North Carolina Baptist collegians – and other students from around the country – sacrificed part of their winter breaks making homes livable again for residents spending the holidays in dwellings damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
Nearly 50 students worked alongside N.C. Baptist Men’s Disaster Relief Ministry in New Jersey the week before Christmas. The students, which were broken up into six teams, received a day of training before beginning efforts at their relief sites on the 17th. Most spent the week cleaning out debris and mud from damaged houses.
“They are doing a fantastic job,” said Sharon Chilton-Moser, the project leader for N.C. Baptist Men. “They could be at home asleep – that’s what college students do. … [But] they’re doing [the work] without complaint.”
Chilton-Moser said she hopes to see more students answer the call and to start a “pattern of service” with a desire to help those in need.
College students from North Carolina spent part of their Christmas break helping Hurricane Sandy survivors.
“We’re investing in future relief,” Chilton-Moser said. “I wanted to plant some seeds in some hearts … a lifetime calling.”
Nearby in New York, about 325 students are working with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) efforts through Jan. 22 on Staten Island and in other affected areas. At least 27 groups of students will gut homes, haul debris and minister while living in a tent village at Staten Island’s Zion Lutheran Church.
“I love helping people,” Florida collegian Patricia Lally said, “and telling them about Jesus.” Lally, a student from Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, was part of an early-arriving group of students who built living quarters for subsequent groups and began mud-out efforts with Alabama disaster relief volunteers.
This represents a new level of student involvement in SBDR efforts, laying a groundwork for the next generation of people involved in the critical ministry. Last year more than 300 Liberty University students worked in an SBDR response following Hurricane Irene in upstate New York.
“College students have a strong desire to be involved in these types of opportunities,” said Fritz Wilson, NAMB’s SBDR executive director.
Wilson also said the college students are providing a much-needed cadre of volunteers during the holidays.
With service times lasting a week, students will fill a need left by traditional disaster relief volunteers who have spent more than a month in the area.
“Many of our regular volunteers who’ve been responding for over a month simply have used up a lot of their [vacation] time,” Wilson said.
“The college students are willing to say, ‘I can carve out this week’ during their winter breaks and still spend the holidays with their families.”
Through student efforts, Southern Baptists also are tapping into new opportunities for church planting and other ministry in the Northeast.
Since Sandy made landfall, N.C. Baptists, alone, have provided 596,000 meals, completed 520 projects, and reported six professions of faith.
All Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers have served a total of 1.75 million meals, cleaned debris from nearly 900 homes and made 4,300-plus ministry contacts.
Volunteers have shared the gospel with some 775 people resulting in more than 80 professions of faith.
But the long-term gospel impact SBDR volunteers are having on New York will reveal itself in the weeks, months and years to come, leaders said.
“The response of these student volunteers to the Northeast not only is building our ability to respond to disaster, but it’s also building in these younger volunteers a greater understanding of mission work in North America,” NAMB President Kevin Ezell said.
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.