BSU travels to New Orleans to help victims

Streets near New Orleans were cleaned after the hurricanes went through the area. Debris and garbage were swept to the sides of the road to make room for emergency and official vehicles. Some houses were completely demolished during the storms and others remained standing. Students with the BSU saw the destruction first-hand after touring the area they were originally supposed to help clean up.

Special toThe Chart

Streets near New Orleans were cleaned after the hurricanes went through the area. Debris and garbage were swept to the sides of the road to make room for emergency and official vehicles. Some houses were completely demolished during the storms and others remained standing. Students with the BSU saw the destruction first-hand after touring the area they were originally supposed to help clean up.

Nate Billings

After a 16-hour van ride, some students found themselves face-to-face with disaster.

A group of 12 Missouri Southern students went to Algiers, La., near New Orleans to help serve food to those in need over the Thanksgiving break. From Nov. 19 to Nov. 26, the students served food from crowds of 5,000 to 9,000.

Jon Smith, director of the Baptist Student Union, took the students down to the area after the BSU started planning a mission trip after Hurricane Katrina.

“It’s a sign of how God is blessing our membership this year,” Smith said. “If we had gone last year, we would have only had leadership members.”

Smith said the group of students who went on the trip were not part of the leadership team, which is unusual from past years with other trips.

The plan originally called for the students to help clean up the area around the devastated parts of New Orleans. However, because of health risks and other problems, the group was moved to an area in need of food preparation.

“The more people we talked to, the more elevated the danger,” Smith said.

The trip was coordinated through the Calvary Baptist Church in Algiers along with the Red Cross.

The students who went said the trip was worth it.

“I signed up right away,” said Donna Brewster, junior elementary education major. “It put into perspective what other people are going through.”

Brewster said she wanted to go down as soon as she had heard about what had happened with the hurricane damage.

Brian Gunnels, sophomore general business major, also wanted to go as soon as possible.

“I had thought about just dropping [classes] and going,” he said. “It would have been a pain to do so. And, then this popped up.”

Gunnels said he knew the group was not in the worst part of the damage, but he said he knew the group was helping in some capacity as the Red Cross workers helped the students and the students help the workers.

“The organization down there was just awesome,” he said.

The students served several meals each day.

They had to get up at around 4:30 a.m. For some, they said this was the hardest part of the trip. For others, it came when they saw the damage on a tour of the hour.

“It was just everywhere,” said Christine Hatcher, freshman undecided major.

“You couldn’t get away from there.”

She said she had not known the extent of the damage until she had seen it up close.

“It’s going to take years,” Hatcher said.

Smith said while the group was touring the areas where it was originally going, he could see where the water had crested on the homes.

Several of the homes had no water lines as they had been completely covered by the wave.

“Along the coast, there is no one to serve,” Smith said. “And if that isn’t eerie enough, there is spray paint on the homes.”

He said the workers told them about the codes spray-painted on some buildings.

The codes represented the address, insurance company and body count.

“Mile after mile you drive and it never gets better,” he said.

The trip allowed the students to see those affected by the storms in a personal manner through working with them day by day.

“The toughest thing was seeing the people living out of their cars,” Gunnels said.

“There is just so much that needs to be done and all we could do that week is cook meals.”

Gunnels said the trip was important and displayed the message of the BSU beyond the boundaries of the campus.

“It’s the plainest and simplest way to serve Christ,” he said.

During the students’ free time, they passed out Bibles to all who wanted them. In all, they passed out more than 470 Bibles.

The students were there Thanksgiving Day.

They served a turkey dinner to all those who came. For some, their parents wondered why they went.

“They (my parents) didn’t like the idea about me being away, but I explained to them how important it was,” said Jordan Wendland, freshman pre-med major.

Wendland said when he returned, he told them about how bad the damage was.

The students said they came back with several things.

“It was just serving and producing the food and spirit at the same time,” Brewster said.

“I didn’t think I would have come away without a sense of how needy the people were,” Wendland said. “We accumulated more compassion for people.”

The students all said they would go back if they had the chance to do so.

Smith said he was pleased with the turnout and hoped the students would bring their stories back for others on campus and at the BSU.

“They need anyone to help even if you don’t get paid,” Brewster said.

The BSU is located north of the campus on Duquesne Road.

There is a weekly meeting at 7:02 p.m. every Thursday.