Sandy survivors aided by influx of collegians from 22 states
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. (BP) -- The pace of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief work may lessen a bit for the holidays, but it rarely comes to a halt. That was the case for 500-plus collegiate volunteers who served survivors of Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey up to the week of Christmas and are continuing their work into the new year.
One of those volunteers is Reese Hammond from Northwest Missouri State University. Hammond was part of an 11-member student-led Baptist Student Union group who came to Staten Island to serve alongside trained SBDR volunteers from Alabama and other states.
"God gave us two borrowed vans to make the 22-hour trip," Hammond said in recounting his thankfulness for God's provision. "When we arrived at Zion Lutheran Church where we were staying, we were greeted by the amazing and wonderful volunteers and staff that made our trip a success.
"Over the week we worked on some of the most damaged homes you could think of," Hammond continued.
"All of these homes had extensive water damage. Some had even experienced more than 14 feet of water rushing over them. We worked on homes that were filled with mud and mold. We had homes where sewer pipes had broken and sewage was everywhere inside."
Susan Peugh, a North American Mission Board staff member responsible for coordinating volunteer opportunities, said God is using disaster relief to reveal Himself to college students.
Students have had "life-changing experiences while ripping out floors, insulation and spraying for mold," Peugh said. "Daily they are being reminded of how God has blessed them and why they need to share His hope and love with those who are hurting. They will long remember this experience."
Since Sandy made landfall, SBDR volunteers have prepared 1.8 million meals, cleaned debris from more than 1,000 homes and made 4,600-plus ministry contacts. Volunteers have shared the Gospel with more than 800 people, resulting in 88 professions of faith during 32,543 ministry service days.
Hammond said the trip to Staten Island "didn't mean that we were missing out on free time over break. It meant that if we didn't go on this trip, we would be missing out on making Christ's name great in the hearts of those who are hurting.
"Over the week, we were able to sow the seeds that God makes grow. We were able to pray with these people after each day of work. We gave out Bibles and we shared what Jesus has done in our lives."
The Missouri collegians were among students from 22 states who gave part of their Christmas breaks to serve in the New York City area. Students will continue to minister on site through Jan. 22.
"Overall, this trip was full of God's glory," Hammond said. "He made everything line up just right. He put us in the position to serve those who needed Him. He revealed Himself to us, to those we served and to New York. He even arranged a Fox News interview with our group the morning that we were going to leave. So, in the end, God was faithful as always. He was faithful in getting us there, He was faithful in revealing Himself to us and to the people we worked with, and He was most definitely faithful in making His name great throughout our entire trip."
From its disaster operations center in Alpharetta, Ga., NAMB coordinates Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through a partnership between NAMB and the Southern Baptist Convention's 42 state conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief programs.
SBDR assets include 82,000 trained volunteers, including chaplains, and some 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, childcare, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
Southern Baptists and others who want to donate to the disaster relief operations can contact their state conventions or contribute to NAMB's disaster relief fund via namb.net/disaster-relief-donations. Other ways to donate are to call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for "Disaster Relief."
Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board. Beth Bootz contributed to this story. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).