LU Send team travels to La.
As opposed to spending the last week of summer basking in the sun, a dozen Liberty University students and staff flew to Louisiana to provide aid for those affected by the historic flooding in Baton Rouge this August.
The Washington Post reported that 60,000 homes were damaged and 13 people died due to flooding in Baton Rouge. According to the Red Cross, it was the worst natural disaster in the United States since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
In response, the Liberty University Send Now program sent out emails looking for approved students to volunteer and help with the relief effort.
Team leader Molly Hall said that she, the co-leader and 10 students met at Liberty on August 20, in the pre-dawn hours, to begin their journey to Baton Rouge.
After being split into vans, senior nursing major Kayla Yaeckel said even though none of the group knew each other, they quickly bonded over their desire to serve.
“It’s a blessing to be the one being sent,” Yaeckel said. “Going is such a blessing because you get to grow in that same realm … The Lord calls us to a life of abundance and that is something He gives freely, so that’s something I want to be a part of.”
The trip was special for Yaeckel because in 2003, when her home flooded, a group from the local high school came to do repair work. Now, 13 years later, Yaeckel had the chance to pay it forward and do the same for others.
Sleeping on cots in a church at night, the group spent their days gutting four homes.
Hall said each house had to be cleared of ruined belongings and the floors and drywall had to be ripped out to make way for Samaritan’s Purse construction workers who would follow.
Kylie Smith, a junior exercise science major, said the damage was more widespread than she had imagined, as entire communities would have piles of furniture, pictures and other personal items discarded by the curb.
For Hall, witnessing the mountains of memories made the disaster personal for her.
“You realize these are people because now I have faces and I have stories,” Hall said. “It’s different than seeing it on TV where you can turn it off. We couldn’t turn it off.”
The focus of the whole trip for Smith was the people.
Smith stated that while one purpose of the trip was to do work, the primary purpose was ministry.
At one point the work and the ministering all came together, as the neighbor of a house the group was working on got saved.
Throughout all of the work and ministry, Hall said she and everyone else they came in contact with noted the willing spirit and absence of complaints from the students.
Smith was quick to redirect the compliment back to the team leaders, like Hall.
“Our leaders kept reminding us of why we were there,” Smith said. “It’s not about Liberty, it’s not about us at all. It’s about the Lord and His work. So they weren’t necessarily impressed with us, they were impressed with us, they were impressed with the Lord in us.”
While Yaeckel went on the trip willing to serve, she said she came away with a mindset of gratitude and being content in the Lord.
When she asked if she could pray for Bob, who was a Christian, 89-year-old homeowner the group worked with, he was quick to say they should pray for others, never mentioning himself.
“Here he is, 89 years old,” Yaeckel said. “Everything he’s ever purchased is out here on his curb, but his prayer request was for those who had also lost everything, for those who had family that don’t know the Lord.”
After returning and having a few days to process everything that happened, Smith also expressed thankfulness for getting to be a part of the trip.
“It wasn’t work at all,” Smith said. “It was an opportunity and a privilege. I wouldn’t have spent my last week of summer any other way.”
Liberty is sending a second team of about 40 students to Baton Rouge Sept. 6-11 to work in flood relief alongside Samaritan’s Purse.
Price is a news reporter.