Sunday, August 29, 2021 Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana and she left massive destruction wherever she went. This blog post is specifically about the damage at my church, Trinity Baptist Church on Pumpkin Center Road in Hammond, Louisiana.
The damage at our church is no where near as bad as a lot I’ve seen in that area. It is just personal to me so I want to document what happened and share it with ya’ll.
Some of these photos may be clickable to enlarge. Some may not. I am not able to tell on my phone which is which. When I finally get internet back or go to the library again I’ll add my usual gold sign letting you know they are clickable.
A lot of Hammond has had power restored. My house for one. The church and all the Pumpkin Center area of Hammond still has no power as of today September 12, 2021 when I began writing this. That makes the recovery situation worse.
We had no Worship Service the day of the hurricane. The last two Sundays a lot of us met in the Sanctuary to worship God together at 8 am while it was still cool enough to not sweat. What a glorious morning it was both Sundays! God is so good all the time!
Going backward in time a little bit. Wednesday, September 8th Chip and I returned from our evacuation in Arkansas. I had heard that the church flooded and a roof blew off one of the smaller buildings. I went to the church campus to see first hand what had happened there.
I took a few pictures and others sent me even better photos. I asked the church staff to share with me their experiences at the church right after the storm and they did. I wasn’t there right after the Hurricane and didn’t see and feel what they experienced so I’ll tell what I can and leave it to them to tell the real story.
First I want to acknowledge the generous help from church folks at other churches around the country that have been clearing out debris and tree limbs, getting the affected church buildings gutted, concession stand metal and other roof materials hauled off and other jobs getting it all ready for when the reconstruction work can begin.
Sandy Creek Baptist Church from Pride, Louisiana
Arkansas Baptist Convention group
A group from Redemption Church in Lacombe, Louisiana came as well. I don’t have pictures of their group or the work they did.
Another group from a church in Wewahitchka Florida came to serve food and also helped with the cleanup. I wrote about their food efforts in a separate post. Check it out!
Our staff will share more further down about what each group did for us.
My description of the damage from what I saw is this.
The Education Building and the newly renovated Youth Building took in water. In this area of the country, with the heat and humidity, if just a few inches of water gets in, at the very least the bottom portion of the sheetrock and insulation have to be removed and everything dried out before new walls can be put up. Without electricity at the church, generators have been powering the huge fans trying to dry everything out.
Our Youth Building had an extensive major remodel less than a year ago. During Ida a wooden pole blew through a window in the back of the building allowing rain to come inside. I didn’t go in that building so I didn’t see what Jonah Kyle will share later on down.
The Education Building is two floors and was our main building for years. The first floor had to be mostly gutted down to the studs and it is still being dried out three weeks later. All of the children’s and nursery toys and supplies were removed and sterilized. The second floor that used to be our Sanctuary and is now children’s Sunday School and Trinity Kids meeting rooms did not flood. I don’t know if work will be needed up there.
These pictures below are before and after the rooms were gutted.
At first the Sanctuary building appeared to be okay. However, it was later discovered that the men’s restroom and cleaning supply room took in water and all the sheetrock and toilets had to be removed. The Arkansas Baptist workers started that demolition as soon as church was over. I told those workers how much we enjoyed our evacuation to their great state and how we really appreciate what they are doing for us.
The softball field’s concession stand’s damage was mostly to the exterior as the wind ripped the roof off. It will have to be completely replaced. The ceiling inside looks rough and may have to be replaced. Some of the roofing over the bleachers came loose and will have to be fixed or replaces.
Now onto our church staff’s eyewitness reporting.
First, our Pastor Avery Dixon.
“When I saw the destruction I thought…. this is gonna be a lot of work. I wasn’t upset or worried. I knew we needed to upgrade the building anyway and saw it as a good opportunity to do so. So I immediately began to contact Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Disaster Relief and the Northshore Baptist Association to see if we can get some help cleaning.
Courtney had a friend with a youth group that volunteered to clean up some… so that was the first step. They brought everything we were gonna save outside.
