No sooner had Hurricane Ida struck southern Louisiana on August 29 than Foursquare Pastors Alex Montealegre and John Elliott, and two volunteers, departed for a nearly 400-mile drive to deliver water, generators, gasoline and other supplies to victims of the massive storm.
The goods were part of an initial $50,000 worth of goods and $25,000 in funds dispatched to the Bayou State by Foursquare Disaster Relief (FDR). With special offerings collected at local churches over Labor Day weekend, that figure is expected to increase.
FDR Director Chad Isenhart is overseeing the effort. The initial shipment included eight generators for the Foursquare churches in the area.
“We focused our efforts on the pastors so they could have some power in their churches,” says Alex, senior pastor of La Vida Regional Cuadrangular (Foursquare Regional Life) in Angleton, Texas. “John did a fantastic job finding generators.”
Among the donations to FDR were three semi-truck loads of three-gallon water bottles donated by a water company in Houston. Along with John, senior pastor of Gulf Coast (Hitchcock Foursquare Church) in Hitchcock, Texas, Alex delivered one load on a return trip over Labor Day weekend. He was impressed with the size of the shipment and the bottles, which he says were more useful than individual, 16-ounce servings.
“I’m 6-foot-2, and the pallets came to my chest,” says Alex, whose past work with FDR includes hosting a food distribution at La Vida after ice and snowstorms blanketed Texas in mid-February. “Everyone was excited about that. They need water for everything from drinking to doing dishes.”
The water and other supplies were delivered to Foursquare churches in Houma (an hour southwest of New Orleans), Bourg and Dulac. All eight were seriously damaged by Ida, although no repair estimates are available yet.
Although the latest hurricane to strike Louisiana caused a fraction of the deaths caused by Katrina in 2005, Alex says government officials and veterans of disaster work told him in many ways Ida was worse.
The Angleton pastor says he can see why after visiting the state twice, with a third trip planned for Sept. 9. Ida lasted for more than eight hours with winds of 140 to 150 miles per hour, ripping off numerous roofs and leaving countless communities with no electricity. According to national news reports, the outages could last for weeks.
“Right now, we’re still in phase one. We’re bringing supplies, and as much as we can; we want to bring what they need.”
— Alex Montez
“In a bunch of towns 10 to 15 minutes apart, there are 24,000 light poles down,” Alex reports. “When we came Aug. 30, our last meal was at Whataburger at 1 p.m., and we didn’t eat until 4 p.m. the next day. We took water, Gatorade, snacks and dried fruit to sustain ourselves.”
In addition to corporate donations, relief supplies came from Atlanta-based Fountain of Hope. The ministry is operated by Refuge West (Marietta Refuge Foursquare Church) in Marietta, Ga., which maintains a warehouse for emergencies.
Alex cautions that people who want to help should avoid traveling to southern Louisiana until things settle down. He says sending volunteer teams would cause logistical problems for pastors trying to host them when no restaurants or other facilities are open. Those who are interested in volunteering at a later date can email the FDR team.
Numerous pastors have called Alex, offering to donate different items, but he tells them to give to Foursquare Disaster Relief or only supplies that are specifically needed.
“Tarps to cover roofs are a huge thing right now,” the pastor says. “There’s some vinyl plastic stuff that comes in big rolls that we’re looking for because it will cover a whole roof; it will have to be trucked in.
“Right now, we’re still in phase one,” he continues. “We’re bringing supplies, and as much as we can; we want to bring what they need. Our Sept. 9 trip will include a full load of water and generators, and other things we can find.”
The story of the first two FDR missions includes such drama as a pair of government officials meeting Alex’s group in Houma late the evening of Aug. 30 and (with help from several others) literally clearing a path for the team through fallen trees and telephone poles. That enabled them to reach Vision Christian Center (Bourg Foursquare Church) in nearby Bourg.
There were touching moments, too. The pastor of First Baptist Church in Cameron and several members of a family in thechurch drove more three hours to deliver supplies and food to Anchor Foursquare Church (Grand Caillou LA Foursquare Church), pastored by Norbert Billiot, in Dulac on Labor Day. The grandfather of the family had been through a hurricane last year and wanted to help victims of the latest one.
“They didn’t care that we were Foursquare,” Alex says. “They just came to help. We’re the family of God. We’re supposed to love God and people, and serve God and people. That’s all that matters.
“I would call on all the pastors and congregations who read this to be the church of Jesus Christ and unite in Him like never before,” continues Alex. “We need to be the family of God we’re called to be. Thank you, Foursquare family, for your prayers and donations.”