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So What’s It Like

by Roy Platt

So what’s it like…trying to go through Covid shutdowns, abbreviated or extinguished schedules, hoping against hope that none of your people would get infected, trying to survive in a nation trying to learn survival?   Thrown on top of that not one but two hurricanes just weeks apart striking the same people who have had barely enough time to pick of the debris from the first.  What was fixed, tarped, thrown away, piled ten feet high at the curb,  from the destruction of the first hurricane (if you had the time and energy to do so) was decimated by the second.  Recovery crews had to reconnect what was disconnected only to connect the disconnected a second time.   Trees measured by height, decades and scores of years going back to the 19th century were challenged to their doom.  Amazingly some of the trees stood that were here when William McKinley was President and the Titanic’s first rivets were pounded. 

So what’s it like… to hear the snapping of trees, the green flashed booms of electrical transformers exploding, to hear the wind howl with determination to destroy and wondering if you made the right decision to stay and ‘ride it out’?

So what’s it like… the day after when complete calm and beautiful skies reveal a mass of everything wrong? 

              For me it was a time to reflect.  I am able bodied, I can help, … but where to begin was the biggest question.  My house survived with only the death of my garage door and  a couple of shingles missing  due to my being thirty miles from the more devastated Lake Charles.  My circumstances allowed me to go to my unelectrified office and try to figure out a course of action that could be taken by me and try to get the church people who could to respond… if they could.  My prayer… “Lord, I do not know where to begin, or, how to begin… but with your help can you show us where to begin?”   And that’s pretty much where I left it. 

             Late the next day a man and a woman had parked in the church parking lot.  It was a truck pulling a large enclosed utility trailer and I could tell they were not from around here.  They were walking around their truck talking on a cell phone.  We are in a very public location and hurricane protocol dictates (you just know it) that if others need to park and figure things out in your parking lot just let them figure things out in your parking lot.  I let them be.   About 15 minutes later the Spanish minister (a separate church in our facility) introduced me to Richard and his wife… the man and the woman who had parked at our church.  “Brother Roy, these people are from Hope Force International and they are seeking a place to stay and help in any way they could the people who have been affected by the hurricane.  I have already talked to one  of your Elders and he said, “Go for it.”   Not knowing anything about Hope Force I felt complete calm and assurance that THIS is the ministry we can take up:  Helping those who help others.  These two people were assured of a place to stay but the bureaucracy of the host had to cancel out those plans leaving, not only these two people without a place to stay, but had given them a tremendous setback for all the other volunteers  Hope Force had waiting ‘in the wings.’   God has made it where WE WERE GOING TO BE THAT PLACE. 

  I immediately welcomed them and started showing them the place, giving them the keys, showing them the office with appropriate codes for entry into the office and wifi connectivity.  I showed them the gym, the restrooms with 4 showers, the kitchen with restaurant grade stove, our chapel area…. And I told them, “Consider this your home for as long as you need.”  They could not have been more grateful, more satisfied, more overwhelmed, more giving of praise to God.

             A couple of days later relief workers started pouring in.  Bewildered and discouraged residents in devastated areas were getting help that was in tremendously short supply and they were getting help from Christians who came from every corner of the nation.  We were witnesses, and fellow workers, with those who had Christ as their motivation to help where help was needed. 

             So what’s it like… working with people from across the nation?  I have learned an important lesson.  When you work, sweat, bleed in a common effort… you criticize less and love more.

             So what’s it like… when a large hurricane makes you pray a small prayer?  It’s amazing.  We housed over 200 individuals from multiple organizational efforts.  We have had Hope Force International, 6 separate church groups of young mixed with the older ‘young’ (one church from Mississippi was scheduling their fourth trip but canceled due to a covid outbreak in their number, and we capped off with Mennonite Disaster Relief Services which also included an Amish community from Wisconsin.

            So what’s it like… to have people respond with truckloads of water, Gatorade, food, can goods along with $25,000 gifts from people who “just heard” to disperse to needs of the efforts and direct gifting to people of great need?  To hear and see their stories of survival and their ‘thank yous’ puts energy back into the steps of exhausted volunteers.

             So what’s it like when you, the host facility, have people, who stepped up from your church for weeks and months at a time, volunteer to be at the church kitchen at 5am to get breakfast ready and lunches packed with a smorgasbord menu by 6pm for 10 to 20 individuals who will be laboring in the sun, no electricity, no shade, stifling heat, energy draining humidity?

             So what’s it like working in a desperate relief effort in a recognized hot spot for the  Covid Virus? 

  So what’s it like… to host Volunteers and Volunteer organizations and not even lock the doors of the facility realizing that this is the most the facility has ever been used in its 100 plus year history 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, for the last four and a half months?

             We are in a respite now.  No volunteers or organizations through the holidays.   But, they will return.  Mennonite Disaster Services will return with a tremendous expertise and energy in January 2021 and sees the need extending to 2023.  God will lead us through. 

So what’s it like… It’s God honoring… and I can’t tell you enough of what that is like.


                          Roy Platt is Minister of the Jennings Church of Christ, Jennings, LA.

One Response to “So What’s It Like”

  1. Thank you Bro. Roy for sharing God’s provision for Jennings.

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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

2 corinthians 1:3-4