LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - Two weeks ago, when a deadly tornado carved a path of destruction through Louisville, Mississippi, First Baptist Church in Long Beach quickly organized a relief mission. A team of volunteers spent this past weekend helping with the clean-up and recovery efforts. They captured images that they will never forget.
"It was shocking to me at just how bad it was. I was a big, powerful storm, and there were places where it appeared it sucked the grass right out of the ground," said Chris Schevers.
He saw the devastation first-hand when he drove through Louisville over the weekend. Schevers and ten other volunteers from First Baptist Church of Long Beach drove more than four hours through a severe thunderstorm to help the tornado-ravaged community.
"When the pastor sent out the word Sunday in church, he made it clear that there's a need. So I felt compelled to go," said Schevers.
The team removed debris, cut trees, hauled away limbs, and repaired fences. Three of the volunteers were children, including ten-year-old John Marc Strebeck.
"After Katrina, they came down to help rebuild so I wanted to go up there and try to help rebuild the devastation," he said.
John Marc was too young to remember Hurricane Katrina, but the stories he heard from his parents were enough to convince him to reach out to others.
"I felt really sad inside that they lost their homes and their places. It felt really great that I could just go up there and help them," said John Marc.
The volunteers helped six families. Some of their most memorable images were the signs and symbols in front of many homes.
"As we drove through this area that's really torn up, there were stumps with crosses that had been sculpted into them," said Thomas Watts.
When asked what it meant, he replied, "That even in the most darkest times, God is always there beside us."
"You think they feel blessed and you realize that they got out of there with their lives and that's what was important to them," said Schevers.
The volunteers say they feel blessed to be able to help the families on their first steps toward recovery.
"The physical labor is good, but the example that you set and the message that you bring: Whenever there's a need, to get out there, roll up your sleeves and go to work," said Schevers.
Several volunteers say the experience has inspired them to want to return to Louisville to help with more recovery projects and to sign-up for other relief mission trips.
"I remember how much it felt for me to have people help down here, and to be able to help. So it's well worth the feeling to help take care of others when they can't help themselves out," said Watts.
"I feel really great about what I've done, really can help change lives," said John Marc.