‘When a disaster strikes or there is a major impact on our community, our church usually rises to the call’
A Louisiana church — which has stepped in times of disaster for more than 15 years — is working round the clock to distribute disaster relief supplies and services to families in need after Hurricane Ida ripped through the state.
For the past five weeks, Samuel Mamou has been leading the efforts of the New Vine Christian Fellowship Church in providing water, non-perishable food, hygiene kits and cleaning supplies to hundreds of residents every day.
It’s become a full-time job for Mamou—a father of five whose own home was heavily damaged by Ida–and all the volunteers have stepped in to help the Laplace community.
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“Our community is largely devastated, looks like a war zone,” Senior Pastor Neil Bernard told Granthshala News. “But we are committed to helping rebuild our community.”
The night Ida was killed, the church immediately swung into action, using its 18,000-square-foot church to provide shelter for those whose homes were flooded.
Since then, they have been working with various organizations to collect and distribute essential supplies. That’s where Mamu comes in, Bernard said.
In the aftermath of the storm, Mamou told Granthshala News that his phone was “blowing up with calls from various organizations that wanted to help … to help relieve us.”
The church is known for serving the St John the Baptist parish community in times of disaster ever since Hurricane Katrina hit the area in 2005. They assist Bernard in what Barnard calls the four stages of disaster recovery: rescue, relief, recovery and reconstruction.
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As a result, Bernard says that the church has established relationships with groups: hope convoyhandjob Operation Ashirwad and other individuals who have expertise in providing disaster relief to communities.
After Ida, organizations carried truckloads of disaster relief supplies and even building supplies that were brought to the church’s 60,000-square-foot warehouse.
Barnard said, “Most of the relief has come from faith-based organizations around the country, who saw the plight of what happened in Louisiana and went ahead and responded, ‘Listen, what can we do? Bernard said.
After receiving the supplies, Mamau immediately set up several distribution programs at the church each day. Hundreds of cars would supply and stock up on supplies and, at one point, they were even given hot meals.
On a daily basis, Mamou said they see at least 800 cars “if not more.”
However, their efforts are not over yet.
Now, as the community continues to move back to their homes, their focus has been on helping residents feed and rebuild their homes, Barnard said.
To aid in the recovery and rebuilding phase, the church is collecting and distributing “gloves, safety glasses, shovels, rakes, brooms and things to help people clean their homes.”
Bernard says the church is also coordinating with other agencies to bring in people who know how to rebuild properly. The senior pastor knows that the rebuilding phase is “the longest and most difficult part of any disaster,” but he is not shying away from the challenge.
Over the next few weeks, the church has groups from all over the country flying in to help with the rebuilding effort.
“When a disaster happens or there is a major impact on our community, our church usually rises to the call,” Mamou said.