A Changed Perspective • Rachel Benefield-Pfaff D’88, Gulfport, Miss.
By Reed Criswell
  Back at Home: Ellie, 4, and the family’s border collie, Oban.

Once Rachel Benefield-Pfaff and her family finally returned to their own home seven months after Katrina, the storm continued to dominate their everyday lives.

The entire family — Rachel, husband Scott, 6-year-old Thomas, 4-year-old Ellie, and Oban the border collie — were happy to be at home, but shoddy work from the Pfaff’s original contractor continued to surface and cause problems.

Rachel, who was supervising hurricane repairs at Handsboro United Methodist Church, and Scott, a high school physics teacher, felt overwhelmed by their workloads and wanted to spend more time with their young family.

But just before she reached her breaking point, an Oregon mission team arrived at Handsboro offering to help. The team had been organized by the Rev. Colleen McClean, who served as Handsboro’s first female pastor in the mid-1980s, and later moved to Oregon.

“The grace of their work and presence gave me the deep breath I had needed,” Rachel said. “By the time Easter arrived we were functioning in our home.”

Once repairs to the educational building at Handsboro UMC were completed, Rachel requested a family leave of absence. The church’s ministry continues with an interim pastor.

“The storm has changed our perspective,” said Rachel. “It certainly helped me to see the urgency of my children’s childhood.”

The children are well, though her 4-year-old spends more nights sleeping in her parents’ bed than before. And Oban the border collie is more spoiled than before the stormy night he huddled with the family in the attic.

Design changes have made their home more comfortable and functional, but not everything has returned to normal: they lost most of their furniture in the storm, and they are adjusting to being a one-income family.

They are settling back into life with normal day-to-day crises, said Rachel: “So we will see how this plays out.”

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