ORANGE—For years, Orange County Judge Carl Thibodeaux played a vital role in Texas Baptist Men disaster relief by submitting names of people who need help after significant storms. Following Hurricane Laura, that list included his own for the first time.
The Thibodeaux family has been through every major storm to hit Orange in the past 27 years. Some years, their property fared better than others. But every year, they have volunteered their time and energy to helping rebuild their community.
“This is the first time I’ve had to ask for help after a storm—and we’ve been through many,” he said. “I simply can’t do this work.”
His home is one of many that 40 TBM disaster relief teams with about 150 volunteers are responding to in the wake of widespread needs in Southeast Texas and Louisiana after Hurricane Laura.
TBM received more than 475 requests for chainsaw help in Orange, Deweyville and Newton County. A laundry team is washing truckloads of clothes. A feeding team is providing 7,000 meals a day in Lake Charles, La. Each act of ministry is provided for free.
The work of TBM disaster relief was multiplied during Labor Day weekend as TBM’s Texans on Mission volunteers serve for a day at a time, allowing more people to receive the help they need.
“The needs after Hurricane Laura are immense,” TBM Chief Executive Officer Mickey Lenamon said. “TBM volunteers from across the state have come together to deliver help, hope and healing to hurting people.
“It takes all of us working together to minister to people in their most difficult days. Thank you for praying for everyone affected by the storm as well as those who are responding to needs.”
Widespread needs, individualized responses
As vast as the needs are, volunteers are careful to give each home the attention it needs. They visit with homeowners, encourage them and often pray with them. When a chainsaw team finishes work at a house, they present a Bible signed by the team to the homeowner.
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At one home, the Orange County TBM chainsaw team removed a tree that split in half as a result of the hurricane’s winds. As leaders visited with the homeowner, they learned this particular tree was their son’s “prayer tree.”
The 9-year-old boy has an anxiety disorder, so the family dedicated a spot for their son as a retreat where he could relieve his anxiety. When he felt anxious, the boy would climb up in the tree, sit on a branch next to a cross he carved in the trunk, and he would pray.
The chainsaw team realized the importance of this tree and the significant role it plays in one family’s life. While the tree had to be removed, the volunteers cut chunks of the tree for the family to use as a reminder of the tree.
“As we do this work, every time we see God moving, and every time it’s humbling, it’s emotional,” Mize continued. “When we talked to the family about this tree and its role in their son’s life, she broke down, I broke down, the whole team broke down. We serve a mighty God.”
Unbeknownst to the family, a member of the chainsaw team took a slice of the tree home and is carving crosses out of their prayer tree for the entire family.
‘They need to know someone cares about them’
God is using the acts of radical service and support to transform lives. Nearly 30 people have made a profession of faith in Christ as a result of TBM ministry after Hurricane Laura. TBM is connecting those people with local churches to disciple them.
“Ministering to a family is about more than cutting down trees or providing a meal,” said David Wells, interim director of TBM disaster relief. “Many of these people have had their lives turned upside down. They need encouragement. They need someone to listen to them. They need to know someone cares about them.”
At Thibodeaux’s home, some TBM volunteers were visiting with him when he spotted a hummingbird at the one feeder that survived the hurricane.
“I’ve heard they are coming back after the storm. This brings me hope,” Thibodeaux said. “This morning, I prayed that God would send people to help me and my wife clean up all this debris. And now, your team is here, and you get to see our hummingbirds.”
To support TBM disaster relief financially, give online at TBMTX.org/donate or mail a check to Texas Baptist Men, 5351 Catron Drive, Dallas 75227.