6,100 miles, seven days: A house laid bare
Day 1: At 79, Harold Monroe is one of 12 American Baptist Men USA (ABMen) volunteers working this week to restore homes in Lake Charles, La., damaged by Hurricane Harvey.
These volunteers from American Baptist Churches of the Great Rivers Region are working on a “mud out” project: cutting out sheet rock throughout the house in a band measuring 25 inches from the floor—the water flooded to approximately 8 inches deep—then sterilizing the house to ensure all mold has been removed.
This afternoon, the humidity was high, and temperatures hit the 90s. As I sat interviewing Jack Cobb, ABMen’s national disaster-relief coordinator, sweat streamed from my face, dripping onto my tablet. Volunteers’ T-shirts were soaked with perspiration, their faces flushed from the heat.
There was joie de vivre in that house despite the heat, despite the chaos of being stripped to its skeleton, despite the background music of hammers and Shop-Vacs, rather than Ella Fitzgerald or J.S. Bach. Harvey’s fury may have unsheathed the home’s bare skeleton, but the volunteers filled it with heart.
Like Harold, these volunteers are gentle souls. In the midst of times when violence and hatred seem to be increasing, they speak of love. When they leave the site, they will have been working on this project for more than a week, more than 1,000 miles from home. Many of them have been volunteering to assist in disaster-cleanup efforts for decades.
Harold, his piercing blue eyes proud and clear, told me that in the years that he has done this work, his wife, whom he lost six years ago, never complained when he traveled to disaster areas.
“I have always been involved with the Lord,” he said, “and what we can do to help people.”
American Baptist Home Mission Societies released a $5,000 grant from One Great Hour of Sharing funds to support ABMen’s work in Lake Charles.
Part One of a multiple part series as American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) takes American Baptists on the road with ABHMS Disaster-response Ministries as it assesses the damage and connects with survivors and others on the ground in hurricane-ravaged areas from Louisiana and Texas to Florida and Puerto Rico.
Susan Gottshall is American Baptist Home Mission Societies Associate Executive Director, Communications.