A friend of mine, the Pastor from Redemption Church Byron Brown, contacted me offering to bring a group. He brought a group to cut out all the damaged sheetrock from the education building and clean it up. They also cut the tree that had fallen in the back. They did an exceptional job.
Meanwhile I had secured a dump trailer from Raymond Galatas and borrowed Spot Traylor’s truck to get the trailer. I was able to get Slim Traylor to go get it. They loaded it all the way up but it had two flat tires. That took a week to get someone to come fix it. Finally I was able to get it fixed, borrowed Spot’s truck and hauled it to the dump. That dump was an ordeal I don’t want to repeat.
Jonah and his family and Brock had been clearing stuff from the youth building and cutting out some sheetrock.
The SBC disaster relief sent a team of college students and a couple adults to work on the rest of our building. The sanctuary needed the bathroom completely gutted as well as the storage closet adjacent to it. The youth building needed more sheetrock removal as well. They took all of the demolished material and trash to the road.
It has been a long road and there is so much more to do but God has provided help. I have been very optimistic and thankful to God it wasn’t worse.
I tell people… if we weren’t doing this we would be doing something else. It’s nothing but work.”
Next up, our Youth Minister Jonah Kyle Traylor. (One of my favorite young men in the universe!)
“As soon as we took a pirogue across the driveway to get off our property, we checked on the neighbors and went straight to the church.
The first thing I noticed when we pulled up was the decent-size oak tree down by the softball field, which ultimately led to me seeing the entire concession stand roof had been ripped off by the wind.
Walking up to the back of the youth building, I noticed there was a wooden post that flew through and busted a back window to the youth building. We later found out it was from a new fence that had been put up around an A/C unit near the building.
As I looked through the broken window, I saw there was broken glass scattered all around, and I could see some water damage. At this point, I figured this was all from the window as an entry point. I then noticed that some items, such as a chest and a garbage can, had been moved. I walked in the front door to see
some puddles of water on the floor. I still was not sure what had happened, but then I noticed the water line, and it clicked. The building had flooded… again.
The water had already receded, but it explained the puddles, moved items, and thin dirty layer on the floor. I had just found out I had lost my truck that morning to a tree, so it was a rush of emotions going through my head. We had just finished the youth building remodel less than 10 months before. From the water lines, I’m guessing we got about 6 inches of water in the back game room / college and career area and about 3 inches in the front living, kitchen, dining, and worship areas.
My parents, brother, and I started getting things out, cleaning, drying stuff, and getting furniture out of sitting water that same day. From what I have seen so far, I don’t think we lost anything major, which is a blessing.
I checked the Education building that same day to notice it had gotten water as well, which meant the Nursery, several Sunday School rooms, His Kids storage, and my office all had damage also.
Some of the Sandy Creek Baptist Church youth group came up that same week to help clean up the education building and a church family’s home, the Whisenhunts, who had sadly flooded during the storm.
Another group from a Mississippi church, with a connection to Bro. Avery, came in the following week to do some heavy-duty demolition to the Education building. This building has needed some desperate renovations for a while now to make it more functional for our children’s ministry, so I think God’s timing with it all was pretty perfect as always.
As far as the youth building goes, my best friend and fellow church member, Brock Daniels, spent a few hours with me ripping out sheetrock and wet insulation in preparation for us to put the youth building back together again. Yes, I was very disheartened to see much of our hard work in the building go to waste. The youth are proud of their space, and I have already seen it be a clear factor in the growth of our ministry. However, we will rebuild and grow from this.
In the end, it’s just stuff. It’s stuff that helps us grow our church, but it’s stuff. Lord willing, we will have everything back to normal as soon as possible. I miss the kids so much and just want to see their faces. Many of them, along with many other amazing church members, spent this past Thursday and Friday handing out free lunches to people of the community.
From COVID-19 to hurricane damage, it is very easy to feel overwhelmed or defeated, but just as in many times in the past, I have seen through these past couple of weeks how close, selfless, and quick to serve our congregation is. Most importantly, I have seen the goodness and faithfulness of God.
