the affected homes are recovered. The body of Christ is reaching out, not just in the moment of crisis but through the long process of recovery that will follow.