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Dan's Thoughts on helping with Hurricane Katrina relief in Biloxi, Mississippi (first posted October 2005)
"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'" Isaiah 6:8 (NIV)
I had the privilege at the beginning of October 2005 to be part of a team that went to Biloxi, Mississippi to help with Hurricane Katrina recovery. I and 13 other men from our church met up with a local Calvary Chapel church and went out into the neighborhoods to assist as needed.
When I first heard our church would be going to help, I felt strongly that I had to participate. (In Luke 12:48, Jesus said, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded." (NIV)) After all, I still have my house, my job, my car, my health...how could I NOT go help? Another verse that was on my mind a lot as I prepared to go was 1 John 3:17: "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?" (NIV).
Being in the midst of the devastation is entirely different from seeing the pictures or hearing the news; the effects of the storm are everywhere. Houses were damaged or destroyed, rubble was everywhere, and many street signs were missing. When we were there, five weeks after the storm, there was a odd mix of normalcy and destruction:
God's people from all across the country are there helping. We met teams from California, New Jersey, Florida, and Pennsylvania, and every church in the area seemed to be providing food, water, clothes, appliances, and/or medical care. Many people are being saved, coming to faith in Jesus Christ, perhaps in part from seeing how fleeting and temporary the things of the world are.
I got to help at four houses during the three days I was there. I tore out moldy drywall, wet insulation, kitchen cabinets, and a shower stall. I helped cut down a tree that had fallen against one house. In one house that had flooded 9 feet deep, I was pulling the shelves out of the pantry, and on the very top shelf found a cup that was still full of storm water. I sweated like crazy, as we worked in respirators, goggles, and surgical gloves to protect ourselves from mold and other bad stuff. And, of course, we prayed for the people we helped.
This opportunity wasn't for everyone. Our pastor, Dave, who led the trip, insisted that only healthy men participate in this trip, due to the hazards of damaged buildings, mold, bacteria, unsafe water, and the need to be self-sufficient. (We took our own food, water, tools, protective gear, and sleeping equipment so as not to be a burden on the locals.) Many of you, though, have been helping in other, equally important ways. If you've contributed money or supplies, thank you; we saw the evidence of it--Red Cross, Salvation Army, Samaritan's Purse, and others are there in force. If you've prayed, thank you: we saw God working in people's lives. If you want to go help in person in the future, don't worry; you'll have lots of chances. The Katrina survivors will need a lot of help for a long time to recover from this, even after the debris is cleaned away and the electricity and water are back on.
It was a privilege and a blessing to have the chance to go help, even though it was only for a short time. My deep thanks to those who prayed for us, gave us time off work, lent us vehicles, sent supplies with us, and stayed behind to keep the home fires burning. (That means you, Gaye!) We owe a great debt to Calvary Chapel Gulf Coast, who coordinated work projects for us and let us stay in their building (with electricity and air conditioning, praise God!), even as they were recovering from the storm themselves. Finally, thanks also to the brothers on our team, who really made it a team -- we helped each other, worked together, shared our food and water and tools, and prayed for each other.