Finding Hope in the Midst of Despair

January 1, 2022

SHREVEPORT, LA. – Days of uncertainty followed the widespread devastation caused by Hurricane Ida which was compounded by several other tropical storms that hit the southern coast of Louisiana last fall. As God’s people, we are called to be living examples of God’s love and to provide a source of hope for so many experiencing seemingly hopeless situations. Lavida Whitson, Adventist Community Services Disaster Response (ACSDR) director for the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference, was on the ground assessing the damage and the needs in each situation. 

The everyday basics we need to live are hard to obtain when electricity, water, cell phones and gasoline are limited or no longer available. One of the main problems is that so many trees and electric lines are down and folks bringing help cannot get to the sites. A group of loggers from Northwest Arkansas who clear trees for a living was one of the first groups to offer assistance. They removed trees from, on and around 40 homes. They were self-contained and helped clear the way for other volunteers. Gas was in short supply and lines at gas stations were long; often, gas was not available at all. Volunteers who came to help had to be able to get back home.

Before a group can go door to door to distribute supplies or offer assistance, they must have permission from the local parish governments. Adventist Community Services has been working with the different parishes for a long time and can usually get permission for work they want to do. Rules and requirements are changing, though, so individuals cannot just show up and start working on someone’s property without permission or a directing agency. It takes time to get things in place when responding to disasters. During the first two months, we have gone to 10 different locations with mobile units and have served over 750 families. 

These disasters consist of more than the initial crisis that is portrayed by the news; the challenges are usually ongoing for a long while. Many of these people whose homes were damaged in the initial storm are still struggling to repair and replace the damage they sustained.

We have requested an ADRA grant to help the Houma Indian Nation. Three-quarters of the tribe of 17,000 lost their homes. The Houma Indian Nation covers six parishes in Southern Louisiana. Each week we need more items to add to kits—cleaning supplies, personal care items and linen sandbags. We are using donated sandbags to hold the linens and personal care items since it is easier to hand out a bag than individual items.

The Lord has provided us two reasonably-priced rental vehicles, a Dodge Caravan and a small Penski van, for deliveries. We have also been blessed by Massachusetts ACS who sent 12 pallets of food items. We made over 600 food boxes in order to feed our volunteers. Church World Services provided lightweight blankets, personal care kits, school kits and wool blankets. The shrimpers and fishermen who work on the ocean asked for the heavier wool blankets because “They’s warm.” God is good, and God’s people are joining together to be His hands and feet. Thank you for the help you have given.

By Lavida Whitson, ACSDR Director