Our volunteers helped a homeowner who has suffered through many trialsVolunteer in Louisiana
Elizabeth stood on a chair, peered out the front window, and saw two horses in the field across the street with their nose and lips barely above water. Fish swam in her kitchen while the floodwaters on her street in East Baton Rouge continued to rise.
“It was like Niagara Falls. I started screaming,” Elizabeth said.
Jumping off the chair and into the water was her only way out. The water was already to her chin, even as she stood on her tiptoes.
“I fell under and swallowed some of the water. Ants were crawling up my arm and back. Spiders were jumping in the water. I saw a snake crawling up my car,” Elizabeth said as she relived the horrifying weekend when as much as 31 inches of rain fell across south Louisiana.
The flooding affected more than 100,000 homeowners and, like Elizabeth, many residents were trapped in their homes. Elizabeth escaped the raging waters thanks to a group of Louisiana civilians called the “Cajun Navy” who journeyed by boat to her house.
As Elizabeth stood in the chair that morning and watched the water take over her home she cried out to God.
“Of all the hard things in my life I’ve never questioned God, not one time. But that morning I asked Him, ‘How can this work for my good and Your glory?’”
Elizabeth waited two days for the water to recede before returning home to find nearly all her furniture and personal belongings destroyed. Samaritan’s Purse volunteers, including a group of Liberty University students, helped gut out her home and sort through her belongings for anything salvageable.
Our volunteers are serving throughout East Baton Rouge and also Lafayette and Ascension parishes. So far, well more than 2,000 volunteers have spent over 50,000 hours helping to remove mud, moldy drywall, and insulation; clean floors; and spray for mold.
Elizabeth described our army of good Samaritans as “lagniappe from the Lord.” She explained that lagniappe is a Cajun phrase meaning “a little something extra,” and our volunteers were an extra blessing she never expected.
Even in Elizabeth’s despair that morning she knew she would be OK. “It was as though I could hear God’s voice saying, ‘All things work for your good and My glory.’ I just got peace,” she explained.
The recent flooding is not the first storm to come crashing into Elizabeth’s life, and it’s not the first time resilience and trust in God have carried her through sorrow.
The Valley of Death
Elizabeth’s mom, Annie, hardly ever watched television, but her life changed the day she saw a program of Billy Graham preaching.
“My mom got on her knees in front of the TV and asked Jesus into her heart,” Elizabeth said.
One by one, Elizabeth and her family members also came to faith in Jesus. Her dad, however, wasn’t as eager to receive the Gospel. “My momma prayed for my daddy 16 years,” Elizabeth said.
One day, more than 30 years ago while a student at Mississippi College, God gripped Elizabeth’s heart to again share the Gospel with her dad. This time, he prayed to receive Jesus as His Savior.
Almost two weeks to the day of his salvation, Elizabeth’s dad was injured in an explosion in his home workshop. He died four days later.
Elizabeth grieved the loss of her dad but remained close to her mom. About 10 years ago, Annie moved from New Orleans to Baton Rouge and lived next door to Elizabeth. Annie remained there until her death five years ago.
“I closed her house up—it was too painful,” Elizabeth said.
The home stayed just as Annie had left it until a few years ago when Elizabeth and her husband, David, moved in. The home was more wheelchair-friendly for David, who was trying to recover from multiple surgeries to repair a stomach intestine that had been cut during an emergency appendectomy.
The initial surgery was done in Mexico while the couple was on a mission trip. David suffered septic shock, and as soon as he could travel, the couple returned to the U.S. where David had five more surgeries. They’d been married 32 years when he died, not long after moving into Annie’s old home.
David and Elizabeth’s life together was one marked by serving God, from mission trips to ministry among homeless people.
“God gave me a gift in my husband,” Elizabeth said, unable to contain her grieving tears. Losing her mother and husband in the same house sometimes seemed too much for her to bear.
Yet, she can see how God did amazing things even in a terribly trying situation. The Lord used David’s witness in a powerful way, she said. While Elizabeth watched him suffer excruciating pain, she never saw him angry, not even when patients and nurses questioned why he wasn’t cursing God.
“Fifty people were saved while he was in the hospital,” she said. “It was revival.”
Rescued and Restored
Elizabeth’s faith also carried her through the floodwater when she had no idea how rescue would come. God sent the Cajun Navy to reunite her with her husband Pierre (she remarried last year), who was about 20 miles away in Denham Springs and couldn’t get to her fast enough. [Elizabeth notes that Pierre—her alligator-hunting, frog-gigging husband—is just another new gift from God she never expected.]
“They drove me across that field,” Elizabeth said, pointing from her driveway to a field across the street, “and onto the highway in the boat. I lost my shoes. I was sopping wet head to toe.”
Elizabeth made her way to a shelter, where others who’d also been rescued offered her a blanket and dry clothes from the few belongings they’d grabbed before fleeing. “God showed me over and over that He was right here with me.”
When Elizabeth spotted Pierre and his three brothers she said they looked like angels bursting through the crowd.
“My husband was frantically asking the emergency workers and describing what I looked like,” she said, “[When he found me,] my husband looked in my face and didn’t even know it was me. I look bad today—I looked worse that day.”
Elizabeth said she experienced God’s love as He helped her escape the roaring rapids. Though the couple’s earthly possessions were destroyed, their lives were spared.
Through the flood and through grief, Elizabeth chooses to praise God and give thanks.
“It’s amazing,” she said, “what God has done in our family.”