For members of one local congregation, Labor Day weekend was a time of real labor as church members traveled to Louisiana to help minster to people who were impacted by the severe flooding there.
Richard Day, an 11th-grader at Houston County High School, was one of the members of Warner Robins First Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that spent his Labor Day holidays in Louisiana near Baton Rouge.
“The first day we spent about 6-7 hours just completely removing stuff like sheetrock and paneling from inside the house. It was the home of an elderly couple. Everything already had mold all over it,” Richard said.
Richard explained that while the homeowners had been relocated, their adult children came by to express their gratitude.
“We were a huge help to them. There were about 20 of us there so that was over 100 man hours. They could continue to work on their own homes while we worked on their parents’ house,” Richard said.
After cleaning out the first house, members moved on to a trailer park on the second day.
“There we helped them get their personal things out, sort through everything and take away the trash and ruined furniture,” Richard said. “If it was below the water line — about 3 feet — then it went in the trash.”
The trash wasn’t limited to the trailer park. Richard said that everywhere you went, on both sides of the road were huge mounds of sheetrock and belongings from people’s homes.
Richard said that the experience helped him realize the importance of doing mission work.
“We didn’t spend days and days but because there were so many of us, we could really help people begin to put their lives back together.
Robbie Howe, an eighth-grader at Warner Robins Middle School, said he was unprepared for the destruction.
“I have seen pictures of things like this, like Katrina. But it is very different seeing it in person. There were just these huge piles of trash beside all the houses. These people lost everything they owned, and it really made me want to continue to do things for others because I really took away the realization that I should be grateful.”
The group from First Ward camped at a local fairground. LDS mission groups are self-reliant — bringing their own tents, water and food.
Shannon Day, who is taking online college classes after graduating from Houston County High School, said the experience was emotional for both the homeowners and the workers.
“You are pulling out all this trash, but it used to not be trash, it used to be their things and you are taking everything out of a house to the side of the road to be hauled away. The smell is shocking. You pull up to the house and from the outside it doesn’t look bad and then inside the whole bottom half is ruined and moldy and smelly,” Shannon said.
Warner Robins First Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints joined with about 5,000 other church members from across the country on Labor Day Weekend. LDS congregations in Louisiana coordinated the need with government agencies and then sent out the word for others congregations to come help. The LDS church committed to three weekends.
Mike Rowland, Bishop of First Ward, said that the experience was a powerful one for the church members, especially the young people.
“Traveling hundreds of miles to serve people they have never met who have gone through this terrible tragedy, it is a beautiful thing. Service helps us to think outside of ourselves. Jesus Christ’s entire life was about service, and as we serve our brothers or sisters, whether in Warner Robins or in Louisiana, we are serving our Savior Jesus Christ,” Rowland said.
Rowland said there was a quote from Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that he had been reflecting on the past few months.
“The Savior taught His disciples, ‘For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.’ I believe the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives.”
“For me personally, the more I focus on serving others, the more I find purpose and meaning and happiness in my life,” Rowland said.
Shannon Day summed up the weekend of mission work with these words.
“You go to work for others and you are the one that benefits because you learn a lesson about being grateful and about being there for each other. That is what is important in life. Everything else — well, it could all be swept away in a flood at any time — literally.”
Alline Kent can be contacted at 396-2467 or firstname.lastname@example.org.