The parking lot of Trinity Lutheran Church in Sulphur, its fellowship hall and a couple of its Sunday School rooms have been transformed into a disaster relief workers camp, complete with a command center for detailed work orders and bunk barracks.
“They bring the materials with them and build their own bunks,” said church member R.K. Levens about the Lutheran Early Response Team and Lutheran Disaster Care volunteers.
Around 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 27, volunteers were just heading in after a long day, and looked as though they were ready for a good night’s rest. They were moving slowly. There wasn’t much talk. Clothes were marked with sweat and dirt.
About 150 volunteers have worked from the church since Hurricane Laura in August. They are Lutherans from states throughout the U.S., and are here to cut limbs, trees and clear debris.
“They take their vacation time to come and work. Some are retirees,” said David Ricks, volunteer coordinator from Grand Prairie, Texas.
They came armed with safety training, equipment, machinery, know-how, muscle — and mercy.
“It’s in my blood,” Ricks said. “I guess ever since I volunteered the first time in Dallas-Fort Worth in 2000 after a tornado. As a Lutheran, we believe God gives us mercy and we want to share God’s love. I probably get as much out of helping as the people we help.”
He’s served through 46 disasters so far, and enjoys the camaraderie of fellow volunteers.
This is the 16th disaster for Camp Director Steve Lockhart. He’s from a little town outside Tyler, Texas.
“I don’t remember the exact number,” he said. “They all run together.”
He looks weary, yet resolved.
When he’s not volunteering, he likes to fish and “try to relax,” he said.
But the thing that keeps him volunteering, “is the look in the eyes of the elderly when you help them and tell them it’s not going to cost them anything,” he said. “That’s the best payment in the world.”
He’s worked as a general contractor. He’s also owned a scuba shop, and taught scuba diving and he can’t share much information about his third career — hinting that it was work for the government.
“Out of all the work I’ve done in my life, this is the most rewarding,” he said. “This is God’s work right here.”
“As Christians, we may ask where God is in all of this chaos,” Dan Cowan of Walburg, Texas, said. “One of the best replies I’ve ever heard is this: We may wonder where God is during the disaster, but afterward we can often see Him in the calm and quietness of His response.”
Tree orders will be taken until the end of day on Saturday, Nov. 7. This group does not do yard work or take down trees that do not need to be taken down, according to Lockhart.
Trinity Lutheran Church Sunday worship begins at 10:30 a.m., and all are invited to attend. Shane McCoy is pastor. Butch Tinker is music minister.