On March 16, Samaritan’s Purse dedicated its first completed home rebuild in East Baton Rouge. The work continues our response to August 2016 flooding.
Water-stained belongings remain piled up along the sides of many roads. RVs or trailers are parked in the yards of some residents still unable to inhabit their flood-damaged homes. Only now, seven months after the great flood of August 2016, are some schools and businesses in East Baton Rouge, Louisiana, beginning to return to their facilities.
So, the completion and dedication of our first home rebuild on March 16—the house of Anna Christine Britton Davis, 90, and her husband Jewell, 94—was an event worthy of celebration and a sign of hope for things to come.
Samaritan’s Purse responded immediately after last year’s flooding and established bases of operation in the Louisiana parishes of East Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and Ascension. Over several months our volunteer teams helped more than 1,100 residents remove belongings and clean out flooded homes. More than 270 individuals prayed to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. But, we felt the task was not finished, so, in October 2016, we began our rebuild program in East Baton Rouge Parish, which will facilitate more extensive work on dozens of houses. Greenwell Springs Baptist Church served as the base of operation for our initial disaster relief response there and continues to be the hub for our continued work.
The Home Named “Obedience”
Anna Christine recalls the date that she first moved into her home in Denham Springs: March 6, 1956. Nearly 61 years later, her home is ready to be lived in again.VOLUNTEER IN LOUISIANA
Beginning in mid-December, Samaritan’s Purse began repairing Anna Christine and Jewell’s home, and now the work is finally complete.
“Every week, we’ve met a different group of volunteers from all over the U.S. and Canada. It has been wonderful—Heaven-sent is what I call it,” Anna Christine said.
In some cases, home renovations have uncovered the need for more extensive repairs, but in the Davises’ case, the renovations to their home revealed a pleasant surprise. Underneath layers of paneling and wallpaper that Samaritan’s Purse volunteers removed was floor-to-ceiling shiplap—wooden wall boards popularized by home improvement television shows.
The Davises are members of First Baptist Church of Denham Springs, which also was displaced by flooding. The congregation currently meets in a school.
The couple named their house Obedience, in honor of those “who have come with a willing heart in an act of obedience to our Lord’s command to ‘Go ye …,’” Anna Christine wrote in a letter to “our Samaritan’s Purse friends.” She distributed copies of the letter to the volunteers as they worked on the home.
“When we would stop by as work was going on, we saw the repair as that of a Master Carpenter,” Anna Christine wrote. “We see in you the hands and feet of Jesus, as you work putting things back together again.”
She said the volunteers did “whatever you were called on to do with a smile and gladness of heart. It doesn’t get any better than that!”
Each time Anna Christine’s daughter-in-law Jan visited the house to check on its progress, she was amazed by the work the volunteers did each week.
“What Samaritan’s Purse has done for us, I cannot describe,” Jan said. “It’s been the most wonderful out of the most terrible.”
Counting It All Joy
The Davises have enjoyed talking with volunteers as they worked on their home, and the encouragement has been mutual.
“They are so sweet,” said Emily Hamilton, a nursing major from East Tennessee State University in Johnson City who spent her spring break as a Samaritan’s Purse volunteer in East Baton Rouge. She was among 25 students and five leaders from the campus ministry group, The Well, who volunteered there for a week in early March.
“I just love their positive attitude,” Emily said about the couple. “They always find something positive out of it, out of all that’s happened to them.”
Evan Tyree, an ETSU business major, operates a landscaping business. Before the flood, Anna Christine’s backyard was filled with blooming plants and flowers. The two struck up a conversation about their common love for gardening while Evan was working on the house. She gave Evan a copy of her letter to Samaritan’s Purse volunteers.
“It about brought tears to my eyes to read the letter from this sweet-hearted lady. These people definitely count it all joy,” Evan said, referring to James 1:2-3, which says, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”
Evan added: “They are such an encouragement. I’m so glad that Samaritan’s Purse is here and helping them to experience this joy.”
Samaritan’s Purse construction manager Paul Harris and his wife, Melanie, who both worked on the Davises’ home, are thankful for the energy and willing spirit that volunteers, especially student groups, bring to the continuing effort to rebuild homes in the East Baton Rouge area.
“All of these young people have just been amazing,” Melanie said. “The week we’ve needed people with certain skills, God has supplied exactly the right people to do those things. If they don’t have construction skills, they will try to do whatever is needed. They aren’t afraid to try something new.”
More volunteers are needed to help rebuild more homes in East Baton Rouge—sign up here. Individuals or groups can serve for one to two weeks at a time. Please pray for our teams and the homeowners involved in this ongoing project.