Camerade's home in New Dorp Beach and his small engine repair shop next door were severely damaged by flooding. After losing almost everything he had built over a lifetime, the recent retiree says his cries to God were answered when Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) collegiate volunteers helped him clean up his properties and spent time with him to lift his spirits.
"These kids did more work in two days than I could have done in two months," Camerade said. "It's amazing that they would take their spring break to come and help us."
Students from Resonate Church in Moscow, Idaho, and from Pullman, Wash., worked with Camerade for two days cleaning up and moving hundreds of damaged lawn mowers, weed eaters, snow plows and other small engines that flood waters ruined. Camerade hopes to sell the damaged machines as scrap metal.
The group is one of seven student teams from states across the nation who are taking part in the SBC Collegiate Spring Break's recovery response to Staten Island this week. The project is being coordinated by the North American Mission Board.
Resonate Church student Jessica McGettigan, who is 18 and on her first mission trip, said Camerade's attitude was encouraging to her and inspired the whole team.
"He's lost so much but he kept his faith," she said.
Bringing hope to residents who often feel forgotten after a disaster is what this team and other collegiate volunteers are doing through the middle of April.
Students were working on mud-outs, mold remediation, tear-outs, clean-up and yard debris removal. They are also installing insulation and hanging sheetrock.
Judy Cape, NAMB events/logistics specialist, said on March 13, 136 students, staff and local student volunteers were working. The students come from Washington, Idaho, Virginia, Kentucky, Texas and Ohio.
"The students are willing to work and to do what needs to be done," Cape said of the students' whatever-it-takes attitude.
Recovery jobs coordinator Marvin Corbin, a SBDR volunteer from Ocala, Fla., watched the students each day get up at 5:30 a.m. and work a hard, long day on sites, sometimes in the rain.
"It restores your faith in the youth of today," he said.
Texas A&M graduate student Joe Terrell, 22, who helped insulate a home, admitted it's hard work, but it's rewarding for him because he likes serving and seeing the progress made on a project.
"You see a house gutted and walk out and can almost begin to see a home," he says.
Eighteen-year-old Angeliccaa Williams came on her first mission trip with the BCM of University of the Cumberlands of Williamsbury, Ky. Williams said she felt led to serve and has seen things she's never experienced. Her team worked on a mud-out for three days in a home in Midland Beach.
"The house was just floors, beams and a roof when we walked in. There was nothing inside," she said.
The group met the homeowner, a mother with two teenaged daughters. Williams said it was emotionally hard for her.
"The woman almost cried before we lifted a finger," Williams said.
The appreciation from the community has been felt, said NAMB spring break project coordinator Bruce Poss.
"They didn't know much about Southern Baptists, but now they do," Poss said.
NAMB is planning a two-year presence for the area's recovery, Poss said.
Kobie Jones, 21, with Central Baptist of College Station, Texas, said he wasn't expecting such positive feedback from homeowners.
"They were so happy to see us and it makes all the work worth it."
Kelsey Dickson, 21, also from Central Baptist, said although she had seen all the news coverage about the storm's destruction, it was the first time for her to see such loss.
"To see all of their possessions in a pile makes me wonder how anyone, especially non-believers, can go through this and have any hope left," she said. "Our job as Christians is to build up others when they can't help themselves and to show the love of Christ. The act itself is to glorify God in the end."
From its disaster operations center in Alpharetta, Ga., NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through a partnership between NAMB and the Southern Baptist Convention's 42 state conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief programs.
SBDR assets include 82,000 trained volunteers, including chaplains, and some 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, childcare, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
Southern Baptists and others who want to donate to the disaster relief operations can contact their state conventions or contribute to NAMB's disaster relief fund via namb.net/disaster-relief-donations. Other ways to donate are to call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for "Disaster Relief."
Laura Sikes writes for the North American Mission Board. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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