The rains in southern Lousiana descended on Friday, August 12th beginning around 7am according to homeowner Elizabeth Wedlake as we sat under a shade tree in her front yard on Pilgrimage Drive, soaked in sweat from the southern summer heat, the air thick with post flood humidity. The coolies just behind her backyard fence still full to the brim with the city’s backed up sewage, and the grass damp from continuous rainfall over the past two weeks.
Facing a heap of ruined home furnishings, torn dry wall fragments, and bags of trash, Elizabeth graciously shared her story with me.
“My biggest concern is for my two children and my folks’ home that flooded about 1/2 mile up the road. “
That’s what Elizabeth shared with me when asked what troubles her most about the recent devastation.
As our 10-person Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief team, lead by kind hearted veteran volunteer Lenny Carr, began tearing apart her kitchen one cabinet at a time in search for mold spores, homeowners Sean and Elizabeth Wedlake looked on to see everything they have built up in the past couple of years ripped to shreds by crowbars and a variety of commonly used demolition tools.
Recently married and parents of two children, a 10-year old girl named Maria with autism and a baby boy of two years named Joseph, the couple had settled in this home four years ago. Joseph lost his job last summer in the oil field business and the couple has been struggling to make ends meet.
Looking out her back window Friday morning around 8:30 am she saw this:
By 12:45 pm the same day, the water levels looked like this:
The water from the coolie, a type of drainage canal, located directly behind their home had backed up forcing them to hastily dig up bricks from their front lawn flower garden to form a makeshift barricade.
Worried about staying or attempting to evacuate in the midst of quickly rising flood waters they decided to wait it out hoping the rain would soon relent.
“Maria went to stay with my mom and dad down the way the night before the storm” Elizabeth told me, “because she is really afraid of thunder and storms. She has a great connection to my parents.”
By early morning on Saturday the 13th, the water had risen to this level:
Elizabeth, a high school art teacher at Nish New Iberia Senior High School in Lafayette, a town of just over 120,000 in the heart of “Cajun country” returned back to work in her school a couple of weeks prior.
Calling 911 for help that morning, she received confirmation that someone would be there to help evacuate her home.
City Marshalls as well as the local Cajun Navy dispatched boats for search and rescue. Locals took out their own boats and started patrolling the area looking for stranded homeowners and pets.
Within an hour, members of the National Guard arrived to pick up Elizabeth and her husband, with 2 year old baby Joseph in tow.
8 days later Samaritan’s Purse arrived to help gut her flooded kitchen and pick up where her colleagues and friends left off.
“It’s been incredible to see everyone come together in Lafayette. We have been so blessed to receive an outpouring of support from both Samaritan’s Purse as well as friends and family of friends from work. “
Elizabeth started a “Go Fund Me” campaign on Facebook to drive support for her parents home – as they lack flood insurance like so many in this area.
To date there have been over 1100 volunteer hours logged at the Lafayette location with Samaritan’s Purse with over 100 volunteers checking in to serve on day shifts or take part of extended stay trips.
Volunteers arrived from New York, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Texas, California, and Indiana.
Today I heard a story from the field about a family who drove from Alabama to a flood affected area and set up a tent to grill and serve freshly cooked meals for dozens of locals.
It’s been one day on the ground here so far and I am reminded why I came here: the joys and blessings in service always outweigh the giving. The people serving from this home base at Crossroad’s Church are united and committed to staying in the area until the work orders are completed. The people of Louisiana are committed to each other and to their faith, supporting each other every step of the way.
With over 140 open requests for disaster help in the Lafayette area, and 6 job sites completed so far, the need for volunteers is great.
If you would like to help, or have a faith- based or community group willing to get involved , please Click here. Please pray for all those affected, that God would bring restoration and healing for all those hurting.