Roy St. John, Gleaning’s disaster coordinator, was on the ground within hours after the storm had slammed Louisiana. Through our daily communication, he told me about the heartbreaking conditions in which these families were living. He compared the extensive damage to Hurricane Katrina. Entire neighborhoods are gone. Thousands living in shelters. Enormous suffering. I knew I needed to be there.
Once I arrived, Roy showed me one community after another and the scene was the same everywhere we went. The rubble, wall board, insulation, children’s toys and furniture were piled eight feet high on the side of the road – mile after mile. The black mold was everywhere and the stench was overwhelming and stomach-turning from 50 feet away.
We stopped at one house which touched me deeply. A couple in their mid-fourties was cleaning out the home of an elderly friend. He and his wife were breaking the crumbling, mold-infected remnants of the house and hauling it to the street for disposal. I visited with them. In the areas where they had removed the wall board, I saw the 2×4 studs covered in black mold. The ceiling was black from mold as well. Nearly every square inch of the house was covered. The couple was doing all they could to get this family back into their home, but they knew they were fighting a losing battle.
They described the wall of water that came in the house that night. The house had been there since the 70’s and never experienced. Yet, within just a few hours the entire first floor was under water. The elderly family that lived there had lost everything. They did not know if they could afford to recover. They did not have flood insurance. They didn’t have the money to buy the materials to rebuild and did not know what would happen to them. I told them we had supplies delivered to the area and where they could find them if they needed anything. I told them we would do everything we could to get more help into the area, and before we left I prayed with them.
As we were heading back to the hotel, I saw a woman in her 90’s who we met earlier in the day. She was sweeping the dust out of her home and cleaning the drive way. Her family had already gutted the house, tore the walls out and were drying it out, but the pride she felt in her home compelled her to continue the work, even as exhausted as she was.
These families’ stories are repeated 74,000 times. Tens of thousands of homes were destroyed. I couldn’t heal the overwhelming feeling of desperation these people were feeling, but I know we can extend a hand to help. If you feel moved to help the families of Louisiana, we will use your financial gift wisely and efficiently. However, the most important thing we can do is pray for them.