Southern Baptist Convention’s Disaster Relief team steps in to ease flood cleanup burden

Pamela Sleezer

At a time when many Lake Charles residents are feeling hopeless and abandoned, one organization is showing up to offer them a helping hand in piecing their lives back together. 

Clark Forshee is a Louisiana native who has volunteered with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Disaster Relief mission team since 2016. Over the past year, Forshee said he has seen first-hand the desperate situations facing residents of his home state following a record-setting hurricane season and then a follow-up record flooding event. 

“It’s awful. It’s really terrible and sad to see such devastation coming one hit right after the other, and people just wonder how much more they can take,” Forshee stated. 

Two weeks ago, Forshee and others with the Southern Baptist Conventions of both Louisana and Texas answered a call for help in the Lake Charles area. Through coordinated efforts with Trinity Baptist Church, teams arrived in the area on May 24 ready to help families who have been rejected by FEMA and their insurance. 

In the past 15 days, the disaster relief team’s trained and certified volunteer contractors have worked their way through a list of more than 200 homes in the Lake Charles area that experienced damages from flood waters. Forshee has served as the coordinator for the teams who arrive in the area from as near as Texas and as far as Michigan who have but one desire when their boots hit the Louisiana ground; to show this area that people do care about them.  

“By the time we are getting involved, these homeowners have already been through a lot and they are tired and stressed. But they always show an overwhelming appreciation to us that someone would do this work for them without asking for anything in return, and that’s exactly what we do. We don’t ask questions, we just want to help. If a homeowner is open to hearing us share our faith with them or pray with them then we are happy to do so, but if they’re not comfortable with that then that’s ok too,” Forshee stated. 

Once a home is referred to the group, Forshee said crews of 8 to 10 members set to work at first assessing the flood damage and then gutting and removing the damaged portions of the home. The areas are dried out and then treated to kill and prevent any potential mold growth. By the time crews have completed their work, each home is prepped and ready for rebuilding. 

“It’s very much like we are coming in and helping families take those first steps in putting their lives back together. We’re taking out the damage; all the bad stuff that happened is gone so that they can now move forward and move past it,” Forshee stated. 

In a time when Southwest Louisiana has experienced one negative event after another, Forshee and other disaster relief crews serve as a shining beacon of hope for humanity.

Indeed, the work that crews through Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief teams are doing has been possible through united efforts of churches and organizations across multiple denominations including the Catholic Charity Ministry and other religious organizations across the surrounding Lake Charles area. 

“You know, we are all out here setting aside any differences we may have in our religious theologies and we are working together to help with real life issues in the moment. It’s an amazing and beautiful thing that I’m happy to be a part of,” Forshee stated. 

Forshee said crews are expected to remain in the area for at least the next week. 

The disaster relief mission teams operate solely on donations ranging from monetary to cases of water or snacks, and are coordinated through area churches. All volunteers are trained and certified through ongoing training operations offered across the U.S. and are cleared through background checks to ensure all team members are properly vetted, according to Forshee. 

Anyone who wishes to learn more about volunteering may contact the Southern Baptists of Texas or Southern Baptists of Louisiana conventions online.

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Once a home is referred to the Southern Baptist disaster relief team, crews of 8 to 10 members set to work at first assessing the flood damage and then gutting and removing the damaged portions of the home. By the time crews have completed their work, each home is prepped and ready for rebuilding. 

Special to the American Press

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