Dr. Chuck Davis, GBNAM career missionary to the southeast U.S., recently send this wrapup report of his time in Shreveport, Louisiana:
Hurricane Katrina and hurricane Rita have devastated the Gulf Coast region and changed people’s lives forever. I have just returned from Shreveport, LA after serving with the Red Cross for three weeks in two different Red Cross shelters.
In the Shreveport area alone 7,500 people were being housed in Red Cross shelters. The human tragedies and the hopelessness of multitudes of people will take a long time to overcome.
I was privileged to work for a week with some wonderful Red Cross Disaster Team members in the LSU Shreveport shelter. Most of the evacuees in this shelter left New Orleans early and were able to bring some material things with them, though most of them had their homes inundated with more than 20 feet of water.
Horror stories abounded, as did stories of heroism, courage and even humor. Many of these folks had family members who died during Katrina’s wrath and many were separated from their family members and had no idea where those members were. We had an extended family of 52 members in our shelter and they were a wonderful group of people.
After a week in the LSU shelter, and with dwindling shelter populations, all the Shreveport shelters were combined into the Hirsch Shreveport shelter, which now had a total combined population of 350 people. All the Red Cross staff was transferred to the Hirsch shelter and I was appointed as the Assistant Shelter Manager and the Red Cross Disaster Services Human Resource Personnel site manager.
We began the process of interviewing shelter residents to ascertain their needs and to see how we might help them to transition back into society. It was hoped this process could be completed quickly and the shelter completely shut down by early October.
Then Hurricane Rita came to the Gulf Coast for a visit. Within twelve hours our shelter went from a population of 350 to about 900. Three additional shelters were opened in Shreveport and there were thousands of evacuees flooding the area that we could not accommodate.
We had evacuees from shelters in southern Louisiana as well as from Texas and they continued to come all night long and all the next day. It was estimated that we had as many as 25,000 evacuees in the Shreveport area.
Every hotel, every shelter and many churches were filled to capacity with evacuees. And when Rita finally passed through the area the stories sounded the same as with Katrina minus the New Orleans flooding.
Hurricanes are no respecter of persons. They affect the poor and the rich, the educated and the uneducated, the healthy and the sick. In essence they affect everyone.
They can displace people for long periods of time and can take away possessions that people have worked to accumulate over a lifetime. In a shelter you find all strata of society hunkering down together to escape nature’s wrath.
I thank God for the local volunteers in the Shreveport area, the National Guard, the police & sheriff departments, and the Red Cross Disaster Services volunteers from around the United States who worked 12-18 hour days to help the victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
They provided encouragement, hope, food, water, shelter, medical aid, clothing, baby items, toiletries, sheets, blankets, cots, air mattresses, money, transportation, jobs, chaplain services and a multitude of social services to those affected by Katrina and Rita.
In this experience I truly did see the worst of human nature and the goodness of man. And crossing all boundaries I saw the work of God in many lives and had the opportunity to share Jesus with many of my co-workers who wanted to know what I did in “real life.”
I met many wonderful compassionate people in the aftermath of two hurricanes and through this experience God has given me new insight into the nature of man, the nature of God, and the hope Christians have in the reality of disastrous circumstances.
Many of you knew where I was and you were praying for me. Thanks, it really did help. And now I would ask for you to continue to pray for my new-found friends in Shreveport as they minister to those remaining in the shelters.
Please pray also for those evacuees in the shelter. They face an uncertain future and could certainly use our prayers. Thanks for your partnership in ministry with Millie and me. It certainly is an encouragement as we serve Jesus in whatever opportunity He lays before us.