What was I thinking? I almost did not go to New York. I was so tired and burnt out. I really just wanted a week to myself. Little did I know that it would be in New York that God would refresh and restore my soul. Anyone who has traveled on a disaster relief trip will tell you that it involves a lot of hard work, emotional and spiritual struggles, late nights, and the constant denying of self and loving other. However: with every struggle comes a great joy, a since of hope, and a growing experience for both the victims of disasters and the servant volunteer. On January 13th, a group of servant volunteers from Bagley Swamp Wesleyan Church in North Carolina had the opportunity to experience both the struggles and joys of serving as they rolled up their sleeves and put love into action in Coney Island, New York.
The Bagley Swamp team worked hard accomplishing many task this week including gutting out a church, hanging and finishing drywall in numerous houses, and simply loving people devastated by Hurricane Sandy. The team also decided to take on the task of finishing one particular home in order to get an elderly lady, Gabrielle, back in her home. Gabrielle and her family moved from Haiti to Coney Island, New York over 29 years ago for hopes of a better life. This past fall, hurricane Sandy made its way through the east coast, destroying the entire downstairs of Gabrielle’s home. The Bagley Swamp Wesleyan Church worked many hard hours finishing drywall, painting, laying flooring, hanging doors, and laying trim so that by the end of their week Gabrielle and her family could once again live in their home. Throughout the week the team shed tears of pain as they listened to Gabrielle and her family share their story of helplessly watching from the upstairs as water creep up and destroyed their home. At the end of the week, the team was shedding tears of joy as they celebrated with Gabrielle and her family. The team experienced the struggle and pain of serving but chose to endure to bring and experience joy, hope, and love.
Many of the Poured Out team has been actively involved in disaster relief since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But as I reflected on this week in New York, I am still amazed at how water, something so peaceful, pure, and refreshing can so quickly destroy and kill. Sometimes I find myself questioning why and how? I have many unanswered questions that I will never know the answer to on this earth. But what I do know is that I am called to respond to these events. I am commanded to love my neighbors, bring hope to the hopeless, feed the hungry, and protect the least of these. I also know that God loves these victims of disaster as much as he loves me and his word demands that I care, bring hope, and the truth of Jesus to these people. The truth is, now that I know I am responsible. So my question for you is are you willing to roll up your sleeves, open your heart, and come and learn. I can’t promise you it will be the most relaxing and refreshing trip of your life. I would be lying if I said it would be easy work and everything would run smoothly. Nope, there will be bumps in the roads, heartaches, tears shed, sore arms, and maybe sleepless nights. I can’t guarantee you will go home with a happy heart and ready to jump back into your everyday life. My first disaster relief trip a came home with a broken heart, a heaviness that wouldn’t exit my body no matter what I did, and I came home with a responsibility and a call, because when you know, you are responsible. The truth is that thousands of victims of Hurricane Sandy are still living without heat. Thousands of homes still sit with mold growing from flood water, and thousands of disaster victims need to know they have not been forgotten. The truth is you have the opportunity to do something about this situation. Come and serve, love, cry, grow, learn, and be broken for God’s children.