As recovery continues in South Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Ida’s destructive wind, rain, and storm surge, EPC Stated Clerk Weaver traveled to Thibodaux, La., to see how donations to the EPC Emergency Relief Fund are being put to work.
He joined Bill Crawford, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Thibodaux and First Presbyterian Church of Houma; Brandon Queen, Ruling Elder for the Thibodaux congregation; and Whitney Alexander, Associate Pastor of Missions for First Presbyterian Church of Baton Rouge, La., to survey relief efforts.
“In the past three weeks we served over 550 people directly with material support that Presbyterians from all over the Gulf region provided.” Crawford said. “We’ve given out $3,000 to people in need thanks to generous giving from the EPC, churches in our Presbytery, and private individuals.”
Queen said some of the funds were used to purchase generators and portable air conditioning units.
“We provided a generator for one lady whose unit was stolen, and for another elderly woman who lives in a more damaged area of the parish,” said Queen, who serves as a Detective with the LaFourche Parish Sheriff’s Office. “Helping others is what we are called to do—serving the less fortunate.”
He said generators also were provided to other parish deputies and staff so they can continue to serve the community. Weaver noted the importance of assisting first responders so they can better serve their communities.
“I want to help the people that are helping others,” he said.
Crawford said that between his two congregations, five households—including several widows—experienced “total loss.”
“Pray for these households,” Crawford said. “Our initial focus is to get them as far forward as we can carry them. We begin by packing what remains, throwing the rest to the street, and tearing the interior to the studs. It’s a brutal process for the homeowner, but a reminder of the call to support the widows of the church. We are trying to help the most vulnerable first, but we hope to help others as well. We’ve all suffered damage and loss, but many have suffered more.”
He added that relief teams from Houma, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge have “done significant recovery work” in three homes.
“We have been able to move from relief to recovery by working through volunteer teams from all over the Gulf Coast and Baton Rouge,” he said. “These have been day trips where teams drive in, work 4-6 hours, and then drive home. Next week we are hoping to host our first multi-day volunteer team.”
“The work of the EPC has been significant,” he added. “My car is in the shop indefinitely due to the storm, so they purchased a truck so I can lead teams. The Presbytery has sent thousands of dollars of relief in the form of supplies and cash. First Presbyterian Church of Baton Rouge has done the same, along with sending logistical, planning, and personal support. Whitney Alexander has been down here at least a dozen times. We are coordinating with churches in the Presbytery to help rebuild homes and restart lives. We thank God for their support.”
Crawford said he expects the work to continue at least through the rest of this year.
“As we move forward into the mission field there will be opportunities for much of next year,” he noted.
Secure online donations to help with recovery efforts can be made at www.epc.org/donate/emergencyrelief, which also includes instructions for donating by check and text-to-give.
On September 12, Weaver delivered a message of encouragement from Psalm 41 to the combined Thibodaux and Houma congregations.
As Louisiana continues to recover from Hurricane Ida, Hurricane Nicholas brought additional rain and storm surge to the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coasts in mid-September. EPC congregations were largely unaffected by that storm.
“Compared to what Bill Crawford has been going through in Thibodaux, Nicholas is nothing,” said Alan Trafford, Pastor of Covenant Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Lake Jackson, Texas. “The church is unscathed except for a few tree limbs. Neighbors were helping one another, and by lunchtime some of the more intrepid were mowing their lawns.”