When a team from Grace Community Church (PCA) in Yulee, Florida, traveled to Louisiana to help with flood relief, the volunteers were not just helping rebuild a house. By entering the flood-damaged house, the team entered into relationship with a grief-damaged man and lent a listening ear as well as a helping hand.
Sorrow upon Sorrow
The end of summer 2016 was a hard time for Buddy LeBlanc. In August 2016, his son, Grant, was nearing the end of his battle with cancer, but Grant’s house was severely damaged by flood waters that wreaked havoc in Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas.
Parish Church, a PCA mission church in Lafayette, connected LeBlanc with MNA Disaster Response. MNA Disaster Response arranged for volunteers to work with LeBlanc to remove the water damage from his son’s home and create a room in the house where Grant could spend his final days. Grant died in September, leaving behind his grief-stricken wife, son, and father.
The flooding that devastated south Louisiana killed 13 people and caused at least $8.7 billion in damages. According to FEMA, more than 134,000 households registered for aid. Even so, more than 2,600 people —many of them elderly — were forced to live in ruined residences.
By the time the Grace team arrived in October, the LeBlanc house needed new drywall. The team — which included pastor David Bradsher, Lindsey Wiseman, David McCall, Jimmy Wiseman, and Ed Ramsey — worked alongside LeBlanc to install new drywall in his late son’s house.
The Gift of Presence
The Grace team saw that LeBlanc needed more than help with home repairs. He needed space to talk about what he had experienced. As team members seized opportunities to listen, they discovered the unique bond that forms in the human experience of loss.
“It is an honor to be able to walk with someone … who opens up and shares their story. There is something very human about that — you develop a bond with a person who is willing to open up and even weep right there,” Bradsher said.
In a disaster relief situation, there can be a tug toward fixing damaged houses and not bothering with damaged hearts. Lindsey Wiseman felt this tension, and she marveled at how others on her team were always willing to slow down and let LeBlanc share instead of just forging ahead with the drywall project.
McCall was moved by the generosity of believers who gave of their time, talent, and treasure to help strangers. Not every PCA church could send a team to help with the cleanup efforts, but many churches supported MNA Disaster Response in other ways by donating supplies and tools.
“I saw several trailers, and every trailer represents a congregation that gave money to make that happen. [The congregation] might not be there physically, but they are supporting,” he said. Being able to partner with so many other churches moved McCall and encouraged his love for the church universal.
After only three days of working, the Grace team had to leave because their own homes were threatened by Hurricane Matthew. While all the team members wished for more time to help LeBlanc, they entrusted him to the care of Parish Church, and ultimately to his Heavenly Father.
“We were either planting seeds or watering seeds — I don’t know which,” McCall said.
The team left more committed to the importance of mercy ministry and to looking for opportunities to show Christ’s love to those hurting around them. They see that their work in Lafayette was a small part of the great work that God is doing in Louisiana through MNA Disaster Response.
“When you do ministry, God is always doing something in your life as much as He is using you,” Bradsher said.
LeBlanc’s journey toward healing continues, but the Grace team counts it a privilege to have been a part of it, even if just for three days.