Beverly Cooper of Kentwood, Louisiana, offers a colorful description of Hurricane Ida: “The wind sounded like wolves howling. It was terrible. And then the popping of the trees and the light poles looked like somebody was ringing out clothes. They were just twisted. And I mean there’s trees down everywhere. I’ve never seen it this bad.”
On Sunday, August 29, 2021, Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana. Winds of 150 mph left residents struggling in high temperatures without power.
Pastor Alex Bellows of Hosanna Fellowship of Gretna says, “We’re seeing a great deal of wind damage. Hurricane Ida made landfall at 150 miles per hour, which is a very top-end Category 4, only 7 miles shy of a Category 5. So, the wind damage is cataclysmic.”
The church on the front lines
In times of disaster, World Vision depends on church and community partners to get supplies out quickly to people who are most in need. People rely on the church to help meet their spiritual needs and in times of disaster, they look to the church to also meet physical needs.
“The goal of the church is to just be the hands and feet of Jesus,” says Pastor Chad Dinkel of Purpose Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “We always talk about [how] we want to bring the church outside of our walls, and so anytime there’s a disaster or need, I feel like that’s the time we really get to be the church.”
The supplies received from World Vision’s donors, in turn, provide the resources that allow the church to provide for people in need.
Making aid possible
“We are so thankful for World Vision, because without World Vision being a partner and making available products that people need — not only here in New Orleans but across the world — it would be impossible to do this job, says Pastor Emanuel Smith Jr. of Israelite Baptist Church in New Orleans. “But we are thankful to God that World Vision sees the need and [has] partnered with us.”
Most important is getting supplies to people who have been hit hard by Hurricane Ida.
Michelle and her 6-year-old son, Elijah, rode their bikes to Israelite Baptist Church in their New Orleans neighborhood. They picked up cleaning supplies, hygiene materials, sanitizing materials and a blanket pre-treated with insecticide.
She describes the heat: “Everything started melting. … The walls started sweating.”
Michelle says the community is working together to clean up so the cleaning supplies she picked up at the church will really help.
“Thank you very much. Every little thing helps,” she says to World Vision donors. “We’re blessed.”
Offering encouragement and ministry
News coverage in times of disaster often focuses on bigger cities, but rural Amit, Louisiana, received its fair share of wind damage from Hurricane Ida. Full Assurance Ministry Church of God in Christ gathered volunteers to help unload and distribute World Vision’s relief items.
The line of cars of people waiting for supplies extends as far as the eye can see. Even before the truckload of supplies arrives, people are waiting patiently. That’s how great the need is. People have been without power for days and as of Friday, September 3, they knew they could expect more of the same in the near future.
Pastor Lionel Sutton says his hope for the people waiting in line to pick up supplies: “We want to encourage them that people care.”
Just having volunteers show up at the church can provide a sense of hope that people need in times of disaster. Both Pastor Sutton and Pastor Michael Silas — who drove New Orleans to volunteer at Full Assurance — mention that they believe it’s the church’s responsibility to minister to those in need.
Pastor Silas says, “This is why World Vision is so important to us because it helps us to do just that — to take care of those in our own community and our neighborhood.”
Helping those in need
Beverly Cooper lives in a home with her son and grandchildren. The storm hit them hard.
She says, “This is the first time I ever lost everything as far as my food, my freezer, my refrigerator. Every bit of it is gone. [It’s] just got to be cleaned out and throwed away.”
She says the supplies she’s picking up today at the church will help a lot. They’ll allow her to make a meal for her family. She’s got a gas stove and can still cook. They can sit on their porch and break bread together.
“Beauty in these ashes”
This making the best of a bad situation fits a message that Pastor Sutton shares: “There’s some beauty in these ashes.” He’s found that sometimes in hard times, people come together in ways they’ve never come together before.
For volunteers JoAnne Frazier and Barbara Smith, they’re definitely making beauty of the situation by being here to help. Even though they also have been affected by Ida, they’re at the church to volunteer to get supplies out to hurting people.
JoAnn says, “People are hurting, and they don’t have other resources. And the church is something that most people respect, and that’s who they look to to get the help that they need.”
In our fast-moving world, stories fade quickly, but that doesn’t mean the need also disappears. The people hit by Hurricane Ida will be rebuilding their homes and their lives for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, the church, supported by World Vision, will be there to assist people in that rebuilding process. Pastor Bellow encourages people who are considering making a donation to support World Vision’s Hurricane Ida relief efforts: “I would say we need you to be as generous as possible. This has been a devastating storm and we still don’t know the full effects of this.”
He adds, “[People are] going to need the message of hope through Jesus Christ. And it’s not going to be just through the preaching of a sermon on Sunday morning. It’s going to through handing out some sheetrock and some cleaning supplies and letting people know that God has not forsaken them. And that we’re going to get through this together.”