DENHAM SPRINGS — On Aug. 27, a relief team from Christ’s Community Church began ferrying needed supplies to communities in southwest Louisiana devastated by Hurricane Laura and its caravans carrying essential to the storm’s survivors continued through Sept. 1.
Eight vehicles, including a box truck, all loaded with essential supplies, left from the church’s campus on South Juban Road bound for communities in the heart of the storm-ravaged area.
The Rev. Willis Easley and his wife, Shannon, have spearheaded the missions since the church began gathering needed items shortly after the storm made its landfall in the Lake Charles area.
"The damage to homes, schools, churches and everything else is overwhelming," Shannon Easley said. “The need is tremendous and when we made our first trip, we were just not prepared for what we saw. The needs of the people there are unbelievable. When we saw the devastation, we knew that we had to get supplies into the hands of the people.”
Shannon Easley said members of the church began gathering supplies shortly after the storm tore its path through southwest Louisiana and eastern Texas.
“Within hours after sending out a plea for help, we had already filled a trailer with donated supplies. We asked for vital supplies that we knew could bring hope to the victims of the storm, and the generous residents of our area responded,” she said.
She said that on the first trip into the storm’s aftermath, the church’s convoy went to DeQuincy, a town hard hit by the storm.
“God sent us to DeQuincy. That city is one of the very few that still has running water and that suited one of the things that we could provide," she said. "After Hurricane Harvey, the church realized that showers were an important part of helping people to recover. We built a shower trailer, and we brought that to DeQuincy. This was a most welcome accommodation for the people there. One of the members of a church we were serving told me that a woman in Lake Charles heard that we had a shower, and she asked if she could bring her child there and pay to get a shower. We told her to bring her children and that, of course, the shower would be free.”
Getting to DeQuincy was a challenge, Easley said, explaining that traveling to their destination, the New Hope Church, was a tedious journey.
“It took us a long time to travel the last 12 miles because crews were going ahead of us clearing trees off the road. The crews were cutting away the tree trunks and branches covering the road, so that traffic could get through. The whole situation is so sad,” she said.
For the fourth trip, 20 volunteers accompanied the caravan. Easley said the group planned to travel to Sulphur where her husband knew of a church whose members needed assistance. She said the group was bringing water, baby supplies, Gatorade, gas, personnel hygiene supplies, tarps and other items. She said that much of the supplies were donated and that the church also had a fund to purchase items when necessary.
Easley said her group plans to assist a group called Care Help of Sulphur.
“They are cooking 700 pounds of meat, and we are going to help them serve. On the way, we are going to stop in the community of Iowa where we learned that a family with a special-needs child could use our help. The need is everywhere … there’s so much to do, but we are willing to do whatever we can to help the people who have been hurt so deeply by this storm.”
Easley said assisting those in need in the Lake Charles area is one way that their congregation can “pay forward” those who came to help after the widespread flooding of 2016 that inundated much of Livingston Parish.
“Our church did not flood … we thanked God that he spared our church. Because of our location, we became a hub for distributing needed supplies to others. So many people desperately needed help after the flood. I remember that a group called the North Shore Cajun Angels came to the church after the flood to help all of the people in the area. They came back day after day, and they uplifted our spirits. We realized then that we needed to uplift others, to show our care for our brothers and sisters who are in need of our support and our prayers.
“We are trying to show God’s love through whatever good we can do," she said. "When someone finally gets to drink a bottle of water, I think that God’s love is being delivered through that water. It is not what we are doing, but what God is calling us to do. Our efforts are challenging but rewarding at the same time. This is what we are called to do at this time and in this place.”
The church will continue its mission of service into the foreseeable future, and Easley said donations are always welcomed. She said that paper goods, nonperishable food items, tarps, empty gasoline cans, personnel hygiene items and water are all greatly needed. Easley said the only clothing that the church will accept are items such as baby clothes, underwear and socks that are new and still packaged.
The church also welcomes cash donations to purchase such things as gas, which is desperately needed to keep generators running.