Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Water is an amazing, powerful and destructive force. I have never been so impressed by it before I saw what it did to people’s homes during Hurricane Katrina. The 2 houses I helped to clean out were flooded by 6 to 7 feet of water. The water came and went in less than a week, but the clean-up process I was a part of didn’t start until 3 weeks after the storm.

The first thing you notice in a house like this is the smell. It is a stink that I would liken to a nasty diaper that is scented with air-borne mold. After you pick yourself up from the smell you see that the water has jostled every item in the house and nothing is where it should be. Couches are moved, hutches are tipped over, dining room sets are spread through the dining room, refrigerators are knocked over and anything smaller than a breadbox has been ripped from its appointed spot and tossed on the floor. Add to this mess a couple of inches of soft, black, moist mud and you get the visual. The first order of business is to get the fridge and freezer out of the house—they stink. Imagine leaving your house for three weeks with no power—what treasures would be waiting in your ice box for you? Usually we would wrap these appliances with duct tape and get them outside. Once outside we put them near the street where we also deposit everything else that comes out of the house. I’m told some government agency will be by eventually to pick up everyone’s piles. They are in front of every house and they do not smell good. (I can’t imagine what hurricane Rita did to all of these piles.) Once the friges are out we deal with the washing machine. Without power the washer can’t pump water out of its basin and the flood waters were high enough that they have filled it with stench water. We would try to get this liquid yuck out of the house before dumping so it wouldn’t add to the aromas. Once the big appliances are out we would carry everything else out and pile it by the street. On most of the jobs we also had a Bobcat tractor to help transport and pile stuff at the street. The Bobcat was a huge help.

After everything was out we’d pull up the carpet and pad to reveal a concrete foundation. Then we would pull the sheetrock off the walls and remove any insulation. During all of this work you are constantly finding mold. It covers the walls. It is in the wettest parts of the mud. It also takes many forms as it lives on food items in the kitchen, each with a different color and smell.

Anything that can hold water and was closer than 7 feet to the floor is filled with nastiness. Dishes in cupboards are filled. Totes that the homeowner used to store things in are now filled with flood water. Hauling these out was precarious and I inevitably would get some spilled on me.

It would take a crew of 10 about a day and a half to do all of this, but when it was finished the homeowners were thrilled. One homeowner we helped told my friend Johno that she wondered where God was during all of the destruction. When she saw our crew she figured she had seen Him. She called us the arms and hands of God. I am humbled to be allowed to be used in such a way. (I am also sure that God is more involved in the clean-up than He was in the destruction.)

I’ll post more about my trip tomorrow.


Blogger Johnny said...

I am amazed at your description. The devastation is beyond my imagination. People who volunteer to work in those conditions truly have to be the arms and legs of God. I am proud of you and all the others who sacrifice in this way.

Wed Sep 28, 10:00:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Johnathan M. Thomas said...

hey J, great words... I really like this quote,

"I spoke with one homeowner who said she wondered where God was during all of the destruction. When she saw our crew she figured she had seen Him. She called us the arms and hands of God."

Very interesting. ;-)


Wed Sep 28, 11:27:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Jason Hill said...

Johno, I assume you are diggin' on me a little. I have updated this post to correctly depict the actual events. I meant no harm when I wrote it. You were the recipient of Romona's kind words. I was only relaying what you told me she said.

One thing is for sure, God is being glorified as His people help with aid to huricane victims. I believe that He is at work and that the destruction that satan planned with ultimately backfire as God sends His workers to rebuild this area.

Wed Sep 28, 09:14:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Johnathan M. Thomas said...

OK! You got me. You know I have to give you a hard time... I miss you.

Don't worry about the stories... They are everyones stories. Sometimes we tell it like Matthew, sometimes like Mark who was told the story by a first person and sometimes like Luke the investigator.

Listen, if I can use your definition of fridge stank... You know, "death with rotten veggies, with death on top of that, etc..." Then use it all to bring glory to the Father.

In the end the deal is this... I love giving you a hard time. Just a weird way to show my love.


Wed Sep 28, 11:21:00 PM PDT  
Blogger kristi w said...

J - great descriptions of what your senses encountered while helping out. It helps us remember what all of those families are experiencing today.

I got an email today from my brother, Steve, who lives in Indiana. He was also helping down there - at Tammany Oaks. You may have been there the same time.

I've said it before, but I am very proud of you guys.

Wed Sep 28, 11:53:00 PM PDT  

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