By Bonny Van

The Catholic Commentator

When people ask Edwin Serpas why he is rebuilding his flooded house in Springfield, he simply says, “It’s my home.”

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Edwin Serpas continues working on his flood damaged home in Springfield. Photos provided by Edwin Serpas

 

Home is a 1400-square foot house on the banks of the Natalbany River, but Serpas has not lived in it since this past August and he’s not going anywhere. Currently, he is staying in a borrowed camper in his front yard and working on repairs when he can.

“I’m about 55 percent done,” he said. “I’m hoping to be in the house by the end of September.”

Springfield was among the hardest hit areas when a slow moving storm wreaked havoc on lives, properties and communities in South Louisiana last year. Phil Grigsby, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Slidell, says that from Aug. 11-13, more than 20 inches of rain fell in the area.

“The last measurement of the Natalbany River at flood stage was over 22 feet,” he said. “The gauge stopped working at that point but it was forecasted to continue rising to 24.3 feet from all of the water.”

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Minimal flood stage for the Natalbany River is 16 feet.

Serpas, who turned 60 in May, was already wading through rough waters last summer before the rains came.

“I’m a recovering alcoholic,” he said. “I had just gotten out of rehab in June and I was going through a divorce after 38 years of marriage, then it started flooding.”

Like so many others, Serpas says he lived in an area that had never flooded before. When the water began to rise, there was not much he could do but watch.

“I did have my boat hooked up to the fence post so I knew I could get out if I had to,” he said.

In the end, he had 20 inches of water in his house.

Still, he stayed sober throughout the ordeal and credits his faith for his strength.

“A nurse invited me to Mass at St. Helena (Church in Amite) and (pastor) Father Mark (Beard) just blew me away. When I walked in there, it was like ‘I’m going to get your attention and I’m going to keep it,’ Serpas said.

“And, that was part of my problem. I had broken away from the church and I couldn’t find what I was looking for,” he added.

“Archbishop (Alfred) Hughes (of the Archdiocese of New Orleans and former bishop for the Diocese of Baton Rouge), who is a friend of my parents, and Father Mark and Father Jamin (David, pastor at St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland Church in Albany and St. Stephen the Martyr Church in Maurepas) all gave me encouragement,” he said.

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Interior of Edwin Serpas’ home after demolition.

 

Serpas, a barber, commutes to his job in New Orleans where his client list includes the retired archbishop and many seminarians from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans.

“I think Ed was a strong person in his faith before the storm arrived,” said Father David. “When difficult times arise, it can sometimes test a person’s faith, and I think he’s definitely won that battle.”

“After the flood, the seminarians and some Tulane (University in New Orleans) Catholic students came over and helped me with the major demolition work,” Serpas said.

Now, he’s getting help from his brother, one of his sons and a friend to rebuild and remodel his 1959 house.

“I’ve opened up the kitchen and added a sitting area to a bedroom,” he said. “And, it’s gone from a three bedroom house to a two bedroom.”

Rebuilding for Serpas means more than just a home. He’s reconnected with his three grown children and 10 grandchildren, and he’s re-established relationships with his three siblings. Next, he wants to go back to school.

“At the age of 60, I want to get an associates degree in social sciences so that I can help others,” he said. “A lot of people don’t understand what I’ve been through and it just makes me that much stronger.”

“God works in mysterious ways,” he added. “I’ve always been told that things are going to happen and they’re happening for a reason. And, I know God and Jesus are with me all the time. Psalm 37 says ‘be patient and wait and good things will come.’ And good things have come.”