Recently, I had the opportunity to go to Staten Island with a Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief team, to help with clean up after Hurricane Sandy. We left Baton Rouge early morning on December 15, headed north. We planned to leave at 5:00, and ended up leaving at 5:30. That’s not bad for a BCM trip! In our entourage was two 15-passenger vans, two 11-passenger vans, a truck, two trailers, 51 students and drivers, and a baby. We had two drivers per vehicle, and a spot in the back of each van for the “spare” driver to sleep. The team met up at a church in Baton Rouge, and I was surprised and excited to see more than a few people I didn’t know. I was in one of the 15-passenger vans. We all alternated between chatting, dancing, singing, and sleeping. I actually didn’t sleep much at all, but it was alright. We stopped every three hours like clockwork for gas and a bathroom break. Everyone used the bathroom at every stop! We had no trouble at all on the way up, and arrived on Staten Island about 8:30 Sunday morning. We received a quick orientation and tour of our home for the week.
We stayed in tents set up on the grounds of Zion Lutheran. This site was just for Baptist Collegiate teams, and the tents all had plywood floors and heaters.
After changing clothes, we set out to work for a half-day. We had four teams, called units, each with a leader, an assistant leader, and a driver. I was the assistant leader of the Tiger Unit! For the first day, I actually got switched to another team, because their leader and assistant knew how to do a mud out, while neither me nor our leader, Peyton, knew how. Both teams ended up on the same site though, so it ended up not mattering. We spent all of our work time that day pulling furniture, clothes, food, and lots of other stuff out of an apartment. We were the first people in this house since the hurricane hit 6 weeks before, and the smell was awful. We had to rotate who was inside and who was outside. We emptied out that apartment until we lost sunlight, and still didn’t completely finish.
The rest of our days were spent similarly, but still not knowing exactly what to expect each day. I spent one day with a team back at the church, breaking down cots, cleaning showers, and folding blankets. I spent another day scraping mud out of a basement, before power washing it. A third day was spent taking apart closet and door frames, and removing baseboards and sheetrock. I think now that I’m pretty good at using a crow bar and hammer, operating a power washer, and taking apart a cot! We worked Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and a half day on Thursday, before heading home on Thursday afternoon.
Our team was incredible! They were flexible, encouraging, hard workers. I got to know a lot of new people, who I hope to stay friends with back in Baton Rouge. There wasn’t a single person on the team that I would not have wanted to work with. I really think that we did make an impact on Staten Island and really showed the people there that we came to work because of our love for Christ. Here’s some scenes from the week and some examples of some things that we did:
Our trip home was a bit more…adventurous than our trip up, with a couple flat tires and a snowstorm. It took about 31 hours to get back to Baton Rouge, and then Sarah, Catherine, and I decided to make the drive back to Shreveport that night. By the time I pulled into my driveway at 12:45 Saturday morning, I had been traveling for 36 hours. The trip was amazing, and I’m so glad I was able to go!