ST. AMANT, La. – The high-pitched buzzing of chainsaw fills the air like clouds fill the sky in this small community northwest of New Orleans. Nearly every home needs some work on trees, and most have temporary blue tarps on their roof and piles of debris line the sides of the roadway.
It’s the sound of progress. It’s the sound of a brighter tomorrow.
With every cut, a path is cleared for people to move forward thanks to six Texas Baptist Men (TBM) volunteer chainsaw teams and nine TBM heavy machinery teams. The teams are working in multiple sites across more than 30 miles, from Baton Rouge to LaPlace, where many neighborhoods have been severely impacted by Hurricane Ida.
“I don’t know exactly how wide the devastation is, but I’d say it’s probably at least 20 miles wide and it’s from the coast all the way through Louisiana. We have at least five or six stations where we’re serving with chainsaw teams,” TBM Blue Cap Gene Walker said.
“Looking down the street, it’s very upsetting. You see everybody’s belongings, sheetrock on the street. And we’re putting trees on top of that. They haven’t had electricity for 12 days or so, and they’re being told it’ll be Sept. 23 before they get it. People are hurting. It’s street after street after street. It’s the whole town. I’m a crotchety old guy, and it makes me tear up.”
Thirty-seven miles from where Walker was standing, a whirl of TBM volunteers were meeting needs of another kind. The TBM State Feeding Unit was preparing 2,200 Salisbury steaks to distribute across the area for lunch. Then, they washed everything up and produced almost 5,000 dinners that afternoon. Just as they wrapped up the day, the Red Cross asked the team if they would ramp up to provide 30,000 meals a day in the days ahead, the maximum output for the mobile kitchen.
People are coming back to the area and seeing the devastation of the homes they left behind for the first time. Still without power in many places, cooking a meal has become at best difficult for many people. It’s impossible for others.
TBM-cooked meals like red beans and rice, pulled pork, chicken rice and hamburgers mean more than just nutritional help. They’re reminders that people care, that God cares.
“Through all the devastation, it’s just amazing to see God work,” said Gary Finley, Blue Cap of the State Feeding Unit. “That’s why I do it – to be the hands and feet of Christ and get out and see what can happen. Helping people is great. Christ met people’s needs. If we can meet people’s needs and we can introduce them to Jesus, then that’s what this is all about.”
That approach to serving made a significant impact in Séverine Vicknair’s life. Walker’s team took down a tree in her backyard that had broken during the storm.
“We got flooded, and I already don’t know anymore where to start or turn and those wonderful, wonderful men are here and taking so much pressure off my shoulders,” she said. “We are so very much blessed. Thank you so very much.”
With more than 100 volunteers on site and replacement teams forming to serve behind them, TBM leaders anticipate a lengthy response in the area.
“The area is large and the needs are even larger,” TBM Disaster Relief Director David Wells said. “Our volunteers are working hard and representing Christ well. They’re making a tremendous impact in the lives of people in Louisiana each day. Please keep the people of Louisiana in your prayers as well as TBM volunteers who are responding. Your prayers are truly making an incredible difference.”
TBM has set up a base to host mission teams who wish to serve in Louisiana. Teams can help TBM volunteers cleaning yards, removing fallen trees and limbs, cleaning out flooded homes and more. For more information, click here.
One hundred percent of gifts made to TBM Disaster Relief support disaster relief ministries.
To support TBM financially, visit tbmtx.org/donate.