• Maddie Dyer

Lake Charles, LA

This past weekend, a hybrid team from Ruah Indianapolis and Exit Gas City got the opportunity to serve with Samaritan’s Purse, joining them in disaster relief efforts in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where residents are still recovering from a devastating hurricane that hit in August. We believe in serving in ways that don’t make sense to the world, so naturally, we decided to hop on a 32-hour total van trip for two total workdays to say so. Though short, our time there was highly transformative. We met people and heard stories that we will not likely forget, and each team member would echo that the common ground of faith in Jesus Christ can bond believers quickly and deeply. The simple gospel comes to life beautifully when a tangible need is met in His name, and we are floored by how God worked through this trip.

On Thursday night, we arrived at a local host church in Lake Charles, where we were greeted by a team of chaplains, Samaritan’s Purse employees, and [primarily] volunteers, many of which had traded Florida retirement homes and brick and mortar altogether for a Puma trailer and some power tools. By no coincidence, one of these volunteers was a familiar face to many of our team members, our foreman from last year’s trip to Vidor, Texas. As we sat down with him to catch up and get oriented over tea, he reflected on his several years volunteering for the organization and made the statement that “for many, the storm was the nut that cracked the storm already raging within them.” He holds the stories of hundreds of homeowners who, in the face of their loss, stood face to face with their emptiness. Whether the end that Hurricane Laura brought them to was grief over a separate bout of adversity or their overall inability to control their circumstances, it led many to see their brokenness in some capacity.

This translates across any context of suffering; trials can strip us down and open our eyes to our need for a Savior in ways that a life of uninterrupted comfort and ease cannot (1 Peter 1:6-9). Sometimes it takes being externally broken for us to see how truly internally broken we are, and the storm was that catalyst for many, by the grace of God. We all have equally shaky foundations until we have rested wholly on the grace of Jesus Christ to ground us.

The word “home” holds so much weight. Regardless of where our hope is ultimately directed, there is still deep pain that can come with damage to or loss of the place where we rest our head. Those who partner with Samaritan’s Purse in disaster relief step into the homes of people for whom loss is fresh. We got to join families in the first steps of recovery and prepare for contractors to follow up and kick off the rebuilding process. Unfortunately, many houses have not been livable since the storm due to water damage that elicited rapid mold growth, so our job was to make the air safe again by removing visible mold and the structures to which it was attaching. We busted out walls and ceilings, pulled out nails and insulation, laid tarp on roofs, and most importantly, engaged with the homeowners, who we got to present with a Bible and pray over at the end of our time. We found abundant joy on this trip through their tearful gratitude as well as constant laughter and gospel conversations with one another.

While we don’t know every detail of the inner storm that the hurricane might have stirred up for those affected, we pray that each homeowner finds hope in Christ in the midst of pain. Paradox is written all over faith, and we don’t have to shy away from it because the coexisting ideas that qualify as paradoxical are only seemingly contradictory. There is actually immense peace to be found in the both/and. God is fully divine and fully man (John 1:14); Joy and suffering can walk hand in hand (Romans 5:3-5); We can lose everything and still have everything (Philippians 3:8-11); When we empty ourselves to love others, we are most full (Acts 20:35, John 13:12-14).

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