Evacuee Stories: Joe, who says he's gained even in his loss

At one church shelter in Tyler, we found evacuees in very good spirits.

The St. Louis Baptist Church is housing evacuees from Beaumont, and it could be weeks before they're able to return home - and they're not even sure what's left to go back home to.

But as KLTV 7's Courtney Lane explains, one man says he's bringing a lot more back than what he came with.

Joe Mazzola is from China, Texas, just outside Beaumont.

He's evacuated from hurricanes several times, but this is his first time in a shelter.

"I'm 63 years old and to be honest with you, I was really dreading it, but Reverend Caraway has treated us like his own family and I can't say enough kind things," said Mazzola.

Joe says he knew he was in the right place from the minute he stepped off the bus Thursday night and shook hands with Reverend Caraway.

"I said you know we're really blessed. I feel like we're in the Lord's house, and he said you are," said Mazzola.

While he can't thank the church enough for their hospitality, love, and care, he is anxious to get back and repair what Ike damaged.

"Probably the first thing we're going to do is try to get my mom's house, like I say she's 95 years old, put her house back in order and then we'll start working together with everybody in our community...I was fortunate. I had some shingles blown off of my house and a few pieces of tin off of my barn and my neighbors that stayed are taking care of what animals I have there."

But, it'll most likely be a few weeks before it's safe to go back.

In the meantime, Joe has found something here that had been missing in his life a long time.

"First time I went to church in 25 years and it was very inspiring...I'm sure when I leave here I'll do a lot of reflecting on this," said Mazzola.

Courtney Lane, reporting. ckhalil@kltv.com