Students provide disaster relief to Florida

In late September, Hurricane Ian wreaked havoc on the state of Florida, but Liberty students wasted no time before springing into action by providing disaster relief for Florida residents. 

LU Serve Now partnered with Samaritan’s Purse, assembling a group of students to go out and provide aid for residents of Englewood, Florida, who had been impacted by the hurricane. The first group went out Nov. 6-12, and the second followed Nov. 13-19. 

The objective of these trips was to assist homeowners in cleaning up their properties for repairs and reconstruction while shining the light of Christ in the wake of a dark tragedy. 

“We just always want to serve our partner (Samaritan’s Purse) well and serve the homeowners. We help them with needed cleanup, repairs and to tend to their spiritual and emotional well-being as they’ve just gone through a very traumatic situation,” LU Serve Director Chad Nelson said. “Overall, our goal is always to magnify Christ and the gospel through that service.”

While both the teams spent time working with multiple residents cleaning up debris, one group of students focused specifically on assisting an elderly Englewood resident. The team described working on the woman’s home, tearing up sheetrock and flooring in preparation for rebuilding her house after the hurricane damage. Through this process, Liberty students were able to connect with the woman in a personable way.

“We want to share the gospel, whether that’s from our actions working in their homes or our actual words. (The resident has) been impacted not only by the physical work we’re able to do for her, but by those conversations,” Christina Docksteader, a student on the trip, said. “It’s very hard losing all your things, especially when you are alone. So for me, that was the major thing. I want to get work done, but if I leave there (and) that’s all I did, then I don’t feel like I’ve done what God called me to do.”

Docksteader emphasized the importance of connecting with those they are serving on a personal level.

“There are humans that have been impacted by these storms, and so many of their stories won’t be able to be shared. But whenever you get to have kind of that one-on-one relationship with them, you get to see just the amazing lives they’ve lived and sadly a lot of the physical memories they’ve lost,” Docksteader said.

“I realized on this trip that there’s people on the other side of news stories,” Isaiah Franqui, another student on the trip, said. “You hear a lot about crazy things that happen in the world. You hear the calls to pray for it, and you do so. But unless you’re there to experience it or it’s happened to you, you can’t really feel it.”

During their time in Florida, students began to shift their focus when it came to the mission at hand. What began as an objective to clean out a home shortly transformed into an opportunity of ministry.

“When I first got there, I was just ready to get all the tasks done, but as the days progressed, I was no longer seeing it as just some random house in Florida that was destroyed,” Franqui said. “I began looking at the things in the living room and dining room, realizing that someone slept there and lived their life there – this person was actually very affected by this disaster.”

LU Serve Now plans on returning to Florida to provide further aid. The next team consists of 15 students and two leaders and is scheduled to be sent out Jan. 9-13.

White is a news reporter for the Liberty Champion

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