College Students Serve Jacksonville Family Suffering After Hurricane Florence

September 26, 2018 • United States
Liberty University joined our volunteer teams to help Jacksonville homeowners clean up after Hurricane Florence passed through.

Liberty University students volunteer in Jesus’ Name and bring the hope of the Gospel to a hurting mother in North Carolina.

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Glass shards were sprinkled across the floor, the furniture was wet, and nearly all the toys and clothes were molded and ruined. Ceiling insultation had spilled out across the room with such force that “it looked like snow. White was everywhere,” said Leah Summers. “I can’t imagine coming home and seeing that.”

Leah Summers, center, joins other Liberty University students in greeting homeowner Briton Wertz.

Leah Summers, center, joins other Liberty University students in greeting homeowner Briton Wertz.

Leah was describing the first home she helped clean up as the leader of a team of Liberty University (Lynchburg, Virginia) students who recently volunteered with Samaritan’s Purse in Jacksonville, in eastern North Carolina.

The initial family they served was Briton Wertz and her two children. Briton’s son’s room suffered extensive water damage when Hurricane Florence’s slow-moving, torrential rains caused the roof to leak.

The Liberty team spent an entire day removing damaged furniture and belongings out of that room and throughout Briton’s house. They helped sort the family’s possessions to determine what could be saved and what was already overcome by mold.

“We want to love and serve them because it is a very emotional, vulnerable time,” Leah said.

Surviving the Storm

Briton was at work and her children were with a family friend when Hurricane Florence settled in over Jacksonville. For 21 years Briton has served her community as a fire department EMT, and she was ready to do that again during the monster storm.

Briton's son, Massimo, helps a Liberty University volunteer pack up belongings.

Briton’s son, Massimo, helps a Liberty University volunteer pack up belongings.

“I was at work from Thursday until Wednesday evening,” she explained. “When I came home, it was raining in my house.”

The wind had ripped shingles off the roof, causing water to leak through, and eventually part of the roof above her son’s room collapsed.

Briton is a single mother who works hard for her children and for her patients. She wasn’t used to being in a situation where she couldn’t handle everything on her own.

“My whole life has been to take care of other people. I’ve never had to ask someone to take care of me,” she said.

Briton was overwhelmed when college students she had never met showed up at her house to do whatever they could to help ease her burden.

“The fact that you are doing this and enjoying it helps me to accept the situation a little bit better,” she said.

Called to Serve

Briton's home was hit with wind and water damage after Hurricane Florence damaged the roof, allowing rain water to soak the interior.

Briton’s home was hit with wind and water damage after Hurricane Florence damaged the roof, allowing rain water to soak the interior.

The student volunteers came through Liberty’s Send Now initiative, which mobilizes students to quickly respond during urgent disaster relief and humanitarian needs. Students accepted to the program are allowed excused absences from class and can make up their coursework.

The Jacksonville deployment is the second time senior Rebecca Hall has volunteered with Samaritan’s Purse through Send Now. She also served two years ago during our tornado response in Albany, Georgia.

The senior electrical engineering major enjoys working hard and especially likes being outside and helping with debris cleanup and chainsaw work. But she’s motivated to volunteer because “the Lord has called me to serve and to be a missionary.”

Rebecca said that she has seen God work in ways she didn’t expect through the team’s obedience to reach out to others.

Liberty University students serving with Samaritan's Purse helped Briton salvage belongings and clean up the mess in her Jacksonville home.

Liberty University students serving with Samaritan’s Purse helped Briton salvage belongings and clean up the mess in her Jacksonville home.

“Coming into this week I’ve been reading through Ephesians, and Ephesians 3:20 says that God will do ‘exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.’ We came to Jacksonville to help clean out houses, but the Lord has exceeded that expectation—we’re also here for emotional support.”

Senior Sam Stover was also participating in his second Samaritan’s Purse response through Send Now, his first being last year in Texas after Hurricane Harvey. Sam said that although he enjoys meeting volunteers from across the country, what’s most special is connecting with hurting families.

“The number one reason I volunteer is for the homeowners and seeing the transformation in their lives over a few hours—to see renewed hope,” he said.

A New Sister in Christ

Hurricane Florence wasn’t the first storm to come barreling into Briton’s life. She’s walked some very difficult roads, including health issues and a traumatic family situation earlier this year.

Briton was diagnosed a few years ago with a cyst at the base of her spine. This type of cyst is rare, and even rarer to develop twice, as Briton also had one in college. Removal required major surgery that put Briton in bed for nearly three months.

Not long after she recovered, Briton dropped an extension ladder on her head and injured her neck and spine. She didn’t realize the severity of her injury until the MRI.

Homeowner Briton Wertz and her daughter Mia talk about Jesus with U.S. Disaster Relief volunteers and Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains.

Homeowner Briton Wertz and her daughter Mia talk about Jesus with U.S. Disaster Relief volunteers and Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains.

“My doctor said, ‘If you go over a speed bump wrong, you’re going to be a quadriplegic.’”

Briton needed two surgeries to correct the problem.

She’s never stopped working hard at her job, and she’s never stopped caring for her children. Yet, until Samaritan’s Purse volunteers came to serve in Jesus’ Name, Briton didn’t know that she did not have to walk these hard roads alone.

Through the witness of our volunteers and Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains, Briton heard the Gospel and committed her life to Jesus Christ.

“They explained the Gospel in easy terms,” she said. “I feel like I wouldn’t be here without God—it wasn’t a hard decision.”


We praise God for Briton’s salvation and for the 14 others so far who’ve been saved during our deployments in Jacksonville, New Bern, and Wilmington. We are thankful for close to 2,000 volunteers who’ve served to date.

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Hurricane Florence Relief Florence's record-breaking rains have caused devastating flooding. Our staff and equipment have been deployed to the North Carolina coast; we've established relief bases in New Bern, Jacksonville, and Wilmington. Volunteer teams are helping affected homeowners by cutting downed trees, clearing debris, tarping roofs, and working on mud-outs. Please pray for residents as they recover from the storm and also for our volunteers as they serve in Jesus' Name.

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