Building on Faith
Salvationists help with rebuilding efforts in Louisiana.
by Nikole Lim –
Six members of the San Francisco Asian American Yerba Buena Corps—prompted by the still lingering effects of Hurricane Katrina’s 2005 assault along the Gulf Coast—recently dedicated one week to assist Habitat for Humanity in restoration efforts throughout the affected areas. My group—four students, a dentist and an architect from the corps, along with an office manager from New Jersey—traveled to Mereaux, La., from May 27-31, eager to help and to learn from our experiences there.
Joining me were John Tam, Loren Toy, Chris Kim, Victor Lim, Melissa Jones and Jaqueline Fernandez.
Partnering with Habitat for Humanity, The Salvation Army is helping fund the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project to provide safe, affordable housing for needy individuals living across the Gulf Coast (see New Frontier, June 2, 2008, vol. 26 no. 11). As the only Salvationists volunteering that week, we did our best to be examples of faith through our words and actions. Greeting us at our work site were five AmeriCorps members, four other volunteers from New York and three from Maryland. Our duties were to apply shingles to the roof and to nail siding along the walls. Constant pounding, lifting, climbing, and measuring are not easy tasks in 90 degree, humid, swamp-like conditions. However, we were able to achieve much in five 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. working days.
Throughout the week, an elderly man frequently visited the site in his red pickup, and I soon learned that he was the homeowner. Though he was hard of hearing, we were able to communicate through both sign language and lip reading to find a common belief¾our faith in God. Homeowner James Salande, a Louisiana resident for many years, explained to me that the hurricane lifted his home off the foundation, moved it to the side, and crashed it down into pieces. James and wife, Teresa, lost their 12 dogs due to the hurricane, but fortunately, they and their two children were safe. Despite their hardships, James has stood firm in his faith. He views hardship as an occasion to “bring people together to help each other.”
Upon learning that his house was destroyed, James said, “I was devastated but then prayed to God for a miracle.” Soon after, he was accepted into Habitat for Humanity’s Carter Work Project, which has allowed many volunteers, like us, to help rebuild his home. He was thankful that God answered his prayers by allowing him to finally “go home.” Passionately telling his story, James gestured toward the beautiful green trees surrounding his backyard, which he said remind him of God’s abundant blessings toward him and his family.
After a week’s worth of tiring labor, dripping sweat, and pounding nails, our reward included not only the progress on the home, but also many relationships. On our fifth and last day of work, James gave me a hug as a thank you for my efforts. I feel unworthy to be thanked¾instead I give God all glory for allowing us to be used as a tool to build-up his children, be examples of faith, and spread Christ’s love through the bodies he gave us.
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12).