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LU Send Now disaster relief team helps Louisiana community rebuild from hurricanes

Liberty students spent a week in Lake Charles, La., cleaning homes and yards damaged by hurricanes.

As the team of college students approached the Louisiana neighborhood, they were taken aback by the number of homes that had been destroyed by water and wind damage.

Three hurricanes had blown through the area surrounding Lake Charles, La., in a period of 12 weeks this past year. When homeowners saw the team from Liberty University arrive, they were  a welcome sight. It was time to rebuild their homes and, for some of them, their lives.

The students were part of LU Send Now, Liberty’s disaster relief team. They partnered with Samaritan’s Purse and local churches after Thanksgiving to do storm cleanup and also encourage community members with the message of hope in Jesus Christ.

“The main focus was not only repairing people’s homes,” said junior Elijah Jantomaso. “But that was the conduit for sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ and what He can do in one’s life. We all have storms in our lives, but Jesus is the one who can repair the damage spiritually.”

Jantomaso was one of nine students and three staff members that had the privilege of helping to clean up close to 15 homes from Nov. 28 to Dec. 5.

While helping to clear debris from homes, Liberty students maintained the ultimate focus of the trip, which was sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Reflecting on that trip and our students’ engagement there, you could sense that Liberty students were able to make a noticeable difference in working with Samaritan’s Purse and ministering to the area’s homeowners,” said Steven Gillum, who went on the trip and coordinated the efforts as the director of strategic partnerships and special projects with LU Serve. LU Send Now is the disaster relief ministry arm of LU Serve. “Multiple testimonies of how they were able to share the Good News of Christ have been told, and 12 folks accepted the Lord Jesus as Savior through our team’s sharing of the Gospel.”

Through Samaritan’s Purse, LU Serve has also stayed in contact with how the area has been recovering and they hope to send another team in the near future to continue with the rebuilding efforts.

“When we went down, there were probably 600 to 700 homes that were still requesting help that had been damaged,” Gillum said. “Our students were greatly impacted. We even had one who decided that she wanted to go back soon afterward on her own time over winter break and serve in the same area.”

Gillum said that one of the most amazing aspects of being involved with LU Serve has been watching those who volunteer come alive once they understand the joy of giving.

“For me being able to see a student find fulfillment and joy in serving another person through meeting that person’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs is so confirming of our work at Liberty,” he said.

LU Send Now’s vision is to train up the next generation of Champions for Christ in the field of disaster and crisis response by providing humanitarian, spiritual, and psychological aid. Their mission is to minister to and serve the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of individuals and communities, working alongside world-class organizations and leaders.

The Send Now program seeks to build the best culture of preparedness, equip students with the knowledge and skills to capably assist in catastrophic disasters and community development, and create multiple pathways for student engagement. For more information, email lusendnow@liberty.edu.