"Angels in white shirts and jeans," is how Freida Brian described a force of 48 full-time missionaries who helped the owners of seven homes clean up from the effects of a devastating flood recently .
Tearfully, Mrs. Brian said she and her husband, George, both in their 70s, had paid $200 a day to two workers before the missionaries from the Mississippi Jackson Mission arrived to help out."And the missionaries were far better workers," she said.
The flood was caused when a levee separating the flooded Chauvin Basin and a residential subdivision in north Monroe failed. The area – along with most of northeastern Louisiana – had been hit by severe rainstorms for several days, receiving as much as 12 inches in 24 hours.
Pumps along the levee also failed just before the collapse. Floodwater from the basin poured into the subdivision, rising as high as 5 feet in some places.
Clarke East, a member of the Monroe Ward, was aided by ward members in evacuating his home when the levee failed. "We were able to save just about everything inside our home," Brother East said. "Then we went next door and helped my neighbors."
After the evacuation work, homeowners had to wait for several weeks for floodwaters to recede. Then they faced even longer waits for contractors to make repairs. Contractors in northeastern Louisiana have been swamped with work since the area-wide flooding, which destroyed hundreds of homes.
Missionaries in Brother East's area found out that he did not have flood insurance and would have to wait weeks to get help from a contractor. They decided to volunteer to work on his home.
Facing similar plights, Brother East's neighbors asked him if they could also receive help from the missionaries.
Elder's Cory Niver and Darren Jones, zone leaders in Monroe, planned the service project and presented the plan to their mission president, Boyd C. Bulloch, for approval.
"Be there to help – scrubbing, cleaning, moving, repairing – whatever is needed," Pres. Bulloch instructed the missionaries. He also enlisted the help of missionaries from the neighboring Shreveport Zone.
Forty-two elders and six sisters from the two zones participated in "Operation Help-a-Neighbor."
The missionaries stripped walls down to the studs, pulled up carpet, moved out damaged furniture, swept floors, scrubbed cabinets and did general clean-up work in the seven homes.
"Next to baptizing it's the greatest missionary experience I've had," Elder Michael Tischner said.