A Hurricane Katrina Testimony

A Hurricane Katrina Testimony

By Anna

It was my privilege to be a member of the team Creation Expeditions took to Katrina-devastated Gulfport, Mississippi. The temperatures were generally hot, the bugs ubiquitous, and the smells often less than pleasant, yet it was a great blessing to be able to demonstrate, through service, Christ’s love to fellow Christians, and to unbelievers as well. Our team consisted of people from as far away as Massachusetts, Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee, all volunteering their muscle and sweat to minister to hurting people. Donated supplies came from equally diverse places, and we distributed huge amounts of water, food, and other basic necessities.

We worked in cooperation with First Presbyterian Church in Gulfport. Base camp was set up across the street from the home of one of the elders. The original plan was to camp out in the Elder’s yard, but it just wasn’t big enough. A neighboring couple generously allowed us to take over their front yard and driveway with our big vehicles and numerous tents. The elder’s carport became the storage place for the truckloads of supplies funneled through us. The church also helped us by identifying needs and giving us work assignments.

Several times a part of our team and members of First Presbyterian loaded a large flatbed trailer with gallons upon gallons of water, canned and dry food, toilet paper, paper towels, bleach and cleansers, baby formula and food, diapers, clothing, hygiene items, and more. A mostly-empty plaza served as a distribution point to transfer these supplies to those in need. It didn’t take long for people to show up. Folks were in line almost before we’d untarped the supplies. In the beginning we asked people simply, “what do you need?” but soon realized that most of them didn’t know. Still dazed by the trauma of the storm and their losses, they were unable to identify their needs. Our approach changed and we started asking specific questions like; “Do you have water?”, “Do you need food?”, “Do you have a way to cook?”, “How many are in your family?”, “Do you have any babies?”, “Do you need formula? Diapers?”, et cetera. We gave away scads of diapers and a gazillion cans of beef stew (most of us agree that we’d be happy never to see another can of beef stew ever again!). And as we temporarily met basic, physical needs, we prayed for the Lord to meet the more important spiritual needs of these people. I’m thankful that we were able to work in conjunction with a local church. Hopefully some of the people to whom we gave supplies will remember the church and come back to them to find everlasting sustenance and hope in Christ.

Although it was a big part of our work, distribution wasn’t the only job before our team. Before the first day of the trip was over, the men had proved some of their abilities by removing several precarious trees from a roof. It was decided that some of our team would be taken “south of the tracks” to the area most severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina. They had some messy jobs cleaning through debris, putrid mud, and mold to salvage special pieces for grateful home owners. Other times they removed more trees from roofs and tarped over the holes. In some cases their goal was just to clear a path through the rubble to a front door so a home could be accessed. We worked on two houses two streets north of the beach front. The houses from the first street had been completely demolished and the remains washed into the yards of the houses on Second Street. The piles were so high in places that the standing houses were not visible above them. The building of First Presbyterian Church is located on the beach front. Although still standing, it sustained severe damage. Even in it’s ruined condition, I saw a glimpse of the former beauty of the house of worship. It was a reminder that the church is the people of God, not a building. Wrecked though the building was, the people were still acting as the Body of Christ. The sanctuary floor was covered with miscellaneous items; photos, CDs, books — most washed in from other places. Littering the street and sidewalks outside were decaying chickens, also washed in by the storm. We were able to assist in removing some undamaged pianos, books, and other items from the church building, and tarped spots on the roof.

Our job assignments were many and varied, but each I believe brought hope or encouragement to those we were serving. We couldn’t completely restore a home, but perhaps our work gave the owners the encouragement they needed to persevere. No, the food and supplies we gave out don’t last forever, but they met an immediate need and are part of helping to rebuild lives. One man expressed to me as I handed him a box of food, “I want to thank y’all so much for what you’re doing here. I never thought we’d get back together this quick!” There’s still a lot of rebuilding yet to take place, but the work we did helped to bring hope that restoration can be accomplished. We sought to act like the Church is to act; ministering mercy to those in need, giving a cup of water in Christ’s Name. Only God knows what fruit may come of it.