FIRST LESSON OF THE ROAD…
First lesson of the road…good intentions and schedules don’t always match, so you might as well relax and go with the flow. Our goal was to be at our friend’s house in Denham Springs on Sunday night and beat the rain that weather.com had predicted. However, by 5 o’clock, Larry had had enough of driving through heavy downpours and fighting the wind. The Betsy LaRue may look solid, but, in high winds, she often acts as a very large sail, just like a semi-truck. We spot a large parking lot near the Sulphur, LA exit. It turns out to be a Stine Hardware (think Home Depot), but that’s not on our allstays.com list of accommodating stores. Oh well, might as well just ask. Larry gets out and meets an employee half way to the door.
“I was coming out to save you a trip in,” he says. “You’re welcome to park here as long as you’re out by the road.”
From the coach, I see them shake hands, so I take it as a good sign. Thank you Stine Hardware. The employees were super nice. It pays to ask.
It’s still windy the next morning, but there’s not much rain, thank goodness. Patches of blue sky appear, but it’s still heavily overcast and occasionally sprinkles. As expected, we’re warm and sticky, and we drive with windows open. There’s just enough cool in the rushing breeze to keep it pleasant.
LOCKHART ROAD BAPTIST CHURCH
By afternoon, we arrive at the Lockhart Road Baptist Church and the pastor’s home. It’s a pretty little church located in Denham Springs, LA, that serves as an oasis in more ways than in just a spiritual sense. Lee and Roberta have pastored this church for the past 19 years and raised 4 children here, right next to the church.
They’ve left the gate open for us and we pull into the parking lot just as Lee’s father, Ronald, arrives to direct us to the hook up. He tells us he’s been gone for about a week and is just getting home. Turns out, he also lives on property in the church’s “mission house.” Ron has been a church planter, pastor, missionary, and traveling evangelist for over 50 years. Today is his 79th birthday and he still travels and speaks, but has his home at LRBC.
“I’m gone about 50% to 2/3 of the time,” he tells us. He’s lively and friendly and offers to help us in whatever way we need. He definitely does not look or act his age – more like, maybe, early to mid-60’s.
“Now y’all don’t need to fix any supper tonight, ‘cause Roberta said she has fixed us an etouffee. Shrimp, I think. And believe me, it’s delicious!” His Louisiana roots shine through in his charming drawl. We learn that he was born in Columbia, Louisiana, and his wife of 64 years had been full blooded Cajun, so he knows good etouffee, no doubt. She passed about 3 years ago.
EVERYONE HAS A STORY WORTH TELLING
On the way here, I’d told Larry that I really wanted to see if there were any fascinating people who would let me write their story. Duh, I quickly see what a silly question that was. I’ve just spotted the first person I’ll ask to interview.
IT’S NEVER FLOODED HERE BEFORE! (Check out this link to see how devastating the flood was in this area).
Denham Springs (population 10,000+), in Livingston Parrish, was just close to 100% flooded during the August 13, 2016, flood except for here at the church property and a few surrounding homes. There’s either a small (invisible) rise where the church sits, or God just drew a line around it and said, “No further!” to the flood. Water completely surrounded the property, but not a building got wet. A couple hundred yards up the street at the stop light, water stood 2 1/2 feet deep. This small church, literally, stood as an oasis in the storm and later served as a staging area. At one point, they had over a thousand people here and about 750 people managed to squeeze inside to sleep. (More about this later.) Lee and Roberta were visiting their son in California at the time and could not get home for several days. She and I communicated by Facebook about the disaster over these last months. When we decided to come further south for the winter, I contacted her.
“We’d love to see you again, and, if any of your parishioners need help, we can do that too.”
“People will need help here for months,” she answered. “Come on down!”
WE’RE HERE FOR A WHILE… (Click for a video about why we’re here).
So, that’s why we’re here. Mainly to get to know Roberta again (we haven’t seen each other for about 45 years), but also to pitch in and help where and if we’re needed. Like all traumatic events, the August flood dominated the news for many days. Hundreds of people and dozens of organizations rushed in to help. Within about a week’s news cycle, though, the victim’s plight had pretty much been replaced by news of other world disasters. But, the hard part comes in the “afters.” After it’s not in the news…After the waters recede…After the helpers leave…After the fight with the insurance companies begins…
OH GOOD LORD…THE FOOD!
Roberta and Lee get home from their other jobs, come to the coach and welcome us. We may not have seen each other for over four decades, but I would have recognized her anywhere. We’ve never met Lee, but we all immediately hit it off.
“Come on over for supper in about 45 minutes, and we’ll have some Louisiana crawfish etouffee,” Roberta says.
We learn that this classic Cajun dish is a sort of stew served over Louisiana rice, and it’s so delicious! For sure, I need to learn how to make this dish! She makes it nicely spicy with a tinge of heat. For us it’s perfect. Lee and Ronald add Cajun hot sauce to their plates.
FIVE MONTHS LATER, THERE’S STILL A LOT TO DO
Today, Larry goes with Ron to hang cabinets in a parishioner’s home. They’ll return to their house tomorrow. He’ll be helping wherever he’s needed. Normally, I go along and pick up a broom or paint brush, too, but my bum knee has not been cooperating this past month, so I’ll be here writing. Telling stories of everyday people and, I expect, a few miracles along the way. I already see I could write for a long time and not make a dent in all the stories I see.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE FOOD…
But tonight, we’re looking forward to a dinner where Roberta and Lee’s daughter, Annie, serves a shrimp etouffee. Roberta says everyone makes theirs a little different, “but Annie’s is good!” I can’t wait!
“Y’all are family now!” Lee tells us. “You just come and join us!” Hmmmm…with an invitation like that, a delicious etouffee waiting in the wings, and the warm and loving welcome we’ve received, how could one help but feel at home. We’ll keep you posted.