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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Hurricane Katrina - Samaritan’s Purse - Missions Trip

Expectations: Our church decided to go on a mission’s trip through Samaritan’s Purse to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. We contacted Samaritan’s Purse for the information. A date was chosen. Travel plans were made. We had to supply our own transportation. Two of our party drove down in a van with various supplies. The rest of us flew down. We rented a second van for the week so we could go to and from the job sites with our equipment.

I had many questions about what to expect once we arrived. I want to share some answers to the questions I had, and you may also have.

1) What was the Bayou Talla Church facility like regarding accommodations?
2) What would the food be like?
3) How does the Samaritan’s Purse Operation work?
4) What equipment should we bring, did we bring, and did we actually use?
5) What would we be doing?
6) What was the most important thing Samaritan’s Purse provided?



1) What was the Bayou Talla Church facility like regarding accommodations?

Bayou Talla Fellowship church offered Samaritan’s Purse their facility as a base camp for disaster relief. It is located in Kiln, MS.

Sleeping: We were assigned sleeping quarters based on group size before we arrived. (It is important to give an accurate headcount for your group) We slept in Sunday school classrooms. Cots and sleeping bags were spread out. We brought our own cots or air mattresses. There were extra cots and air mattresses that previous volunteers had left behind for others to use. This is nice to know in case someone forgets to bring one. Men and women had separate rooms.

Showers: Samaritan’s Purse had a very large 3-axle portable shower trailer on the side of the church. I was told these trailers are made by another church as a ministry to be used in situations like this. This trailer had 6 private shower rooms with a shower and chair in each. Each shower must have had its own hot water tank or heater because there were never any complaints about cold showers. The trailer also had a room with a washer and drier. It was a very neat trailer. Most of us showered before dinner. We would wait our turn and talk about our day with other people on different teams.

There was one person in charge of the church facility making sure any repairs to the facility were taken care of. Keeping the bathrooms up and running was a high priority with over 100 volunteers staying there throughout the week.

2) What would the food be like?

Tables were set up in the multi-use sanctuary for all of the meals. There was an industrial type kitchen in the back of the sanctuary where all of the food was prepared.

The food was exceptional. Members of the church prepared all of the meals for the workers. EVERYTHING was made from scratch.

Breakfast was made and served at either 6:30AM or 6:45AM by members of the church who have committed to do this for 100+ people each morning before they go to their regular jobs. I was up at 5:00AM one morning and the church people were already hard at work preparing breakfast. There was always coffee …

Several kinds of sandwiches are prepared each day for lunch by the church. We would bag our own lunch by choosing sandwiches, cookies, bars, fruit, puddings, chips, etc. We eat on the job site. There was always coffee.

Samaritan’s Purse supplied Gatorade, bottled water, and soda, tonic, or pop (depending on what part of the country you are from).

Dinner was at 6:30PM most evenings. 2 evenings dinner was at 5:00PM. Bayou Talla is a functioning church. Their youth group meets on Wednesday night. Band and choir practice is on Thursday night. The food is excellent. When you go on a mission’s trip and work very hard, you don’t expect to gain weight. Let me just say the food was fantastic, plentiful, and yes, you can easily gain weight. We were encouraged to invite the families we were helping to dinner as our guests for as many nights as they wanted to come. Many people that were helped had dinner with us and shared their personal experiences with us. This was incredibly moving. They could not say enough to express their gratitude and appreciation for Samaritan’s Purse, Bayou Talla Fellowship and the volunteers from all over the country that have come to help them start to put their lives back together again.

3) How does the Samaritan’s Purse Operation work?

The first morning after breakfast Samaritan’s Purse gives an orientation. They lay the groundwork for how they operate, what is expected from us, and what we can expect from them.

Operations: Each morning the Team Leader for each team goes to one of the trailers for a clipboard with their assignment. The equipment trailers were donated by NASCAR and are normally used to haul cars and tools to racetracks around the country. There were tools, a workshop, generators, etc. that were maintained from these trailers.

Each clipboard has information about the family the group is helping, what needs to be done, what has been done already, and what is needed to finish the job. The clipboards are passed in every night. Once a project is complete, the team leader is given another assignment.

We worked on 3 houses during the week. One had water up to the door knob of their front door. Another had water to the top of the door frame. The third house by the beach was submerged in 9 feet of water.

After seeing and experiencing the efficiency of the Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Relief Operation, I concluded it runs like a well-oiled machine. They were extremely well organized and efficient.

4) What equipment should we bring, did we bring, and did we actually use?

