Way Better Than a Kate Spade
When I evacuated, I thought we’d return to life as usual. I had no idea I’d be driving down roads looking at giant trees fallen like soaked scattered matches. The destruction was shocking: neighborhoods underwater, boats sunk, docks destroyed and trees crashed through roofs where rain had fallen for days. Now, weeks later, debris still looms. Sides of roads are now home to the material sum of people’s lives, piled 10-feet high on both sides.
Loss is loss. Whether a family lives in a $30,000, $300,000 or million-dollar home, it’s their home—the most basic and gravest of all needs. Some people are displaced, some are trying to come up with thousands of dollars for a deductible, some didn’t have any insurance at all, or they discovered their insurance wouldn’t cover the damage. People are grieving over the loss—loss of baby pictures and homemade Christmas tree ornaments, loss of income, loss of home, loss of stability and loss of familiarity.
My home was spared. A giant pine tree miraculously missed the house. It was resting at a 45 degree angle caught in the V of a live oak. When I told the tree guy we couldn’t afford the $2,500 to cut and remove it, he kindly asked if I minded if he left his trailer in my front yard while he helped other people. I’ve never expected anything for free, and it’s not like the tree was in my house, but this made me think about people in more desperate circumstances than myself. What would happen to them if they couldn’t afford the services they needed?
Determined, my husband rented a lift, grabbed his chain saw and went to it. Men came from every direction to help. One man balanced on a half rotten pallet on the end of a forklift 30 feet in the air, sawing off huge sections. It’s not easy to need help, and when it comes, it’s overwhelming to be loved in that way.
But what if no one shows up to help? You may begin to feel invisible or wonder if anyone cares. How does the world keep spinning when you have a hole in your roof or mold growing out of your air vents? Are you at the bottom of the list? Are you even on anyone’s list?
People in bright orange shirts bearing the words “Samaritan’s Purse” began appearing on Facebook, teams of people showing up to help the least among us. I ran into them at the gas station the day we took down the pine tree, and I asked where they were from. “All over.” They told me they’d come to help people in need. I started crying just thinking about it. I went to Lowcountry Community Church the next day, and there they were—the orange shirts. They showed a video of volunteers helping people down the road from my house. It made me cry again, because I knew how grateful those people felt.
At the end of the service, I went to the Samaritan’s Purse tent and put in a work order, hoping they could help us get the tree to the road. Several days later, I received texts and pictures from my neighbor while I was at work:
“These people are cleaning your yard, even chain sawing tree remains.”
“You need to thank these folks. Busting their butts!”
“Raked the entire yard. So cool, teary eyed. That’s what life is about.”
I called Samaritan’s Purse to say thank you, and ended up crying again, and I’m truly not a crier. There’s just something powerful about people showing up to help when you’re in need and feel helpless. The next Sunday I was moved to volunteer.
Todd Taylor, the Assistant Manager of United States Disaster Relief with Samaritan’s Purse, told me they have around 100 volunteers (missionaries) on site from FL, PA, TN, NC, MI, MO, IL, and CA, all of whom are sleeping on cots at Lowcountry Community Church. Patty and Vernon Fryer, who came from Ocala, FL, say this is their first year with Samaritan’s Purse, and their sixth disaster. “It blesses us knowing people are being blessed. It’s affordable mission work. All you have to do is get there, and Samaritan’s Purse will house you and feed you. It’s addictive.”
Additionlly, local people show up to be part of the team, and Samaritan’s Purse is always looking for more volunteers. “Samaritan’s Purse goes out after disasters to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We want to show people in a real hands-on way that Christ loves them enough to send people from across the nation to help after a time of disaster,” said Todd.
Each team member signs a Bible and presents it to the family after the work is completed. Chaplains from the Billy Graham Rapid Response team follow up, meeting with each family to share the gospel. As of October 23rd, Samaritan’s Purse has helped 166 families in this area with 206 outstanding requests.
My volunteer work was in a home in Bluffton, gutting this house from the ground up to about four feet. A mixture of rain and sewer water had flooded the interior, and since it wasn’t in a flood zone, the owners didn’t carry flood insurance. The couple told one of the volunteers when they saw the orange shirts, they knew there was hope.
This is what life’s about. In fact it’s one of the Big 10—love thy neighbor. When your needs are met, when you are at your neediest, when you are loved at your lowest, and given hope when you are hopeless, it is powerful and makes you want to do the same for someone else. I’m convinced we aren’t meant to live life in isolation. The blessing we received came from people showing up and serving our family out of love. I’m telling you, God wastes nothing, not even a hurricane.