Over Labor Day weekend, we took six students from Rice University to Baton Rouge to help Southern Baptist Disaster Relief work to begin rebuilding homes from the recent flooding. The team was mostly compiled of students that had never really hung out together, and some I barely knew.
When we started talking we all learned that none of us had ever been involved in a mission trip like this or ever worked with disaster relief. Personally, I had never done anything like this and had no idea what to expect. We were told that we would be mudding out houses, but I assumed it wouldn’t be too hard.
When we got to the first house the next morning, I was filled with emotion. We pulled up to the house and on the curb was piled high with furniture and personal items in a trash pile. For our team, this was very humbling. One of our students asked what was going to happen to all of this stuff.
It was then that our crew leader explained that it was not salvageable. For me, that image was something I will never forget. The idea that people’s memories and the things they worked for suddenly became trash was heartbreaking.
We spent the first day completely gutting a house. It was different from what we had imagined and definitely challenging work to pull up all the floors, knock out walls and pull out insulation. It was hot and the smell of mold filled the air, but our team worked together so well without complaints. These students coordinated and bonded so much through this tough work and we all got to know each other so well!
We spent two days working on houses and talking with homeowners who lost everything. It was such a blessing to share in the joy and tears as we prepped their homes for rebuilding. We got to pray with them and hear each one of their stories. It was awesome to see how much care we had for these individuals that we had never even met before and had no connection to.
During worship that night, the question was asked: what will you remember most from this trip? One of our students said she will always remember how we came together as a team, and even though we didn’t really enjoy the work, we all worked together and did it without complaining. I am so proud of our students for the work they did this weekend. I know that we all took something away from the trip and will not forget the things we saw and did.
Kim Garner serves as the BSM Associate Director at Rice University.