Samaritan's Purse U.S. Disaster Relief volunteers provide flood survivors help and comfort throughout rain-drenched Louisiana
More than 22 inches of rain recently left south Louisiana communities looking like a house-strewn lake. “Katrina-like” is how officials described it, referring to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. The latest reports estimate 102,000 homes have been affected across 20 parishes.
Bruce and Pamela Simmons are among the first families we assisted. They had already had a very trying summer before the canal near their home overflowed and flooded their East Baton Rouge home.
Bruce was able to get their fifth-wheel camper onto the high ground of their road, a challenge to do with only one functional arm. Bruce, a sergeant with the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s department, was shot in the arm during a July 17 ambush by a sniper who took the lives of three comrades.
This tragic turn of events began with the shooting of Alton Sterling by East Baton Rouge police officers July 5. Protests ensued throughout Baton Rouge and elsewhere in the state and country. The subsequent attack on East Baton Rouge law enforcement is believed to be connected.
After last week’s rains, the Simmons family was left to deal with a flooded home even as they recovered from the still-fresh aftermath of the tragic shooting. Samaritan’s Purse volunteers—a steady stream of orange shirts coming down their driveway—were a welcome sight of hope to the couple holed up in the camper beside their house.
“It’s just overwhelming to me that you’ve got men and women from all over the United States coming to help,” Bruce said. “I’m the one usually giving help, because I’m too stubborn to ask for help.”Volunteer in Louisiana
In just two days, the Simmons’s despair was relieved after volunteers cleared sopping walls and flooring from their home—a job that would cost thousands of dollars if done commercially. The remains of the cleanup are piled high at their curb, and now the home is ready for restoration—just as Bruce and Pamela are ready for a new start.
“We’re all in this together,” Bruce said. “And I believe God’s going to use this for His glory.”
Bruce says the selfless work of Samaritan’s Purse volunteers has made him think about future volunteer opportunities for him and Pamela.
“Maybe that’s what my calling will be one day and I can actually do this as well,” he said.[Read more on the tragic attack in which Bruce Simmons was injured and the response of Billy Graham Rapid Response Chaplains.]
Help Floods In
More than 1,000 volunteers have already put in nearly 20,000 hours of work to clear debris and salvage valuables from 151 homes in Louisiana. Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains have reported more than 28 salvations at our three bases (East Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and Gonzales).
“This is what the church is still on earth for. This is what we’re supposed to be doing. We’re not here because we just want to be good people. Being Christ to hurting people is the end,” said volunteer Kim Spendlove who, together with her husband, Roger, and son, Gideon, drove from Texas to join other Samaritan’s Purse volunteers.
“We’re here because God called us to be here,” Kim said. “We’ve had a blast. We are sweaty and grimy and I’ve had stuff on me that I don’t even want to think about, but every minute of it has been a blessing. Just being able to do what the body of Christ is supposed to be doing is a huge blessing.”
Nearly 1,800 homeowners have asked for assistance from Samaritan’s Purse throughout southern Louisiana, and that number continues to grow as word spreads. We need many, many volunteers to assist with clear debris, walls, and flooring from affected homes.
“It is nice to be surrounded by the sense of there’s something more than just chaos and evil in the world,” volunteer Jeananne Frazier said. “That people aren’t just talking but are actually doing something.”
Opportunities to Volunteer
Our base of operation in East Baton Rouge Parish and surrounding areas is Greenwell Springs Baptist Church. Our focus there will be homeowners in Greenwell Springs, Denham Springs, and Baker. We have already received well more than 1,300 work orders at this location.
Hosting our deployment for Lafayette Parish and surrounding areas—about an hour to the southwest of Baton Rouge—is Crossroads Church.
Samaritan’s Purse has opened a third deployment site to serve distressed homeowners in Ascension Parish, about 25 miles southeast of Baton Rouge. Our volunteers are based at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, where our Disaster Relief Unit is also set up. At the same time, RRT chaplains will be ministering out of The Church International in nearby St. Amant.