BATON ROUGE, La. (BP)–As Hurricane Gustav crossed over Cuba, students of the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Louisiana State University were making the same safety preparations as others in Baton Rouge.
While many students decided to go home before the severe weather hit, others decided to stay in Baton Rouge to be available for ministry.
A team was formed through Facebook of students willing to help and a list of phone numbers was compiled so that communication could occur in case of Internet outages. In the event that phones were out, students were instructed to come to the BCM where two students would be there to direct volunteers to service opportunities.
The preparation paid off because BCM students were able to respond immediately to the university’s request for help and were among the first volunteers on the scene after Gustav left widespread damage across the city.
Fifteen students were able to fill the first several shifts at the campus dining hall that serviced dorm students and medical volunteers during the power outages across Baton Rouge.
As the BCM students and other Christian groups served all week, the campus staff and community took notice. “It makes you want to be a believer,” someone at the dining hall was overheard saying, “because all these Christians are doing all this work.”
Other students, meanwhile, partnered with local church members to help homeowners who had substantial tree damage. BCM director Steve Masters led a chainsaw team that was able to help residents whose roofs had caved in from the weight of uprooted trees. Because many Baton Rouge roads were closed off due to fallen power lines and trees, the need for trained assistance was urgent.
James Stewart’s house was punctured in a relatively minor way, but the massive oak blocked his driveway and covered his entire front yard. With roots and a mangled fence up in the air, it was difficult for the team to see exactly what had happened. Stewart explained that the tree was on his side of the fence but the roots stretched across to his neighbor’s property and the winds that gusted over 90 mph had pulled up the fence along with the tree.
“It would have been nice to go home,” LSU junior Nicole Maillet said, “but I knew I should stay here,” reflecting the high priority Masters have given to disaster relief.
On Thursday, Sept. 5, members of Sherwood Baptist Church were cleaning up their grounds but they had to wait to tend to the many missing shingles and the holes in their roofs because there were no tarps left in the city. FEMA reported that Gustav caused damage to an estimated 25,000 roofs in the state.
A message quickly went out to BCM students to collect tarps as soon as possible. One emerged within hours. Students who had returned to their hometowns were asked to bring as many tarps as they could when they returned to campus.
The Louisiana Baptist Convention sponsored a chainsaw certification class Saturday morning, Sept. 6, for college students and others wanting to aid with continuing efforts related to Hurricane Gustav and to be among the first to respond to future disasters. Twenty six students participated in the training.
“The Baptist students trained by Steve Masters are vibrant witnesses for Christ with their hands and their hearts,” said John L. Yeats, director of communications for the Louisiana Baptist Convention. “In football, LSU are national champions, but when it comes to being great in God’s Kingdom, you must be a servant. These students demonstrated the best of servanthood during these days of crisis.”
Mandy Trammel is the associate director of the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Louisiana State University and a correspondent for the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s communications team.