People Over Projects

When HNW disaster relief team members left for Lake Charles, LA, at the end of January, little did they know our own community would be in similar need just a few weeks later. As HNW serves in the wake of Winter Storm Uri (click here for ways you can receive or provide support), hear from a Lake Charles team member on her recent experience...

Team members from HNW recently embarked on a second trip with Southwest Louisiana (SWLA) Responds. Our earlier team came back for more, joined by new members eager to serve Lake Charles in their ongoing hurricane recovery efforts. In addition to mudding out homes, our weekend included hosting a fellowship for five local pastors and their families. During this special dinner, HNW’s generosity poured out in the Big Give last Christmas became transformative financial gifts to these local churches whose buildings received devastating hurricane damage. Over Chick-fil-A box dinners in the old school gym that is home to SWLA Responds, your giving was deployed in five plain white envelopes. The worship and prayer time that followed will forever remain with me. The LORD’s presence was so perceivable it was as if we were surrounded by an ancient echo of what it meant to be standing on holy ground (Exodus 3:5).

For me, serving in Lake Charles with my HNW brothers and sisters again was another chance to take back some of what COVID-19 has taken from us. Get out of town. Be with friends. Serve together and meet new people. Revisit the dorm-style living of my church camps as a teen. We knew the people we were returning to serve weren’t given a choice in the timing of their natural disaster. Hurricane Laura was the fifth strongest hurricane to hit the U.S. in recorded history ahead of Katrina, Rita, Ike, Sandy and Harvey, and it did not offer a time-out for COVID. So neither did we.

I’d prayed for there to be less heavy lifting this time. God said "yes, alright," in the form of blown-in insulation. When it has been wet and fallen on the floor and gone everywhere, cleaning it up, even with friends, is as awful a job as it sounds. Blow-in insulation is Satan’s glitter! It is, however, feather light. At least until packed in big black trash bags bound for the curb. The homeowner, Ms. Judy, was right there with us bag for bag. Her wisdom, beauty, and heart for the Lord blessed us in so many ways.

On our last day, it was Mike, another homeowner, who impacted me most. I was able to sit alone with him as he shared his hurricane story -- something I sensed he doesn’t talk about much but needed to. He shared how he and his wife huddled together for hours as the walls and roof shook and groaned all around them. He recalled at the worst point when the ceilings were falling in on them thinking “this was it” and as he said it, he had to look away and was quiet a long moment. In that moment, I better understood what Pastor Chris Hall had been telling us. Disaster recovery is about the people more than the houses and the clean-up.

Continued awareness, prayer, and tangible support is needed for recovery so that healing can continue, and in some cases begin, for the people of Lake Charles. They continue to do the hard work of rebuilding their lives, homes, and communities that Hurricane Laura ravaged. But the needs remain vast and the volunteers and relief resources in steady decline as time passes. Please keep the people of Lake Charles, its local churches, and SWLA Responds in your prayers. If you would like to help meet the needs in Lake Charles, email Pastor Chris.

-Nancy Kaplan