When Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was inundated with historic rainfall totals, an estimated 146,000 homes were affected, according to The New York Times. More than 200 members of the Klein Texas Stake joined an estimated 1,200 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the Houston region who traveled to Louisiana the last weekend in August and the first weekend in September.
Nearly 3,000 members of the LDS Church from surrounding states all donned their bright yellow Mormon Helping Hands T-shirts and participated in the cleanup effort those two weekends.
Carloads of men, women and teenagers from the Klein area drove almost five hours to the East Baton Rouge Parish to aid in ripping out drywall, pulling out damaged carpet and floor coverings, removing cabinets and clearing debris. Many residents lost most of their possessions in the floods from personal items to furniture to family mementos.
Crystal Molen, who serves in the Fallbrook Branch, said a homeowner shared with her that she knew “Jesus sent you because we have no family who could help and I prayed and cried and you came today.” This resident has anxiety and her husband had just had fingers amputated days before the flood.
Another Baton Rouge resident, who had known an LDS member who had passed away, told Bekki Pond, a member of the Tomball 2nd Ward, that even though she’d lost everything, she felt that God was mindful of her and she was so grateful for that.
Volunteers spent all day working in homes, and many members found great joy in serving.
"It was an awesome experience going there to help," said Josh Hudson, a priest in the Klein Ward. "I was surprised at how much damage there was. It was devastating to see how much people lost and to see that they are basically having to start over with nothing."
“Serving those wonderful people brings a joy to my soul that nothing else can replace," said Nate Oleson, also of the Klein Ward. "After all, they are my brothers and sisters because we are all children of our Heavenly Father.”
Thomas Bikman, a youth from the Tomball 2nd Ward, said he saw the Atonement in action because the volunteers were doing for the flood victims what they could not do for themselves.
After Relief Society General President Linda K. Burton’s talk “I Was a Stranger” during the women's session in March, Charis Aldous, Klein Stake Relief Society president, invited all girls 8 and older to join with the Young Women and women of the stake to participate in a project to donate quilts to local charities. When Aldous heard about the flooding, she encouraged the women to donate completed quilts. Klein Stake residents brought the donated quilts, clothing, shoes and other items with them to Louisiana.
On Sunday, Sept. 4, volunteers attended a sacrament meeting with President Russell M. Nelson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (see "Church leaders visit 'helping hands' who are relieving suffering in Louisiana," LDS Church News, Sept. 5, 2016).
Rebecca Talley lives in Houston and is the mother of 10 children. Her email is [email protected].