The Weather Channel was predicting doom and destruction for just about every island and city along the
Atlantic, the Caribbean, and the Gulf (I think they try to hype about where the system would go and what it
would do). We were watching the storm from California, where Curt’s son, Nick was getting married. We
cut the trip a little short, and started making contacts with people along the potential strike areas. A
Calvary in Bay St Louis, Mississippi, asked us to come and offered to house us. Midway through our
preparations to leave, the pastor called and said not to come because the area had been spared. We made
plans to go elsewhere, but as it turned out, though the hurricane had passed uneventfully, an eight-foot
storm surge came in afterwards. The same pastor called us back and asked for help, so we headed to
Brian drove up with us, and Christine followed a week later. She brought the kids and the trailer and set up
camp in the church parking lot. She took care of meals, which was a great help. Four different sets of
volunteers came at different times to assist us. The first group came from Sarasota- Jeff Griffin from
CCS, and Terry and Rick. Jeff worked hard the whole time and kept us laughing with his corny jokes.
Terry had worked with us on Longboat Key. He was struggling with some spiritual and family issues, so
please continue to pray for him. This was Rick’s first response, though he is a part of emergency response
“in the office” in Bradenton. He was glad for the eye-opening experience! Our friend Cassie from Illinois,
who has responded with us several other times, came with three people. One of her guys joined the team
because he felt the Lord is calling him into disaster relief, so he tried to glean from Curt as much as
Next came eleven people, some from U-Turn in Tennessee and some from U-Turn in New Jersey. We
really enjoyed the energy they brought with them. They had great attitudes and were willing to do
whatever was put before them. They even helped with dinner clean-up every night after working all day
(even after spending three days chiseling out a wood floor and a tile floor in a very large house-it was glued
down and was very labor-intensive). We hope to work with them more in the future! The final group came
from California. Calvary Chapel La Habra is the sister church of CCBSL, and they are actually the ones who
planted CCBSL after Katrina. Four guys came out to help us during what turned out to be our last week
For many of the people we met, Isaac was the third time they had been flooded in seven years. Everyone
had a Katrina story, and they shared their experiences from that storm as if it had just happened. Many
people were displaced for more than a year. Many in one neighborhood said that first they lived in tents in
the yard, then in FEMA trailers, then a home with no walls, and then they used blankets for walls when it
got too cold in the winter. Next, Gustav hit in 2008, bringing a fifteen-foot surge. For one neighborhood
on the Pearl River, the water sneaked up on them on a sunny day. There was no rain or wind or anything,
and then all of a sudden, they could see water coming down the street. Isaac’s eight feet of water came
after the hurricane had passed. Several people told us that they waited it out and then had to leave in
boats; others told us they had decided not to take any chances and left long before the storm hit. When
they returned to their houses, they knew what to do, but of course that didn’t make it any easier.
We ended up working largely in the Pearlington area. There were two neighborhoods on either side of a
highway, and both had been flooded. The people in Oak Harbor had all been through a lot together and
they all seemed to watch out for each other. They are sort of stuck where they are-one resident hoping to
put all this behind her once and for all called a real estate agent about listing the house once it is repaired,
and the agent laughed at her and refused to work with her. Rumors circulated after both Katrina and
Gustav about a government buy-out. The same rumors were floating around this time, but no one has heard
anything for sure, except that the city is not issuing any permits to rebuild at this time. Everyone in the
other neighborhood on the bayou watch out for each other too-in fact, many of them were related and had
lived in the area for years. They are in the same predicament, and some are hoping for the buy-out and
others are against it.
We worked on two houses in Slidell. Both families were from the Calvary there. One was a military family
and the husband was away. He was able to come home for a long weekend, but had to return to work, so
his wife had a long list of things she had to tackle on her own. The other couple had three kids and the
youngest (three years old) got very sick shortly after they returned to the house. He seemed to have
recovered by the time we got there, and he joined the U-Turn New Jersey guys as they worked. I was
able to encourage the wife with the Word, and the husband seemed to enjoy the company of the NJ guys.
The couple had also been through Katrina, and they both said they were looking forward to the day when
they can give back and help others.
