FUMC Winnfield Leads Flood Relief Team

FUMC Winnfield Leads Flood Relief Team


Left to right: Elise Shell, Kevin D. Smith, Kevin Koeppen, Glenn Ford and Tommy Harrel

On Sunday, September 4, Elise Shell, Kevin D. Smith, Kevin Koeppen, Glenn Ford and Tommy Harrel left First United Methodist Church Winnfield for a 4 day mission trip to help residents in flood ravaged Baton Rouge.  They stayed at First United Methodist Church of Baton Rouge (Downtown) and worked at Katie Young’s home on Clayton Drive in North Baton Rouge.  Katie is an 80 year old single lady whose home had never flooded before and had no flood insurance.  Even though Katie’s home was on piers and about two feet off the ground, she still received about 30 to 36 inches of water throughout most of her home.  Other homes in that neighborhood that were on a slab received over 5 feet of water in their home!

The team started their work on Monday, September 5.  After completing the necessary paperwork, meeting the family, and prayer, we started by removing the furniture, carpet, carpet pad, and lower kitchen cabinets.  All of these items had to be removed either by dolly or wheel barrow to the roadway where they will be picked up and thrown away by debris removal contractors.  It was emotional and heartbreaking to gather together, remove, and throw away clothes, pictures, pots, pans and so many other personal possessions.  Mucking out after a flood is literally taking all (or the vast majority) of your possessions that got wet, placing them near the street to be thrown away, and starting over from scratch.  It is difficult to imagine how hard this is unless you have been there.  You are throwing away treasured possessions and memories.  This took most of our first day.  It was a hot, emotional, difficult day, made only a little easier by Frostop floats and a good night’s rest at the end of the day.

The second day, we planned to gut the house, meaning removing wet materials


Katie Young’s home in Baton Rouge received as much as 36 inches of water in a home that had never flooded befor

like sheetrock and insulation so that the studs, the framework of the house, can be exposed to the air and dry.  This is an essential step.  The studs must dry before being closed in so that mold and mildew do not form inside the walls.  We removed the paneling and the upper kitchen cabinets that were already moldy just three weeks after the flood.  As we began to remove the sheetrock below 4 feet from the floor, we discovered the sheetrock was nailed to a solid wall of tongue and groove boards throughout the house. The boards in Katie’s home were already molding and they were preventing us from exposing the studs so they could dry.  We consulted with several people and decided to remove two of the horizontal boards below the four foot line to allow air to the studs and begin the drying process.

Day three started with the process of removing the wooden tongue and groove boards.  This was difficult, tedious work, as the boards did not want to easily leave their home for so many years.  Many of them had to be cut out instead of pulled out with a crowbar or a wrecking bar.  This job took all day, especially since each board had to be wheeled out and piled near the street to be picked up and thrown away.  Our team was also down a man, since Pastor Kevin returned to Winnfield to lead Wednesday evening services.

After a good meal on Wednesday night (and another Root Beer Float), we were ready to finish on Thursday.  We removed the rest of the boards, exposing the studs, so that the drying process could finally begin.  The rebuilding process is still several weeks away as the interior studs must dry before rebuilding.  Before leaving, we gathered together to pray for God’s blessing on the house and its occupants.  We finished our work on Thursday afternoon and returned to Winnfield about 5 PM.

Special thanks to our friends at First United Methodist Baton Rouge for housing and feeding us.  They turned a portion of their Youth and Children’s building into a bunkhouse and provided us three meals a day.  Special thanks to these people who gave of their time, sweat, money, and themselves to help other people that they don’t even know.  Thanks to Rusty Russell for the use of his trailer and we are especially grateful to Ryan Etherige who loaned us a generator to run a few fans in a house without electricity.  Thank you to the people of First United Methodist Church Winnfield for providing us with tools and supplies to do the work.  Thank you to the community and our local businesses.  When we purchased tools and supplies, we shared with the businesses how we would be using them to help those who had been flooded.  Walmart and Tractor Supply gave us discounts.  We appreciate your support!

But don’t stop!  Don’t quit!  There remains much to be done!  The list of homes yet to be gutted is in the thousands!  While we working, some folks in the neighborhood asked if we could come help them next!  All we could do was refer them to our friends who were coordinating the effort.  Maybe you will be the ones who will help them!  The recovery of Baton Rouge will take years, perhaps decades.  Please continue to give, help, and pray for the people of Baton Rouge and surrounding areas.

What Do You Cling to in the Storm?

What Do You Cling to in the Storm?

A Ruby Throated Hummingbird clings to a feeder outside our kitchen window on a stormy day.

A Ruby Throated Hummingbird clings to a feeder outside our kitchen window on a stormy day.

On Saturday, August 30, 2014 a storm rolled through our village with heavy rain and strong winds.  The airport in McComb, Mississippi recorded a gust of 34 mph and sustained winds of 17 mph (http://www.wunderground.com/history/airport/KMCB/2014/8/30/DailyHistory.html).  There are probably places where winds like this would be normal, but that is not the case here in my corner of Louisiana.  I had put the dogs out before the storm and was looking out of the kitchen window, where our hummingbird feeder was located, watching the storm roll in.  While looking out of our window, I was surprised to see that the storm had not slowed down our hummingbirds one bit!  All of the other birds, the chickadees, the titmice, the cardinals, the sparrows, were taking shelter and waiting out the storm to feed, but the smallest of all of the birds was still out in the tempest, fighting to get something to eat.  I was reminded of this picture I took several years ago while we were being assaulted by one of the tropical systems to make its way through South Louisiana (I think I took it during Tropical Storm Lee in September of 2011).  As I watched the hummingbirds in the storm, I couldn’t help but wonder what you and I cling to in the storm.

I wish I could tell you that storms would never come, but that is not true.  Growing up in South Louisiana, watching the tropics was a part of my everyday life.  In the 8 years we lived in Tangipahoa, we have gone through Hurricane Gustav, Tropical Storm Lee, and Tropical Storm Karen.  That is not to mention the 3 snowfalls and numerous thunderstorms.  Personally, we are suffering through a storm as my parents and thousands of others in the Baton Rouge area and all across South Louisiana have flooded due to historic rainfall.  Life has changed for many, maybe even permanently.

Of course, there are other kinds of storms in our lives.  Ones that do not involve water or wind or earthquakes.  The death of a loved one, a prolonged or sudden illness, age, loss of a job, or any multitude of other things can shake us to our core as quickly as a California earthquake.  What do we hold on to during these times?  What do we cling to in the storm?

I imagine that we, like this hummingbird, cling to that which is most important to us in the storm.  Family, friends, and faith may be some of the things that we cling to when the wind blows and the rain pours.  As important as friends and family are, they have their limits.  Like all humans, they are limited in time, strength and resources.  But there is one who is not limited by time, strength or resources- God.  So when the storm comes, as it does for all of us, I believe that we should not only turn to friends, family, and the church, but to God.

Psalm 46:1-3 reads “1God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; 3though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.” This scripture describe dark and difficult times, much like we are going through, much like all of us go through at one time or another.  But the Psalmist is clear that we will not fear and even ends with these words “10Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.11The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge”.  When tough times come, when the storm comes, cling to faith in God, family and friends to get us through.