About 140 Samaritan’s Purse volunteers fanned out across New Bern, North Carolina, Tuesday, helping beleaguered homeowners cope with the aftermath of Florence, the storm which slogged through the state leaving death and destruction in its wake. Among those volunteers were Lt. Governor Dan Forest, his son Jake, and his staff from Raleigh.
When Forest sat down for a noon orientation before going out in the field, he introduced himself to fellow volunteers Jordan and Melissa Walker from New Bern. They asked him why he and his team were serving and he told the couple, “We’re here neighbor helping neighbor.”
That spirit was on display when they headed out to help Jovi Warner tear out waterlogged sheetrock and insulation and carry damaged belongings to the curb of his cul-de-sac home.
“You make me feel special,” Warner told the group when they arrived at his home.
Warner stayed in his house until there was about four inches of water covering the floor. But when he tried to leave, his car stalled out in chest-deep water. Friends rushed over and they pushed the vehicle down the street, and Warner was able to ride out the slow-moving storm at a friend’s house. When he came back the next day, he saw that his home had flooded with about two feet of water. He tried tackling the mud-out himself but discovered that the job was way too big for one person. That’s when Samaritan’s Purse offered to come alongside in Jesus’ Name.
“It means a lot that there are people who took the time out of their schedules to come down here and help others in need,” Warner said.
Forest identified with the plight facing Warner—and so many other North Carolinians trying to cope after Florence dumped record-setting amounts of rainfall. “We lost our home in Hurricane Matthew on October 8, 2016,” the lieutenant governor said. “A giant oak tree fell on our house and crushed it. We were out of our house for a year while they were rebuilding.”
Forest not only got his hands dirty joining others in this arduous, sweaty job, but he took time to talk with Warner and to pray with him and encourage him. Forest said he appreciates the spiritual focus that characterizes Samaritan’s Purse.
“You provide not just the physical clean-out blessing to people, you also provide them spiritual and emotional help,” he said. “You are introducing people to a relationship with the Lord and giving them hope for eternity, not just hope for their house to be rebuilt.”
Todd Taylor, assistant manager of U.S. Disaster Relief, added that he was thankful to Lt. Governor Forest and his staff for their help. “Any time a person of influence volunteers to go out, it shows their support of their community,” Taylor said. “And to know he is a strong believer, he’s doing this because of his love for Jesus Christ.”
Forest urges people to be praying for the people of the Carolinas who have suffered greatly from the epic flooding. “The sun is shining today, the rain has stopped falling,” he said. “But we need to remember our neighbors who are hurting, and they’re going to be hurting for years.”
Plenty of Work to Go Around
Other volunteers were active throughout the city, which according to Mayor Dana Outlaw suffered with 4,200 homes that were damaged, as well as 300 commercial buildings.
Harry and Cordie Pearson traveled to New Bern from their home in Ocean City, Maryland. This is their eighth deployment with Samaritan’s Purse. They served at the home of Billy Connelly. His home took on two feet of water.
“We’ve done tornado relief and helped rebuild homes, but the mud-outs are by far the hardest and dirtiest, but also the most fulfilling,” Harry said.
Cordie added, “As long as there are disasters, tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes, we hope to be right there serving. There is something for everybody, no matter your age.”
Alli Taylor, who worked through the storm at the local hospital, volunteered with us on her day off. “I’ve never been anywhere there’s been a disaster, so this is all new to me,” she said. “It’s just mind-boggling that there are so many people volunteering to help everyone get back on their feet.”
Samaritan’s Purse is also at work in Wilmington and Jacksonville, both on the North Carolina coast. Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains are working alongside us. Pray for God to pour out His love on those in need through us.