Many church families and members of the community have suffered greatly and have lost much, but God is steadfast through the storm. We must remember this as we continue on, especially during this time.”
Our Children’s Minister, the always fabulous Courtney Jones shares her experience next.
“The effects of Hurricane Ida definitely took everyone by surprise. Morgan and I were able to get out of our neighborhood safely on Monday after the storm.
People were already out working on their yards and so many trees were down everywhere. We drove around checking on friends and family and the church is one of the first places we went.
As we drove in, I saw the light pole out front bent over and the tree down in the back by the new building. I walked over to see if the tree had missed the Gaga ball pit (it had) and that’s when I saw the first piece of tin.
The effects of Hurricane Ida definitely took everyone by surprise. Morgan and I were able to get out of our neighborhood safely on Monday after the storm. People were already out working on their yards and so many trees were down everywhere. We drove around checking on friends and family and the church is one of the first places we went. As we drove in, I saw the light pole out front bent over and the tree down in the back by the new building. I walked over to see if the tree had missed the Gaga ball pit (it had) and that’s when I saw the first piece of tin.
As I walked around the corner I saw the roof of the concession stand scattered on the ground near the bleachers. I walked up the stairs and took a few pictures, then I walked around by the youth building and noticed some fencing falling down a fence post through the pack window of the youth building. I glanced in the window and saw that it was wet inside. I figured it was only because the window had broken. Next stop, education building!
We passed by the graveyard, disarrayed by the many limbs of a nearby pine tree and we entered the education building through the side door. I immediately noticed the water on the floor, then the smell. I shined my flashlight into all of the rooms as we walked through the building assessing the damage. Thankfully the water didn’t get very high, but it was still hard to process in the moment. After that, I went into all of the other buildings to check for flooding. That’s when I realized the water in the youth building wasn’t just from a broken window. That same day, other churches began to reach out offering help however needed. Since then, we have had 3 groups come out and help from the following churches/organizations: Sandy Creek Baptist Church; Redemption Church of Lacombe; Arkansas Disaster Relief/ Arkansas BCM.
The work these groups have done has been so encouraging to me! They have cleaned up the church grounds; gutted the youth building, education building, one of our church member’s homes (Johnnie and Mike Whisenhunt), and a few rooms in the back of the sanctuary; sanitized toys; moved furniture to the gym; cleaned out refrigerators and freezers, prayed for us; and mopped floors.
It’s been tough watching the education building be ripped apart, but I also see it as a blessing in disguise.
This disaster has brought so many people together to lift one another up in times of need and opened so many opportunities for people to serve. We were planning to renovate the children’s building in the future, but now we literally get to start from the ground up.
I know many people have lost many things because of this storm and I was very blessed to not have home damage. I am so thankful for the opportunities to serve that I’ve had and that these groups have had in all this.
There’s also beauty to be found even in the midst of this. I have loved our new 8am worship on Sundays while there’s no power. During the first one, I heard the story of the Spitzer family’s hurricane experience. A tree fell on their living room with their son in it and he ran out with insulation all over him and they drove during the storm and made it to the hospital. I remember his mom crying and saying “ These aren’t tears of sadness, these are happy tears because my son is alive.” She also talked about how the damages to their home could be fixed because it’s just stuff and how gracious God was to them.
I’ve adopted that same mindset about the damages at the church. At the end of the day, it can all be fixed or replaced. God is still good and worthy of praise.”
Electricity was restored to the church on September 15th or 16th. Getting power to that road required shutting down the I-55 for a period of time. The pole in front of the church has line coming in at angles making it a challenging repair and requiring multiple trucks and men to make the single repair that took hours.
We were able to Worship God Sunday at our regular time and in the cool air! Changes are being planned for where to put the Sunday School classes displaced from the affected buildings.
When the restoration work is complete I’ll share photos with ya’ll!
Thank you to those who helped me with photos and to our amazing church staff who took the time to share their experiences with us all.