In the waning days of August 2005, residents of the US Gulf Coast tracked the coverage of an approaching tropical storm. Though it looked to be a serious system, there were plenty of scares every summer. Those along the southern edge of states like Mississippi & Louisiana prepared, but they could have had no idea what was on the way.

Ten years later, Ken Wetzel remembers what it was like to endure the long night of August 29th. At the time he was an insurance salesman in Biloxi, Mississippi.

“You try to do as much advance planning as you can, but as circumstances start happening, you become more reactive.”

“We were faced with several things when the water started coming up and it wouldn’t stop. We were in a split level house, and the first floor – the elevation on it – it’s about nineteen feet. So when it started going under water, it had never happened in prior storms. And we began to get a little bit concerned.”

But the shock of the waters rising that high was only the prelude to a huge decision.

“Eventually the water started coming into the second level of the house at twenty nine feet. My parents had evacuated, and we called them on the phone and said, “Start praying”, because the house sat on the side of a hill. And we said we’ve got to get out of it because so much of the house is underwater now that we can be facing structural shifting and so forth.”

“So we’re basically going to have to go stand out and ride out the remainder of the storm, rather than take a a chance of the house collapsing on us.”

And with those prayers lifted up and the situation dire, the first glimmer of hope finally arrived.

“And so I was on the phone with my parents praying, and all of a sudden Dawn said, “Did you see that?” 

I looked on the wall where the water line was, and I started to see it go down. And it was like – there may be hope in this yet!”

The waters receded, morning came, and the work of rebuilding began. In the face of massive loss, Ken and his family found great purpose in bringing people together to help rebuild their community.

From their efforts sprung an organization called New Life Disaster Relief – which offers hope to people around the country suffering from disasters of many kinds. Through this remarkable ministry, hope is brought to many through a story that began in a storm.

Highlight: Riding out the storm

On the Road with Ken Wetzel

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