6:00 P.M. EST April 8, 2010 | SLIDELL, La. (UMNS)
Linda Meyer stands on the steps of her new home with Louisiana United
Methodist Disaster Response volunteer Glenn Hawthorne. The trailer in
the background has been her home since 2006. A UMNS photo by Betty
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A helping hand from United Methodists has turned life around for Linda
Meyer, a survivor of Hurricane Katrina.
Representatives of Louisiana’s United Methodist Disaster Response
Ministry gathered March 26 with volunteers from around the United States
to dedicate a new home they had built for Meyer.
It was a milestone in a journey that has been marked by tragedy and
Meyer’s struggles were only beginning when Hurricane Katrina struck the
Gulf Coast in 2005, destroying her home in Slidell, La. Several months
later, she and her husband, John, were issued a trailer by the Federal
Emergency Management Agency that they placed on their wooded property in
Slidell. The trailer sat on the very spot where their mobile home stood
before the storm.
“When Katrina hit, John and I were nearly finished remodeling our home.
My husband had a shop on our property that he used for his automotive
customizing business. John and I didn’t make a lot of money, but we were
happy,” said Meyer, 58.
Then on April 13, 2006, the unthinkable happened: John lit a cigarette
and the trailer’s propane tank exploded. Linda survived the accident,
but John died as a result of his injuries.
Still stunned by the tragedy, Meyer went to live temporarily with
relatives in Pearl River, La. Family members mentioned her situation to a
company that ultimately donated a used trailer to her.
“They gave me the trailer on Memorial Day of 2006. It took a few months
to prepare it for living in, but I was determined to come back home.
This was where John and I lived for 26 years. It was comforting for me
to be there,” Meyer said.
Teamwork involving the Louisiana United Methodist Disaster Response
Ministry, area pastors and others resulted in the new home for Linda
Meyer (pictured second from right). A UMNS photo by Betty Backstrom.
View in Photo Gallery
She began looking everywhere she could for help in rebuilding her home.
“Unfortunately, at the time of Katrina, we had no insurance on our
home,” she explained.
She received promises of help from several organizations. When none of
them materialized, she began to lose hope of ever having a permanent
home on her property.
‘I prayed so hard’
One day, Meyer’s mother-in-law noticed an ad for the Louisiana United
Methodist Disaster Response Ministry in the local paper. She made an
appointment with Dale Kimball, special projects manager, to discuss her
“I remember going to church several days before the appointment. I was
so down, and I prayed so hard. I told God that I just couldn’t handle it
all anymore,” she said.
Kimball recalls his first meeting with Meyer. “When she came in, she
just kept saying, ‘If you can’t help me, please tell me up front.’ It
was obvious that she had been disappointed many times,” he said.
With the help of donations and volunteer labor, the United Methodist
disaster response ministry in Louisiana was able to give Meyer the home
she needed. Work on the raised structure began Jan. 21 and was completed
on March 7.
Meyer’s home was completed during a “building blitz” in the New Orleans
area that involved 21 disaster response teams from 12 states and three
foreign countries. “A total of 540 volunteers were involved in the
blitz,” said Kimball. “In addition to Linda’s home, three additional
homes were framed, and the teams worked on 19 other projects.”
‘Early Christmas present’
From the beginning, Meyer was impressed with the help she received from
the United Methodist response ministry. “When I spoke to their group, it
was such a different experience. There were no false promises. No ‘We
can’t help you because we’re leaving town.’ The Methodists have been
helping people from the very beginning (of the storm).”
A photo of the Meyers' FEMA trailer following the 2006 explosion. A UMNS
photo courtesy of Louisiana Disaster Response Ministry.
View in Photo Gallery
Susan Arnold, 30, worked on the Meyer build with the Louisiana Disaster
Response Ministry. A long-term disaster response volunteer from
Zionsville, Ind., Arnold served briefly as assistant site manager for
the ministry’s Slidell office.
“It was such a joy to see Linda’s face light up when we told her that we
had obtained the permit to build her home. It was kind of like giving
her an early Christmas present,” said Arnold, who grew up as a member of
Zionsville United Methodist Church.
Arnold left her job as an elementary school teacher to serve in
Louisiana. “I loved teaching, and was just about to complete my master’s
degree. But God was pulling me in a different direction. At first, I
kind of ignored him,” she said with a laugh.
After participating in several Volunteers In Mission hurricane-relief
missions, she “really started praying” to discern the pull she felt
toward disaster-response work. She shared her desires with VIM trainers,
who connected her with the Louisiana Disaster Response office. They
offered her a job.
The Louisiana United Methodist Disaster Response Ministry has helped
survivors recover from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike. Working
with United Methodist Committee on Relief, the Louisiana organization
has gutted 6,200 homes, completed 3,818 rebuilds and 2,352 new builds.
Case management has been provided to more than 18,500 families since
“To date, the ministry has overseen the response efforts of more than
5,900 teams providing nearly 72,000 volunteers,” Kimball said. “The
volunteers have served close to 3 million hours of donated time.”
During the dedication of her new home, Meyer was overwhelmed as she
tearfully offered her thanks to the dozens of volunteers who helped with
the project. “I can definitely say this is truly God’s house.”
*Backstrom is editor of Louisiana Now!, the newspaper of the United
Methodist Church’s Louisiana Annual Conference.
News media contact: Joey Butler or Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615)
742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.