We all hear the word resiliency, and we are indeed a resilent breed here in Louisiana, but Houma resident Carlton Bethley brings a new definition to the word. His ministry, Vision in the Wilderness, has been extending a hand to those in need. And the ministry has an intense story behind it.
At just 18 years old, Bethley’s story began. He was engaged in a fight where the other person pulled out a knife, and the fight ultimately ended up in the other man’s death. From there, he was facing a life sentence. His journey brought him across a cook who took him under her wing, and Bethley said it’s where his life turned around. It was in prison where Bethley gave his life to Jesus and he hasn’t stopped serving since. It was because of a detective who testified on his behalf, whom he’s never really known, and it led to him being set free, not only of physical bondage but spiritual as well.
Bethley said Vision in the Wilderness was birthed in the walls of a prison. He was in prison for ten years, three months, seven days, and eight hours. Bethley said God has been working on him about the meaning behind the title of the ministry. “I thought when that title of the ministry came up,” he said,” I thought God was just talking about the wilderness of prison and God had to see and provide me through it. He had to give me the ability to grow through the challenges of being in prison. God has been showing me since then that the word Wilderness is attached to more than that particular wilderness.” He went on to say that there are many different wilderness experiences that many of us encounter.
His next challenge was a motorcycle accident that left him with two broken legs and a broken arm. He couldn’t walk and he said that was a type of wilderness that he had to trust God through the process of. God willing, he was saught through it and regained his ability to walk 100 percent. “So, when I look at it from that particular standpoint,” he said, “and I see what we’re going through right now with Ida, it’s just another wilderness experience, that we all have to trust and rely on God to give us the wisdom to give us the right decisions and to pull and press through.”
Bethley has a mobile grill that is part of his ministry and has been serving nonstop since Ida left the Louisiana coast. He said he wasn’t originally planning to go out that first week post-Ida, but his neighbor approached him about cooking for the community, and his response was, “it was an opportunity to sow seed.” They served 400 people that trip and his neighbor set a goal of 1,000 people fed for the next week. Bethley said they met that goal.
Bethley, a previous employee of local business Danos, still has a family with the company. They have been working hand in hand throughout relief efforts, and it began with a call sharing an idea of cooking in Cut Off. They partnered with Community Bible Church along with other ministry connections, and they were able to make that happen. Bethley said they were BBQing everywhere. One trip was with assistance with One Accord Ministries where they helped with distribution at Mechanicville Gym along with The Relief Gang which is headed by rapper Trae “The Truth.” The Relief Gang then reached out to Bethley to say they would like to fund the next feeding, they would just need a place to host. That’s when Bethley connected with some friends and they were able to get in touch with Lion’s Club in Montegut. This is where Bethley said they were well-organized and was one of the smoothest processes he’s seen in relief efforts so far. They worked together, there were no frustrating long lines, and everyone worked like a well-oiled machine. “I love serving in an environment like that because if you have a good team, you can reach a lot of people,” he said.
Bethley served in Lake Charles following Hurricane Laura. He was working there on a contract, left for the storm, and returned to work. When he returned, he brought his grilling trailer to help serve. He said he did have memories flooding back when Ida hit, but this was different, simply because it’s now personal. It affected his family and his home. He said when he was in Lake Charles, he was talking to people, and since he always asks questions, he would get to know these people. He would pray with them as well, and he said the difference is, he noticed with Lake Charles is the help we are getting, it didn’t come to them as fast. He’s grateful for the quick response in assistance and said he knows some areas haven’t had the chance to receive assistance yet, but the destruction is so widespread. What is helping is the number of churches and ministries that are coming together to aid those in need, “it’s so many people from different backgrounds coming together for the greater good…it’s beautiful,” he said.
He recalled the day after Ida when he brought his family to Lafayette before coming back home to start the cleanup process. He was starting up the generator because it was getting dark when he heard a voice, “Hey, Carlton!” It was a pastor of a church that got destroyed. “Here he was,” he said, “the church got absolutely destroyed, and yet a day after the storm, he got a trailer filled with supplies, handing them out. The church is gone, and he’s over here asking if I need anything.” This showcases the heart of gold of the servants our area has seen offer the past month.
Bethley uses his testimony, and experiences daily to reach out to those who need it. He said it’s those experiences he uses to reach out to Ida survivors. When meeting people while serving, he Immedietyl tries to find avenues that he can direct them to. He said he has a wealth of knowledge of people with resources that he guides people to if they are in need. While talking to people, e said he’ll ask people how they’ve fared, and he said their expression immediately changes.” I like to get them to talk about it because it’s good for them to get that story out, but some people just don’t want to talk about it. It’s one of those things that we’re all going to be dealing with for a long time,” he said. He believes that the challenge going forward is the mental effect it’s going to have on our population. “I think we can play a role in redirecting some of those that are going to be challenged mentally and trying to keep a positive mindset,” he said, ” I think that’s the key thing…is keeping a positive mindset.” He said that there are of course so many negative aspects for our community right now, but staying positive is so important in the rebuild phase, “Just. Stay. Positive,” he said.