Healing from Harvey

LU Send Now team provides disaster relief to victims of Hurricane Harvey

While many across the country are bracing for the winds and waves of Hurricane Irma, a group of 10 Liberty University students in partnership with LU Send Now, traveled to assist with disaster relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

Twelve volunteers, 10 students and two team leaders, alongside Samaritan’s Purse, traveled from Liberty as part of the school’s disaster relief program, LU Send Now.

They worked with the recovery and cleanup efforts near Houston, Texas.

According to the Liberty University News Service, the team left Saturday, Sept. 2 and returned Saturday, Sept. 9.
Josh Benedict, a senior who went on the LU Send Now trip, said that the team was serving in Victoria, Texas.

Benedict said that Victoria is an hour and a half southwest from Houston and most of the damage in Victoria was due to high winds.

PULLING THEIR WEIGHT — Liberty students spent a week in Texas, serving in various ways and helping the local residents recover in the aftermath of hurricane Harvey.
Photo Credit: Kelsey Ellis

He said the main way that LU Send Now students served was by
chopping down trees and moving lumber.

The wind damage in Victoria was severe, according to Benedict, and there were fallen trees and brush around most of the homes they were cleaning up.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, Hurricane Harvey left more than 35 people dead, destroyed more than 7,000 homes and damaged 37,000 homes.

Hurricane Harvey is the strongest storm to make landfall in the U.S. since Hurricane Charley in 2004, according to CNN.

Although all of the team members were glad for the opportunity to serve, Benedict said many of the students had doubts about the area and way in which they were helping.

“We were asking ourselves, why are we here picking up tree branches when all we see is people in boats in rescue efforts on the news,” Benedict said.

“Yet we started to see that for each of these homeowners, the hurricane was their personal disaster, and once we were able to gather together and pray with the homeowner, we knew that was why we were here—to make a personal impact on someone’s life.”

TEAM UP — LU Send Now team members partnered with Samaritan’s Purse for disaster relief.
Photo Credit: Kelsey Ellis

Being part of the early stages of recovery was one of the best parts of the trip for Benedict.

“You need to clean up before you can start rebuilding, and, while we might not have gotten to see the rebuilding of Texas, we did get to see the revival of Texas,” Benedict said.

“To say that you were one of the first sets of disaster relief volunteers to help with the hurricane is a pretty incredible thing to say.”

The trip became very personal for LU Send Now team member Kelsey Ellis, a senior from Jacksonville, Florida.

Ellis and her family were affect heavily by Hurricane Matthew last fall, and they were also deeply impacted by the volunteers who helped clear their yard of brush and debris in only a day-and-a-half.

“It changed my life, and I know how to serve so much better because those people served me so well,” Ellis said.

“It helped me on the trip to Texas because I could emotionally identify with the homeowners.”

Ellis said that even now, as her family back home prepared for the approaching Hurricane Irma, she knows God is ultimately in control.

“I trust in the Lord because I know that everything is going to be OK,” Ellis said.

I CAME, I SAW — Students were put to work, renovating houses and working with locals.
Photo Credit: Kelsey Ellis

Ellis said the real joy and purpose of the trip was to build relationships with the people that they were serving.

“I really learned how to be available and a lot of our work was just listening,” Ellis said.

“Bringing up God and his name was almost easier because people just wanted to listen. Almost every single person we came into contact with, we had the opportunity to share the gospel with.”

Benedict said that another incredible aspect of the experience was getting to form a bond with the other Liberty students on
the trip.

“I was blown away by our team from Liberty in how they challenged me,” Benedict said.

“It would be hard to find a much better team than the one that we took with us. It was such a great stretching experience for all of our team members.”

Ellis said that any students who have a desire to serve should apply to be a part of the LU Send Now program.

“LU Send Now is awesome and I think it is such an amazing opportunity to go serve people and be put in an environment that is emotional and oftentimes stressful,” Ellis said. “You learn so much.”

COCKES is a news reporter.

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