The first morning of work each group is assigned a “mud-out” kit. In this kit are many of the tools the team might need when cleaning out a house (Crowbars, hammers, nails, wrenches, etc.). You keep this kit all week. Once the clipboard is reviewed, other equipment is signed out. Shovels, brooms, generators (if needed… many houses do not have electricity or water), plumber kit, wheel barrows, scrub brushes (for scrubbing the mold on the studs with a bleach/water mix), sprayers, chain saws, gas cans, ladders, etc. A lot of equipment has been left behind by previous volunteers to be used by others teams coming in.

The Samaritan’s Purse web site gives you a good idea of what to bring with you in terms of equipment. Things we learned in this area may be of use to you.

They had a mold expert talk briefly the first evening. He said that the mold was very bad in many houses.

Tyvek suits are a must because mold can permeate your clothes. We brought some for our team. Samaritan’s Purse had additional Tyvek suits in case we didn’t bring the right sizes or we just ran out. It seemed like we could get 2 days out of a suit unless you got holes in them.

The mold man said we needed to wear Respirators (sometimes the cans are needed) or masks. He said the paper masks are rated. For mold they need to be N95 or N100’s. Dust filters do not work. You can bring masks with you. Samaritan’s Purse has extra canisters if needed and a huge stack of N95’s in case you need more.

Gloves: you should wear latex gloves under your work gloves. Bring both. Samaritan’s Purse did have extra latex gloves.

Boots: You should wear boots but bring something else to wear in the church. Mold will permeate your boots so boots were bagged before entering the church. Samaritan’s Purse did have large rubber boots to wear if people needed them.

Other items to bring: safety glasses, duct tape (Many appliances have very nasty mold growing in them so we duct taped them closed to make sure they wouldn’t open when being moved. It’s also good for patching holes in your tyvek suits) A multi tool came in handy as well as a utility knife. We used battery operated hand tools for cutting wood, drilling, etc. We ended up using a generator at one house to recharge the power tool batteries and so we could use a circular saw.

Whatever we needed to do the job Samaritan’s Purse seemed to have available to us. Samaritan’s Purse had several larger pieces of construction equipment on site. It sounded like they would love to have equipment operators, plumbers, electricians, etc. for some more specific jobs that many of us don’t have the expertise to do.

5) What would we be doing?
There was severe flooding caused by the hurricane. There were yellow limited access notices on houses all over the place. There was long-term mold problems, structural damage, etc. to these houses. The task of removing the mud, mold, and everything affected by the flooding prevents many homeowners from trying to start over. Samaritan's Purse's function is mainly limited to preparing homes for reconstruction, not doing the reconstruction. Other ministries will handle that, such as Habitat for Humanity, etc.

Our group focused on mud-outs, removing sheet rock, carpets, appliances, furniture, and spraying the remaining mold. Other teams were cutting trees and patching roofs so you could bring your favorite chain saw, hammer, and tool belt. Samaritan’s Purse assigned the projects for the group. If your group has a specific skill, I’m sure they would be interested in talking with you about how that skill can be used.

Hope this helps.

6) What was the most important thing Samaritan’s Purse provided?
Two words Chaplains and Bibles. Because of the utter devastation, the crushed spirits and pain on the faces of the victims affected by the hurricane, Samaritan’s Purse has Chaplains on site at the church. They were there for us to talk to at any time. They were there to encourage us and to help us deal with our feelings and emotions. They talked to us about how to deal with the homeowners we may see while working. Showing the love of Jesus to the people was the number one priority. We were told multiple times, the work will be there if we don’t finish. Another group will come in of we don’t finish. Be safe, be careful, and remember, we are there for the people. Chaplains also visited the homeowners and families we helped. This was a great blessing.

Team leaders were given Bibles by Samaritan’s Purse. Each team member had the opportunity to write a note of encouragement in the front of the Bible when our assignment was complete. The Bible was then given to the homeowner. Samaritan’s Purse schedules follow up visits to each homeowner to present the gospel and to continue to show love and support in the time of need.

We heard many times that Samaritan’s Purse, Bayou Talla Fellowship and all of the volunteers were not here for the manual labor or the clean up, we were here to show God’s love to the people.

Our team would love to go back again. Several teams we met had been there several times already. I would encourage groups to look at the Samaritan’s Purse website (http://www.samaritanspurse.org ), commit, and experience the blessings we have experienced by showing God’s love to those in need of physical and spiritual help.

Kudos to Samaritan’s Purse, Bayou Talla Fellowship church, and all of the volunteers who have sacrificed by giving their time, money, and effort to express God’s love at this time, in this way.

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