April 28, 2008

Return to Katrina

You might have read several years ago in the Church News about the stakes in Houston, Texas that sent work parties into Slidell, Louisiana a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit the Coast. I was fortunate to be among about 200 members from our Stake in Pearland, Texas that took that trip by charter bus. We stayed 2 nights and slept in tents on the grounds of the Stake Center there. It was an amazing experience, and I recently came across across a picture from that time that made a big impression on me and thought I'd share it here, along with a few thoughts.

Our group was assigned to a single story home owned by a young couple with 2 small children from the local ward. The flood-waters from Katrina had risen to nearly 6 feet in a matter of 5 minutes and then had stayed for 2 days. When the water finally subsided, this family (who had evacuated prior to the flooding) returned home to find all of their possessions completely ruined. Their drywall was covered with mold so our crew spent the day completely tearing off the drywall, removing insulation, removing the carpet and padding, pulling out cabinets, furniture, etc. We completely gutted the house and it took our team of 8 plus the couple that entire day. Below is a picture showing what was moved out of the house. Behind the pile, you'll see members of our crew plus, just to the right, you'll see the husband and wife, arm in arm. (Click on the picture for a larger view).

This is the amazing part to me. If you look closely at the couple's faces, they both have very large smiles, almost ear to ear, as if this was some ordinary, everyday event. As I have studied their faces, I wondered how they could be so happy, even with the enormous pile of debris, their entire life's belongings, laying right in front of them, ruined, destroyed! A scripture from the Book of Mormon came to mind as this was occurring.

"And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall." (Helaman 5:12)

Just looking at the faces of this couple, whose names I do not know, will always be a reminder to me of this. With chins up high and smiles wide, they were on a sure foundation. They felt it and we felt it. It brought peace amidst the storm. This has had a lasting impression upon me and helped me to reflect on the things I need to do as a husband and father to ensure that we are built upon that same foundation so that "when" (not if) the mighty winds come, as literal as that may be, we too can stand with testimonies firm, smiles wide, unmoved in our conviction that God is in charge and that all will be made right in the end.