LAKE CHARLES, La. – As Hurricane Delta is just hours away from slamming into Louisiana’s coast, thousands of families there are still pulling trees out of their homes. Hurricane Laura has changed the landscape of southwest Louisiana forever.
As many of you may know, this is where I’m from – and much of my family is still there. Last weekend, I traveled south to speak with my godmother about her home that was destroyed and the love shining through in the midst of a storm of uncertainty.
Old photo albums bring back a flood of memories and emotions for Linda Dowies. Picture after picture captured her late husband, Terry, building their family home more than 40 years ago.
These treasures are a bit more special nowadays. Terry is no longer with us – and after Hurricane Laura, neither is much of the home he built with his own hands.
“This is the first bedroom. It looked like the living room. Everything was shattered. The rain came in and ruined the antique beds,” says Linda, as she showed me around her home.
The powerful Category 4 Hurricane flattened much of southwest Louisiana. At Linda’s house, dozens of trees came crashing down on her roof.
“Took us two years. It was our dream house. We started it in 1976 and finished it in 1978, and moved in. I’ve never lived anywhere else. Every cabinet was full! It’s just a lifetime of memories, trashed,” Linda says.
But not all hope is lost. Before her home can be rebuilt, plenty of demolition and cleanup needed to be done. This is the good part.
“I call them ‘God winks’. God just went before me, with each little thing. And this group from Christian aid ministries, they’re from all over the world. Came and cleared my yard. Didn’t charge me a penny.”
“It is an avenue into people’s hearts and lives. Our desire is simply to be the Hands and Feet of Jesus in these critical times. In these people’s lives,” says Kenneth Beachy, of Christian Aid Ministries.
Next, Linda’s house needed to be gutted – all the carpet, walls, insulation and debris taken out. Basically, it needed to be reduced to the studs – and once again, another need is met with kindness.
These men and women are volunteering with Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian organization dedicated to helping humanity all over the world. Currently they are in Oregon helping families affected by the wildfires. They are in Africa and Asia offering medical care, and they are here in Westlake, Louisiana, ripping out sheet rock and breaking down walls – both physical and emotional – in hopes of showing God’s love in the wake of a powerful hurricane and in the midst of a storm of uncertainty.
“Samaritan’s Purse goes to these disaster areas to share the love of Jesus Christ. That’s our main goal. That’s why we get volunteers from North Dakota, Seattle, Pennsylvania, Florida….all coming to southwest Louisiana to help out,” says Clay Steelman, of Samaritan’s Purse.
With no time to waste, after work here was finished, they packed up and went to the next home to help another family in need. At last check, there are still more than 1,200 work orders to get to.
“So there’s still a lot to be done, and we’ll be here in Lake Charles until it is done,” Clay says.
The daunting truth is that thousands of families all over southwest Louisiana are still cleaning and clearing. Many won’t be able to live in their homes for months. The road will be long and the work will be tough. But with a selfless Christian army of volunteers helping in this community, maybe this difficult journey won’t seem so impossible.
Adam: “When you look at all the drama and the destruction outside, the tree stumps and the no grass, all over the community, and you pair that with the generosity being shown, do they balance out? Does that help at all?
Linda: “Oh yeah, there’s so much hope when you see that. People came from all over the United States. You see the rioting and the protesting, and you see the people who come and take their vacations. They just come to give. They don’t want anything in return. They just come to give and to help. You just see all the hope in the world. You see the good in people.”
Adam: “Just now while looking around, it looks like a bomb went off – and then there’s that flower right there in the middle.”
Linda: “That’s my hope. I named her my ‘hope flower’. She comes back. That’s what we’re expected to do.”
Adam: “None of this matters. It’ll all come back.”
Linda: “It’s just stuff. I love you, baby.”
You can view Linda’s full interview below.
As we speak, Linda and the rest of my family are getting out of town, fleeing from the latest storm of this busy hurricane season. If I may, I ask for your thoughts and prayers for a community which has already lost so much.
No one knows what kind of destruction Delta looks to bring to Louisiana’s fragile coast, but what is certain is the men and women you saw in this story – the brave and long-suffering people who donated their time and vacation in service of others – will be there to help if needed.
For this, we are grateful.