One day, while the guys worked, I got to make a Christmas wreath with Ollie, a homeowner who has her
own flower shop. She and her husband had left the area during the storm and when they returned, they
found some water in one of the rooms and some of their carpet was wet. The insurance adjuster came and
said they’d replace the carpet. When Curt assessed their home, he was able to show them all the water
that was actually in the walls. As each room was taken apart, mold was found all around the home. Ollie
was very distraught over all the damage that was in her home and teaching me how to make a wreath
seemed to help keep her mind off of the house. She had been an elementary school teacher, so we had a
lot in common. A little while into the day, we both felt like we had known each other forever, and we both
thought that it was because we love Jesus.
The Lord always blesses us with special treats when we are out in the field. The First Missionary Baptist
Church cooked dinner for us one night, and treated us to delicious things like potato salad and home-cooked
catfish (fried or baked-I tried both). Make sure you ask Brian what he liked best. On another day, they
made us breakfast before church. We were invited to a huge family reunion at a park in Gulfport, and we
got to eat some more fried catfish (fresh caught, whole body fried right up!) and mini sweet potato pies,
which our hostess, Diane, had purposely put aside so that there would be some left for us (I felt a little
guilty as I heard people say things like, “Hey! I thought they were all gone!”). We had a cookout for Brian’s
birthday, and on the last night there, one of the California guys took us all to a restaurant on the water.
What we do depends largely on how many volunteers we have and what type of work needs to be done.
Every storm is different-some hurricanes knock down trees so we spend most of the time using chainsaws;
other hurricanes cause flooding so we have to do muck-outs. The following is a real day from this trip and
a somewhat typical day out on the field:
6am- wake up; start coffee and oatmeal and lunches for the day
6:30- breakfast and devotions until 8 or so
8- load the vehicles with food, water, and supplies for the day. Sometimes, the whole group goes to one
location. On this day, we split up:
· MJ takes a team of five 45 miles west to Slidell, LA to tear out sheetrock and flooring.
· Brian takes a team of three 30 miles southeast to Pearlington to clean a mold-infested home.
· 3 go 30 miles to Pearlington to load a U-Haul with personal belongings, drive 30 miles to Slidell and
unload it, and then repeat at least two more trips. Then they return to Pearlington to remove drywall,
insulation, flooring, etc in order to clean the house and remove the mold.
· 3 people head to Gulfport, 40 minutes east of camp, to tape, mud, and sand drywall.
· Christine homeschools the kids, goes shopping for supplies and cooks dinner.
· Teenager cleans the church we are staying in for the church service tonight.
· Curt sprays two houses for mold then assesses five other houses, where he will discuss options with
homeowners and schedule work to be done.
4:30- return to church. Usually, we work until 6, but since it is a church night, we have to get back earlier
so that we can eat and shower and clean up before the service starts.
5:30- dinner and clean up
6:30- church service
8- after church, we have a water pump to fix and a ceiling fan to install.
Afterwards we will fellowship or do laundry or relax and watch a movie.
11pm- lights out
In all, we assessed 48 houses, and had 30 volunteers who worked a total of 2,569 hours in the four weeks
we were there. We completed 16 muck-outs, 9 roof repairs, and 5 yard/tree debris removals. We
prepared a total of 1,100 meals and snacks, and we were able to share Jesus and pray for many that God
put in our paths!
One of the really important things we do is educate people on how to properly clean up after a flood.
There are many specific things that need to be done in order to safely return to live in a home that has had
any amount of black water in it (black water is water that has come from outside and can contain several
contaminates, including sewage). Black water causes mold to grow, and mold can make people very sick.
One homeowner left her husband and her house after Katrina. She returned sometime after Gustav, not
knowing that the home had not been properly cleaned. She began having terrible respiratory problems, and
no one could figure out why. She and her doctors feel pretty certain that the mold that had been growing
in her walls after Gustav is responsible. (Keep Jamie in your prayers!)
Isaac did not impact as many people and places as Katrina and Gustav, but it definitely had just as much of
an impact on the individuals who were affected. The weariness was very visible in the faces of the people
we met. One newspaper heading in Slidell, Louisiana read, “Disaster Averted,” but we were on a street
where every house had been flooded, and we were told about another area where hundreds of homes had
been affected. Because the damage occurred in smaller pockets, it seemed, as one homeowner put it, as if
those affected were “living in a different world.” Everyone unscathed is able to go on with regular life, but
those affected continue to deal with things that we aren’t aware of-even from our up-close, hands-on
perspective. I asked a few different people how long it took for their lives to get “back to normal” after
Katrina. One woman looked at me, paused for a really long time, and finally said, “You know, I don’t think it