Faith & Service

Disaster Relief Teams Make National and Global Impact

June 1, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: Serving others is one of Liberty’s longest-standing traditions. This story is part of a “Love Thy Neighbor” series about the many projects through which students display selfless service as they strive to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and obey His greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Send Me

Constitución, Chile

When parts of South Carolina saw devastating flooding after Hurricane Joaquin in 2015, the university saw a need, decided to act, and dispatched its first disaster response team through its humanitarian relief program, LU Send Now.

Since then, the program, part of the Office of Spiritual Development, has sponsored 17 trips. Work has ranged from handing out water bottles and filters during the water crisis in Flint, Mich., and hurricane cleanup in the Carolinas, to aiding Liberty’s neighbors in nearby Appomattox, Va., after a tornado, and caring for people in a refugee holding camp in Greece.

LU Send Now partners with organizations, such as Gleaning For The World, Samaritan’s Purse, and Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, and connects Liberty teams with the organizations’ staff on site. Students can sign up for LU Send Now at the beginning of each semester, and as trips are planned, students are selected based on a wide range of criteria, including current service involvement, their degree program, and previous experience. The university and donors cover the cost of the trips.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Last fall, 61 students and staff — one of the biggest LU Send Now efforts to date — assisted with rebuilding efforts in Baton Rouge, La., after the region saw deadly flooding. Then, only a few weeks after returning from Louisiana, two teams joined Samaritan’s Purse in Lumberton, N.C., and Myrtle Beach, S.C., to respond to destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew. The hurricane left a wide swath of devastation in its wake as it swept through the Eastern Caribbean and up the Atlantic Coast, producing its most damaging flooding in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

Teams were continuously dispatched throughout the spring semester. In January, a team traveled to Albany, Ga., during the first week of the semester to help with cleanup efforts following a powerful straight-line wind storm that ripped through Dougherty County, damaging about 369 homes and leaving thousands without power. Partnering with Samaritan’s Purse, the team cleaned up debris and put tarps on roofs
of homes.

After the team returned, Vincent Valeriano, LU Send Now participant coordinator, showed a video during Convocation documenting the trip.

“Most people had no clue what had happened due to lack of media coverage,” Valeriano said. “Samaritan’s Purse said it was one of the worst unreported natural disasters they have ever seen.”

The effort started when a group of students asked Senior Vice President of Spiritual Development David Nasser to send a team to their hometown because of the extensive damage.

Disaster relief efforts continued into February when another 11 students and two LU staff members went to Hattiesburg, Miss., after an EF3 tornado touched down in Forest County, killing four people and leaving 20 injured.

In March, a team traveled to Constitución, Chile, where wildfires ran rampant across the country. More than 1,000 homes and more than 900,000 acres were destroyed in what was the worst wildfire season in the country’s history. The relief team partnered with the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE) in building two prefabricated homes (purchased by Liberty) for two families. One of the families had two special needs children and were at risk of having them removed from the family home if adequate housing wasn’t found.

LU Send Now’s most recent trip was in April to the Lima Region of Peru, where a team of eight students and two staff members assisted with flood relief efforts after the effects of El Niño caused 150 deaths and left more than 150,000 people homeless. The team worked alongside Peace and Hope International, an organization that focuses on fighting poverty and social injustice in Latin America. Students handed out food and water to local communities and helped with the reconstruction of homes.

More “Love Thy Neighbor” stories:

A Day of Service
Massive Shoe Drive Aims to Save Lives in the Congo
LUCOM, School of Nursing Hold Community Clinics in Guatemala
Reaching Out to the Local Community
Student-Athletes Put Service Projects in Motion

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