Historic rains—ominously described as a 1-in-1,000-years-storm—pummeled the Carolinas for five days in early October. Creeks overflowed and dams burst, sending raging torrents of muddy water cascading throughout cities, towns, and rural countrysides. South Carolina took the brunt of the epic downpour that killed 19 people and caused billions of dollars in damage. In total, 11 trillion gallons of water were dumped on North and South Carolina. That’s enough water to fill an Olympic swimming pool for every resident of the Carolinas.
Samaritan’s Purse U.S. Disaster Relief first deployed a relief unit to Columbia, the state capital. Volunteers poured in from across the state, while some traveled from around the country to help in Jesus’ Name. A few even cancelled vacation plans sensing God’s leading to serve instead in Columbia.
Our Columbia operation has been based at Shandon Baptist Church. Executive pastor Brandon Petersen said, “We couldn’t think of a better way to use our facility, our grounds, and our people than helping to outfit an organization like Samaritan’s Purse, knowing how they’re helping the residents of our city.”
Frank Lodato, whose home in New Orleans was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, drove to Columbia with his 15-year-old son Jackson. Frank could empathize with the struggles that the homeowners are facing, and he wanted to reach out as a Samaritan’s Purse volunteer. That door opened at the home of Vince and Sabrina. As Vince and Sabrina were surveying their waterlogged possessions piled along the curb in front of their house, Frank asked how they were holding up under the stress. With a light rain falling, Frank shared how he managed during the weeks that followed Katrina and that he and his wife were praying for them. Vince and Sabrina graciously thanked Frank for his words of kindness. “I wanted to let my light shine,” Frank said afterward. “A seed was planted, and I’m trusting that it will be reaped at another time. That’s what it’s all about.”
Among those we’ve helped is Nola. She woke up to the sound of water rushing into her house. She quickly put some items atop her beds, then grabbed her animals, threw them into her car and left. “When the water receded and I returned, I didn’t know what to do, where to go or how to start,” Nola said. “Then someone with Samaritan’s Purse walked by and told me, “Don’t you worry about it. That’s why we’re here. We’ll take care of you.’” Nola had some previous experience with Samaritan’s Purse. When her three daughters were younger, they filled Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. She was so pleased our volunteers worked on her home. Placing her right hand over her heart and with her voice cracking with emotion, she said, “It’s just wonderful. Thank you.”
“As I’m pulling down waterlogged insulation, I’m thinking about of all the professions Jesus could have been, it was prophetic that He was a carpenter. He understands the process of demolition and reconstruction. He knows about building the House of God, the Temple of God, and the People of God.”
Though Earl and Cynthia had to escape their home in chest-high water, the couple never lost sight of Jesus. While the flood caused havoc in their lives, the couple said that God has enabled them to focus on their neighbors and their need for Christ. They were especially thankful—and excited—that Samaritan’s Purse was active in their devastated neighborhood. “Receiving help from their volunteers has been an overwhelming blessing,” Cynthia said. “We’re thankful, and now hopeful that friends who don’t know Christ will come to know Him.”
“We can tear down the dry wall. We can stop the mold. We can carry everything to the curb. But more importantly, we see people who are hurting and are in shock. The most important thing is that we’re here to show them that God loves them and Jesus Christ loves them. We have the ability to do that because we’ve been building authentic, loving relationships and because we care for them.”
Each day, volunteers huddle up for prayer—asking God for safety and that He would enable them to work for His glory and to be sensitive to opportunities to show and share the compassion of Jesus Christ. When their work is completed, they present a special Billy Graham Study Bible to the homeowners. Each volunteer who worked on the home signs it. God opened doors for both Samaritan’s Purse volunteers and Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (NASB). And homeowners did respond to that glorious Good News!