Stovern Wedding 3/03
A week after Hurricane Katrina struck, the Stovern family, who live on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana, opened their home to two evacuees from New Orleans. Michelle Stovern wrote a journal for Beliefnet as her family tried to help the survivors recover--and restart their lives.

End of a Journey

Well, sorry it has taken me so long to write another article, but I have been sick and out of commission. The doctor said I had pneumonia and exhaustion. But I am back, and trying to recover.

As of Friday, September 16th, 2005 the family that was staying with me returned to the New Orleans area. They are now staying somewhere in Louisiana with another family. I have not talked to them since they left here. I figured they would have contacted me by now, as I still have their dog staying with me.

I wish I could say that I was sad and upset that they left, but I am not. Last week was a long week. The family was starting to become dishonest and disrespectful. My children and I were called nasty names, we were told that we were pigs and that the only reason we were even doing this is because we were getting paid by FEMA. By no means is that true--we have not and will not receive any kind of funding from FEMA. This affected not only me, but my children as well. I feel that I was taken advantage of. My family and I opened our homes, free of charge, fed these two people, gave them clothing, and had the community we live in donate stuff to them. They took this generosity and ran with it. Not once did I hear thank you, or a simple line of gratitude. This really bothers me.

Several people have told me I shouldn't be upset now that they've left. But I feel as if I failed, not only myself, but other people as well. I stated that I felt like this was a test from God, and if it was, I failed him as well. How could I not handle this situation? I am a mother of three and have a father who is dying of renal kidney failure, so stress is part of my daily life. But I just could not handle all that was dealt to me.

I had several people in my community calling my home and my work offering the evacuees employment, but they wouldn't talk to them. I don't know for a fact if they planned on staying here or not, so that could be the reason they weren't looking for employment in the area. My boss asked them if they were going to make Montana their home, and at that time they said they were not sure. But for the life of me I do not understand why when someone is given the chance to start over, to attempt to have a good life, and people who are willing to help you, why that person would not jump on the chance? How could you honestly be happy not working, living off the welfare system? What kind of life is that and why would you want to live that way?

A few people have commented that it is "un-Christian" for me to write this journal about the people staying with me. The ladies that were staying with me knew that I was writing this and have read it, and we did discuss some of the issues at hand. Second of all, the family that was staying with us WERE NOT African-American, as some of the people who made comments assumed. They were white. However, no matter what their race, that was never an issue. I do not believe in judging someone by the color of their skin.

Just as I don't judge people, I have been surprised that so many readers have judged me, without really knowing what my family and the two ladies staying with me went through. How can that be a Christian thing to do?

People have asked what I expected when this all came about. To be honest, I didn't know what to expect. However, I did NOT expect to be lied to, stolen from, called foul names, or to have them be intoxicated and fighting with each other in front of my three children. Nor did I expect the ladies to be my housekeepers, my cooks, or my babysitters. They did help around the house, but only if they were asked to do so. They did cook supper. We (my family) did cook southern foods, and yes, they were told everything about my family before they came here. They knew we worked 40+ hours a week, had three kids, three dogs, and two cats. They did know they were coming to Northeast Montana, and knew that it would be a completely different lifestyle.