Elder Dustin says that every morning about 7 he coordinates with Abbate and finds out the names and addresses of people who need help. The missionaries have also been passing out work orders that members of the community fill out to request help with specific tasks. Between the work orders and the assignments from Abbate, Elder Dustin estimates that the missionaries have "gutted" — his term for pulling out everything that needs to be pulled out, from floor boards to drywall to carpet to furniture — about 80 houses this week.
"We're pretty well organized," Elder Dustin said. "We've divided the missionaries into small groups, and I send each group to a house to work on, and as soon as they are finished with that house they text me and I send them to another one. The missionaries are working hard all day long and they are getting a lot done."
But there is still a lot to do. Elder Dustin says he has "hundreds" of work orders left to be completed. So the heavy influx of Mormons to help this weekend will make a huge difference, he said.
"We're hoping to get through as many of these work orders as we can," he said. "Anything that is left to do after this weekend well, I guess Elder Curtis and I will be helping people out for a long time to come."
And he wouldn't have it any other way.
"I have always really loved service, but I've never been part of anything like this," said Elder Dustin, who has spend nine of the 17 months he has been on his mission in LaPlace. "It's been humbling to see these people with stuff piled in their yards as high as their house. These are people I've visited, and many of them are people I've taught. And it's amazing to see how they handle going through something like this. They are so strong, and they have so much courage. You can't help but be touched by that.
"And people are so grateful," he continued. "They come up to us just crying. They can't thank us enough. It just really feels like we are making a difference in people's lives. Being a part of something like that is just amazing. I couldn't ask for more of an opportunity to touch other people and to be touched by them through service. I'll look back on this experience my whole life."
And so will Abbate.
"You would think that living through the hurricane would be the thing that you will always remember," he said. "But I will always remember how all of the people have come together to help with the cleanup.
"The Mormons have been there, every time we need them," Abbate said. "The Catholics and Baptists have also been there. It doesn't matter what religion you are from. When it comes to helping in a time of need, we are of one faith."
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