Several days ago we posted Part I of the Winona Lake (IN) Grace Brethren Church’s report of ministry to an adopted “sister church” in Gulfport, Mississippi. The team has returned, reported in the Sunday services yesterday, and here is an edited version of the last two days’ report of the team:
We had a great day today! We were assigned to go to a neighborhood in Bay Saint Louis, a town about 30 minutes from Gulfport. What total devastation we saw! It looked as though a bulldozer had come through and just plowed down all the homes. These people had lost everything.
The home we were assigned to work at had actually already been cleared, they had accidentally given us an old work order. When we called back to the church, they informed us they did not have any more work orders for that area. Since we were already out there, however, they suggested we see if any neighbors needed our help.
We walked down the street which was pretty much deserted, and we found a 93- year-old man, Ed, who was very interested in our help. His back yard was filled with piles of debris. We worked all day to clear out his whole yard. He was amazed, and very appreciative of our labor.
It was a real joy talking to him. He was very energetic for his age, (we could not believe he was 93) and he had a very positive outlook, despite what he had been through. I believe he blessed us just as much as we blessed him!
We said goodbye to our new friend Ed, and drove to a huge bridge, Interstate 90, which had been totally destroyed by the storm. As we all got out of the car to look at the bridge, there was one man sitting alone on the bridge, looking out at the water. We started to talk to him, and he shared his sad story.
It was literally by the grace of God that this man was even alive! He had been in his home when the hurricane rushed through and totally destroyed his home. He had been thrust under water by the huge waves, and for a moment had been pinned under debris.
Thankfully the rushing water freed him and he was able to swim to the surface. In the midst of the blinding wind, he was able to swim to a tree, which he hung on to for dear life. He was clinging to the tree, and watching roofs and debris flying by him. He was stuck in that tree for hours, and sprained his arm in the process.
Now he owns nothing but a backpack full of things. He is living in a tent, and getting food from the disaster relief group nearby. We talked to this homeless man for a while, trying to encourage him and be a witness to him. He told us that he does have faith in the Lord, and knows he would be lost without Him.
We assured him of the Lord’s love for him, and gave him a little bit of money. He was very touched by our kindness. But we are just doing the work the Lord has called us to do. What an experience this week has been for all of us!
Today was our last full work day. Tomorrow we will only work in the morning. The week has flown by, it is hard to believe we are about to come home. It has been an incredible week that we will never forget.
Today we did a “dry mud out.” We went into a house that had not had anything done to it since the storm. Due to mold damage, we had to totally smash out the drywall in the entire house. It was a major job which took us most of the day.
The house belonged to a young single lady named Chantil. She was there with us for most of the day, and it was an emotional time for her, watching us tear apart her home.
She stayed in her home during the storm, and watched as the water came in several feet deep. Her spirit was lifted by our visit, and she was thankful for our help. Hopefully the church will be able to send another team later to put new drywall back up. As we finished, we prayed with her and said some last encouraging words.
After finishing that job, we then went to another home to clean out some debris. That only took us about an hour. The next-door neighbors saw us, and invited us over to their yard for some cool lemonade. We were touched by this act of “southern hospitality”!
They had already cleaned up their yard and were telling us they had been fortunate, they had had very little damage . The couple and their son were very sweet people, and we enjoyed chatting with them. We have met a lot of kind and strong people down here, which has been a testimony to us.
We should all sleep well tonight. We have worked hard, but have had a wonderful time doing it. We know we are where God wants us to be. Thank you all again for your prayers!