D’Iberville & Picayune MS - October 2005
We have been back and forth on the 2100 mile trek to Mississippi three times. I consider it a privilege to have led these three groups of volunteers down to D’Iberville and Picayune Mississippi. These volunteers drove all night long on Thursday nights and then worked from early in the morning to late in the evening Friday and Saturday. On Sunday we attended the local church or churches worship service, which was spearheading the relief effort in that area. It was great to be apart of what our areas churches accumulated and donated in the form of specific food items, personal items, clothing, roof tarps & nails, chain saws, tools, generators, even a car to the people of these two communities. I want to thank each church, pastor, and individual who contributed to this effort, because it was a joint effort. The people and churches of D’Iberville and Picayune also asked that I express their thanks for all the help.
We went to these communities because FEMA and the other large relief agencies were focusing on the lager population centers as they should. The government is getting a lot of criticism, but let me share my perspective, so you may better understand the scope of what happened. The coast line from Alabama to Texas has sustained various levels of damage. The entire state of Louisiana and more than half the state of Mississippi have sustained severe damage. You could have had 200,000 FEMA workers and they still would not have been able deal with the size and scope of this disaster.
On Thursday evening the 8th fourteen of us departed with one car, four trucks with trailers filled with food, clothes, tools, and other provisions for the hurricane victims. Three trucks went to D’Iberville Mississippi, where the people have lost everything. The structures that are still standing are heavily damaged, since the entire area had been underwater. After the water receded, there was over one inch of solid sewage waste inside homes as well as outside. What we saw brought tears to our eyes and we immediately started to pray for the people there. Never had any of us seen that kind of destruction and devastation. We unloaded the trucks filled with provisions into what was left of the Harvest Christian Fellowship Church, to distribute. Part of our group worked to help clean and pick up the refuse, then drove on to Picayune, Mississippi to meet up with the rest of the group.
Our first contingent arrived in Picayune on Friday morning and unloaded the truck at Resurrection Life Worship Center, which was serving as the distributions center. For a few hours we helped distribute a day or twos supply of food, water, ice, and other provisions to an endless line of people in cars. We brought chain saws and roofing tools to help with tree removal and the application of tarps to damaged roofs. We went spent the next two days driving to many sites given to us by Resurrection Life and almost completely covered the roofs with the tarps, as well as removed trees and branches from both inside and on top of people’s homes. The people were so thankful for the help and each shared their stories of what happened, after which we prayed for each family before we left.
We slept in the Resurrection Life Christian Worship Center, which was declared the official distribution center by the Picayune City Council. They have been functioning unofficially in that the capacity for weeks. Friday morning, Pastor Mark Krammer of River of Life Church in Martin and his group went back to D’Iberville to help. Pastor Mark Mineger of Plainwell Calvary Community Church, John Jacobs, myself and three others stayed in Picayune and continued working on tree removal and roof repair.
On Thursday the 15th we departed with 36 people five trucks & trailers and five cars. Initially, we all went to D’Iberville and unloaded all the vehicles. There is a greater need for basic provisions there as close to 30% of the peoples home are completely destroyed, the remaining homes have no electricity, and many people are attempting to live on the second floor of their home as the first floor was under eight feet of water. D’Iberville is now facing a new growing crisis, now that the water receded; black mold and rats are now increasing and is fast becoming creating a tremendous health and sanitary problem. Many people think because the water is gone the worst is over and do not understand the danger and won’t leave their homes. The churches in this community have set up a large food & provision tents and are using the shell of a former department store as their warehouse. The job of ordering this warehouse became the primary function of our Michigan contingent under the direction of my daughter Jenny. Representative Rick Shaffer, who accompanied us along with his son Rob, worked in the medical area as he is a licensed RN. D’Iberville will almost be a total loss, have to be rebuilt, and will result in displacing 8,000 individuals & families.
Friday night about 8:30 PM about half our group left D’Iberville for Picayune Mississippi, we brought our own roof tarps and roofing nails as they ran out earlier that week. The next morning we were given our assignments from Resurrection Life and began removing trees and tarping damaged roofs. Our Michigan contingent was able to finish 16 homes, which protected those homes from further damage, as it rained heavily that evening. Or Oct 27th through the 31st trip we had 12 people go and continued with tree removal, clean-up, rebuilding and did a lot of drywall.
In talking with many of the churches we have decided to adopt these two communities and continue to offer them assistance in rebuilding. This is only the beginning of providing the help these communities will need. The concern expressed to me by many people and officials is that the rest of the country will treat this like a passing fad and will tire and become disinterested in a few months. Please consider offering your assistance in the coming months and over the next year of cash donations, as well as your time and physical assistance, you do not have any skills. We will be returning to D’Iberville & Picayune; Thursday evening after work December 15th, and will return Friday December 23rd. At this time we will be doing some permanent repairs homes, and very possibly building Harvest Christian Fellowship a new church. If you can come, bring a sleeping bag, work gloves (both rawhide and heavy plastic), hand saws, tree saws, chain saws, circle saws, extension cords, battery drills, hammers, nail pouches, nailers & other roofing tools, razor knifes, tape measurers, large scoop shovels, and hats. It is hard work in a difficult environment, but the need is great and the people are so grateful. Please do whatever you can. Thank you for any help or donations you can give.