Eight Days Of Hope
Gallery: A common purpose united several Christian denominations from across the country. [7 Images] Click any image to expand.
Volunteers Rebuilding Acadiana
By Sherise Henry
The buzzing sound of chainsaws at work, friendly chatter and dozens of smiling faces surrounded the home of Alanda Arceneaux this summer as she became one of an estimated 200 homes helped by members of the Eight Days of Hope organization. The nearly 20-member crew reported for duty with cheerful hearts and hands dedicated to service. The goal of the mission has translated well among the more than 2,000 volunteers who gathered around the Lafayette area last month.
“Our passion is simple,” explains Steve Tybor, founder of Eight Days of Hope. “We urge the volunteers to set aside our petty differences for those eight days and just love and serve those in need. When we leave we will be physically exhausted, but our hearts will be full. Eight days will change people’s lives forever.”
A changed life is a sentiment of which homeowner Alanda Arceneaux of Abbeville could relate. A victim of last year’s August flooding, Arceneaux says she’s experienced depression since losing her home to the disaster. Her flooding and mold damage was so severe her home became unlivable.
“At first FEMA set me up at a hotel; then I went to my mom’s; then I stayed a month with my daughter in North Carolina. Finally, I came back in May to start doctors visits,” says Arceneaux. The Abbeville native said the constant change in living environments has taken a toll on her emotional health. Seeing the Eight Days of Hope crew at her home was a sign that better days lie ahead.
“I’m still emotional about what I loss, but just seeing them I feel better now. I feel progress,” says Arceneaux. She says losing her home was like losing a part of her peace. She says if the doctors hadn’t made her move out of her home, she probably would have still tried to live in it and confine herself to one room.
Volunteers assigned to the Arceneaux home came from as far away as Pennsylvania and Ohio and as nearby as College Station, Texas and Youngsville. Richard Seim from College Station has become a repeat volunteer with Eight Days of Hope and their sister organization Eight Days of Hope Rapid Relief. He never loses sight of the special blessing that comes from reaching out to others.
“The blessing comes from just being a part of something bigger than yourself, the camaraderie,” says Seim. “The family we help becomes our family. They become a part of us and we become a part of them. We want them to know we care for them. We can never get them back to where they were before the devastation, but we can help restart their lives.”
Seim and others worked on changing the roof and replacing the ceiling and floors of the Arceneaux home. Judy Harper is a volunteer from Louisiana who met Seim two years ago on another mission trip in Wilburton, Texas. She says every site during a mission has a story and creates a bond that forms lifelong friendships. She and Seim have become prayer partners since working together on her first mission. “The fellowship, the evening meals, hearing the homeowners’ stories, it all helps you form a bond,” she says.
Tim Thompson from Centerville, Pa. is one of the more decorated volunteers in Eight Days of Hope. This summer’s Lafayette mission gave him his seventh star. A star is placed on the name badge of every volunteer for each mission in which they become a part. He says he still remembers the story of the homeowner he first helped. Her name was Brenda and she lived on the north side of Nashville. Her son was recently shot and she lost her house; it was considered condemned. “We went from repairing the roof to reconstructing 60 percent of her home,” he recalls. Thompson’s love for mission work was something he shared while dating his now wife of two years Tina Thompson. Tina says she was so moved by his passion for helping others she became interested in the work and is now on her third star with Eight Days of Hope. “He kept telling me, ‘you got to go on a mission trip,’ and now I love it,” she says.
Eight Days of Hope is a Christian-based organization with 67 leaders in 27 states, eight different denominations were represented on their teams. The Arceneaux home included three volunteers who were Amish. Eva Miller of Sugarcreek, Ohio says denominations don’t matter when you’re serving a single purpose. She was thrilled with her first mission experience. “It’s pretty amazing what all of us can do when we come together, seeing everybody come together and serve this homeowner is really amazing.” As for Louisiana culture, Miller says she’s grown pretty fond of grits during her stay. “The grits were really good. Now we want to try crawfish,” she says. Marianna Miller of Fresno, Ohio agrees. “People are really great down here. The homeowner is extremely grateful, and we are glad we can help her out. I can’t imagine going through something like this; we haven’t had to experience anything like this,” says Miller.
Even volunteers near home are enjoying their Eight Days of Hope connection. Barbe English is from Youngsville and experienced major damage to her home during the August flood. She considers herself blessed to have had insurance, but she knows the feeling of loss that a disaster like the August flood can create and wanted to help. “I was listening to American Family Radio call for volunteers and I felt compelled to help,” English recalls.
Seim says this Lafayette mission is one of the largest he’s been a part of. He says with the impact Eight Days of Hope is having on the Lafayette area, he wouldn’t be surprised if he saw a few more Louisiana name tags on volunteer missions in the future. “When you are blessed, it just happens that some will want to be a blessing,” says Seim. “On this trip the volunteers came from California to New Hampshire, from Minnesota to Texas. We also got volunteers from Canada to Germany,” says Tybor.
As for homeowner Alanda Arceneaux, her opinion couldn’t be higher of these angels in white T-shirts who have surrounded her home. “They are excellent, wonderful, a gift from God.”
The budget for this Eight Days of Hope outreach effort was $600,000. Tybor says the Diocese of Lafayette and the United Way were instrumental in helping raise those funds and gave significant donations. Materials, food and supplies for the mission were all purchased in the Lafayette area. Those who want to become a part of Eight Days of Hope can visit the organization online at eightdaysofhope.com.