By Vincent St. Jean, as told to Emily Mokler Contributing Writer and Assistant Editor
InterVarsity, the on campus Christian fellowship group, volunteered at ServeUp during Spring Break, arriving in Baton Rouge, Louisiana after a 30-hour bus ride. We were just some of the hundreds of college students from around the country to help communities rebuild after extensive flooding back in 2016.
Our group from UMF were split into two task groups. My group helped rebuild a man’s house. Drywall, putting in new flooring, painting so he can move back in. The water damage was very evident, very significant. You don’t get a sense of what it’s like until you see it in person.
The other group built a wheelchair ramp for an elderly man who was a recent double amputee. His son had to carry him up and down the stairs for doctors appointments. The people we helped are poor, they lost everything to the floods and they couldn’t afford to replace what they lost.
One of the guys we worked with named Saul, he lived in a garage. He couldn’t sleep in his
own room because of expansive damage.
I felt pulled to go to Baton Rouge. I prayed a lot and was strongly pulled to do it, something wanted me to go. I realized that I should do this. There are people who don’t have houses after the flooding. We were there to share Jesus’s love to others, and let it shine through us.
When we weren’t helping with the construction work, we had a lot of community time. We’d catch up with each other and talk about the day. We had the opportunity to go to New Orleans, wander around the French Quarter. There were Jazz musicians walking around, buildings that had no doors, it’s so different from Maine.
We got together as a group and read the story Lazarus. We talked about how characters in the story coped with stress and loss. We read the same passage every day and I saw something new each time. We talked about how we cope with loss. It got emotional very fast.
Before we left, we gave the homeowner a piece of drywall with our signatures on it. When we were leaving, he was waving. He was really shy, didn’t talk to us much, but he opened up to us by the end and was beaming as we left. Genuine happiness.
We were there during the second week of ServeUp, there’s another group down there now. We didn’t finish the house in the week we were there, but the next group will, and that’s reassuring.
We were all there for the same purpose, it’s a little sad to leave it. I’ve been adding so many people on Facebook since I got back.
I want people to know that if you want to volunteer next year, anyone can come along and help.