Shorter students help continued Katrina cleanup

By Aimee Madden

Published: May 21, 2009

Tracy Batchelor/Shorter College

Sarah Massey, bending, shaves a few inches off a piece of drywall while, left to right, Zachary Ali Akvan, Kaitlin Rachel Wood, and Grant Kersey look on. Roughly 2,000 students connected through Georgia Baptist Collegiate Ministries took part in similar mission trips this past semester.

NEW ORLEANS — It was only one out of the thousands of homes in New Orleans that Hurricane Katrina brought down, and just one of many that love has been able to build back up.

For weeks, the small New Orleans East home stood wallowed in more than seven feet of muddy, stagnant water. Four years after Hurricane Katrina, the home’s former occupant is still living with relatives.

In March, 11 Shorter College students, led by staff members Tracy Batchelor and Grant Kersey, were part of New Orleans Seminary’s Mission Lab program. Partnering with the local New Orleans non-profit group Building Better Communities, they were assigned to help restore the damaged home. This marked the fourth consecutive year Shorter students helped with cleanup from Hurricane Katrina.

Greeted with a mountain of dusty drywall and a crash course in Installation 101, the students were put to work the moment they arrived.

“The flooring, brick walls and the roof were intact,” recalled Batchelor, who is a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Rome. “We basically walked in on Monday and learned to install drywall from start to finish.”


Work into witness

Wielding hacksaws, carpenter squares, and chalk snap lines, the students were divided into groups for work. Seven days and several tons of drywall later, the home was one step closer to becoming a safe haven again.

Most daylight hours were consumed with hard work, but students didn’t lose sight of showing Christ-like compassion.

Shayla Raines, a freshman biology and chemistry major who attends Warner Robbins Second Baptist Church, was taken aback by the ease of witnessing to total strangers. “God showed me so much on this trip, but most of all He showed me His unconditional love.

“I saw how God used His hands of grace to help people through the toughest times of their lives.”

The mission trip also gave students time to participate in local worship services.

“The community created on this trip was like no other,” said Britt Hester, a senior communications major and member of First Baptist Church in Ft. Payne, Ala. “Never have I been on a trip where I felt constantly bathed in prayer. Although you go with intention to serve others, you actually leave feeling as though you’ve been the one served.”

Aimee Madden is a public relations specialist at Shorter College.


Tracy Batchelor/Shorter College

Kaitlin Rachel Wood and Zachary Ali Akvan move in sheets of dry wall as part of their restoration effort in New Orleans.