Nearly 27 inches of rain dumped on Northeast Louisiana in early March 2016. Hundreds of homeowners suffered devastating losses in subsequent flooding, and many considered the disaster to be a scaled-down version of Hurricane Katrina (2005). Some flooded homes even flooded more than once.
Samaritan’s Purse arrived quickly in the aftermath of this tragedy—setting up a base in partnership with White’s Ferry Road Church in West Monroe—and remained for the long haul, finishing up our work on May 28. Our volunteers logged nearly 29,000 hours of work, helping more than 200 homeowners. All of our work was done in Jesus’ Name, and we saw more than 80 individuals repent and place their faith in Christ.
“We value volunteers,” said Samaritan’s Purse Program Manager Bruce Poss. “We can’t do what we do without them.”
Whether day volunteers or long-termers, workers with Samaritan’s Purse begin the day in prayer. The Christian fellowship and camaraderie in the camp is an important reason why some volunteers keep coming back to serve. “Samaritan’s Purse is a blessing to not only the homeowners, but the volunteers themselves,” said Steven Bruno, who came down from New York to help in Louisiana.
One of the first homes that Samaritan’s Purse volunteers worked at is owned by Royce and Carol Ogle, members of White’s Ferry Road Church. They faithfully served in disaster response through the church for many years themselves.
“Nobody in their wildest dream thought it would flood like this,” Royce said. The couple had no flood insurance.
Yet in the midst of this trying time, the Ogles, both 70 years old, have been heartened by the love of Christian brothers and sisters—some of whom were friends and others strangers. Church friends came and helped them during the first weekend after the rains. Eager teams of volunteers representing Samaritan’s Purse did major work on their home for three days. Among other jobs, the teams ripped out drywall and meticulously scraped up flooring, then hauled the debris to the curb.
“I’m not going to lie to you, it’s hard,” Royce said. The mounds of trash on the front curb of his property represented a lot of memories and hard work. Still, he added, “it’s just stuff.”
The volunteers’ hard work touched Carol Ogle. “I just feel so blessed. The best thing about this is you know people care.
“It’s so touching when God provides what you need before you ever ask,” she said.
A veteran of multiple Samaritan’s Purse responses, volunteer Ken Wetzel came over from Mississippi to help in Louisiana. He brought several Christian brothers along to help, including his son, Stephen.
“It’s given us a chance to be what God calls the church to be. We can be hope, salt, and light,” he said. “When we come to these disasters we can offer hope and we can offer encouragement.”
Ken’s ultimate message to those affected by the flooding: “We’re there for you, and we have a Savior who’s there for you.”
“I know how the people felt in Katrina,” said Joyce Davis, a mother and grandmother. Her home flooded in March and Samaritan’s Purse volunteers came to clean up her home and prepare it for future work by contractors.
However, our volunteers worked hard with an enthusiasm that evidenced the joy of the Lord in their hearts. Joyce, a heart attack and stroke survivor, was grateful for the assistance. “They’re perfect,” she said. “All the volunteers around here are wonderful. They’ll bend over backwards to help us.”
Removing flooring, sheetrock, and nails from a flooded home, along with taking furniture and other soggy belongings to the curb is no easy assignment. “It’s hard. It’s hot. It’s nasty,” said Samaritan’s Purse volunteer Paul Brock, a site team leader. “These houses are not easy. You don’t just go in and rip it up. There’s a lot more to it than that.”
“The community is just devastated,” said Cynthia Sanders, whose home in the Haynes neighborhood of West Monroe was among those flooded.
Emma Lee Sanders, Cynthia’s 76-year-old mother—widowed in 2008—had about 6 inches to one foot of water in her nearby home.
“This is all pitiful. Now I know how the people in Katrina felt,” Emma Lee said, referring to Hurricane Katrina. Tears of sadness, though, are giving way to tears of relief, thanks, and even joy as Samaritan’s Purse volunteers are hard at work in the neighborhood—removing waterlogged furniture and other items, ripping up floors, taking out drywall, and spraying houses to prevent the spread of mold.
Among those helping Emma Lee were Pastor Gary and Tracy Yates, as well as their teen sons, Sam and Peyton, of New Albany, Mississippi. The Yates first volunteered with Samaritan’s Purse during the Benton County, Mississippi, tornado response late in 2015.
“We love the organization, and we decided to come down,” Tracy said. “Our church is very missions-minded and, any time the Lord calls to help, were’ going to help. We just didn’t have any excuse not to come.”
Pastor Gary summarizes his focus and the focus of Samaritan’s Purse in concise terms: “It’s about Jesus. We’re the hands and feet of Christ.”
Emma Lee Sanders, a widow since 2008, has lived almost 50 years in West Monroe. Her daughter, Cynthia, and Cynthia’s grandson, Ace, sought higher ground at Emma Lee’s house, but it flooded as well.
“All the floors are ruined. All of it has to be redone,” Emma Lee said. “They [the volunteers] are doing a good job for me. I thank everybody that’s here helping me to the highest.
“If it weren’t for my faith, I don’t think I could have gotten through it. I truly believe in my God.”
Samaritan’s Purse volunteers worked on Cynthia Sanders’ home as well.
“God knew we needed help here, and He sent good people to help us,” Cynthia said. “It just helps to have someone there to give you a hug, to pray for you. I feel like I’m surrounded by family.
“At first, I was crying because I was so desperate and upset, but now my spirit is crying out of joy. My life is devastated but I wouldn’t have missed being able to see this and to feel this, for anything—to know that there are such good people out there in this world. It makes you change your whole outlook on life.”
Cynthia continues to grieve the loss of her belongings—even the kitchen sink had to be removed and pitched to the street—but Samaritan’s Purse volunteers were there for her at her lowest point. The work, the prayers, and the encouragement of our teams lifted her soul.
Looking forward, she says she wants to serve others and has renewed hope for her own situation. “It’s going to all come back together slowly but surely,” she said.
Samaritan’s Purse volunteers also worked on the home of Terry Outley, who lives in the Haynes neighborhood too and, in fact, has lived there all her life. “I thank the Lord,” said Terry, who takes care of her three grandchildren. “I appreciate all the help.”
Paul Brock presented her with a Bible upon completion of the job. “This Bible is something to dig into and you will be so blessed,” he told her.
Reflecting on his experience in West Monroe, volunteer John Smartt of Sterrett, Alabama, summed up our organization’s focus: “Samaritan’s Purse has found a way, an entrance, to minister Christ to hurting and needy people when they’re really looking for answers. Samaritan’s Purse helps regardless—from the poorest neighborhood to the wealthier neighborhoods. We all need help. We all need Christ.”
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NKJV