A Calling to Serve

March 29, 2021 • United States
Volunteers cut up and haul away downed trees near Gadsden, Alabama.
Volunteers cut up and haul away downed trees near Gadsden, Alabama.

Driven by childhood memories of a deadly twister and the compassion of others, a first responder now puts his faith into action in Alabama.

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Helping tornado victims is profoundly personal for Samaritan’s Purse volunteer Chris Bailey. He experienced a twister first-hand as a child and also the power of selfless service to help upturned lives.

Volunteer Chris Bailey drove nearly 900 miles from Texas to serve in Alabama. His own tornado experience at age 9 has compelled him to help other storm victims.

Volunteer Chris Bailey’s own tornado experience at age 9 has compelled him to help other storm victims.

Chris is volunteering with Samaritan’s Purse to assist families in Calhoun County, Alabama, after several tornadoes carved a 100-mile track of destruction through the northeast part of the state.

VOLUNTEER AFTER SOUTHERN STORMS

It’s one of five locations in Alabama and Georgia (as of March 29) where Samaritan’s Purse volunteers are helping homeowners in Jesus’ Name. Our teams are working to remove downed trees, clear debris, tarp damaged roofs, and salvage personal belongings.

He Knows the Pain from Personal Experience

Chris drove more than 980 miles from his home in Texas to help these hurting families in Alabama. He says he’s compelled to serve partly because he still has his own storm experience etched in his memory: he was 9 years old when his home was destroyed by a tornado.

Our teams are hard at work in Alabama and Georgia after last week's deadly storms.

Our teams are hard at work in Alabama and Georgia after last week’s deadly storms.

He and his younger brother were alone in the house when the tornado sirens pierced the air. The pair had heard that the bathroom was the safest place to seek shelter during a storm, but they knew there was really nowhere good to hide in their manufactured home.

They quickly hunkered down in the bathtub with nothing but a twin mattress over them, and prayed that it was enough protection from whatever was coming. At the end of those few terrifying and deafening moments, they pushed the mattress away and realized just how close the twister had come.

“When [the mattress] came off, all we saw was the sky,” Chris said. “The whole roof was torn off—it literally peeled the whole roof off and we had nothing.”

In just a matter of minutes their home had been destroyed. Chris will always remember the moment he realized that nothing would be the same. They were left with just their memories.

“You walk in your house at the beginning of the day and you have this beautiful yard and this beautiful scene but then it only takes one minute, two minutes, and you walk out and everything is gone.”

Inspired to Serve by Others’ Example

Chris also recalls the immense relief he felt when friends, family and community members showed up in their front yard ready to help.

Volunteers are hard at work cleaning up in the Southside community near Gadsden.

Volunteers are hard at work cleaning up in the Southside community near Gadsden.

This feeling is what has helped spark a life devoted to serving others.

“Just knowing how that felt…I’ve pretty much been giving back ever since,” Chris said. He spent years in the Marine Corps and now serves as a firefighter and first responder—traveling across the country to help families in the wake of disaster.

“It brings so much relief, it takes so much pressure off of them,” he said. “Right now, the last thing they need is all this pressure and stress because they are going through a lot. That relief brings out a smile.”

Generations of Gratitude

Homeowner Tessa Sims says she’s experiencing that sense of hope and relief through Samaritan’s Purse volunteers who came to help her family.

“Those orange shirts are an important symbol of relief in the midst of a devastating time,” Tessa said. “It’s just a relief to see someone coming to help you and know that they mean well, you can trust them.”


It’s not the first time Tessa has seen an army of orange shirts in action. Three years ago, Samaritan’s Purse volunteers helped Tessa’s father, Donald, clean up after a tornado struck his home.

Now, Samaritan’s Purse volunteers are helping Tessa’s family get back on their feet after one of the twisters ripped through her son’s roof.

“Samaritan’s Purse has made a phenomenal impact on this whole community and especially right here on our land,” Tessa said. “Our whole family lives here; you’re not just impacting me and my husband; you’re impacting my children that live in their own homes here.”

Tessa Sims joins the Samaritan's Purse volunteers to celebrate the work completed on her property.

Tessa Sims joins the Samaritan’s Purse volunteers to celebrate the work completed on her property.

Her father, Donald, passed away last year, but the return of Samaritan’s Purse volunteers reminded her of how our teams had served him during our last response to the area.

“He was very blessed by Samaritan’s Purse and it touched me,” Tessa said. “You gave him a Bible. He loved it, kept it, and was so proud of it. He was just so thankful that you had been here to help him. Now you’re back to help us too—he would be very proud.”

This time, Samaritan’s Purse volunteers presented Tessa’s son, Austin, with a signed Bible. “We are just so grateful,” Austin said.

Please continue to pray for our U.S. Disaster Relief teams across the southern United States as they respond to severe weather and flooding in Jesus’ Name. For more information on how you can get involved, visit SPvolunteer.org.

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U.S. Disaster Relief Samaritan's Purse mobilizes and equips thousands of volunteers to provide emergency aid to U.S. victims of wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. In the aftermath of major storms, we often stay behind to rebuild houses for people with nowhere else to turn for help.

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