More than 600 volunteers have helped homeowners begin their recovery after Hurricane Matthew.
Although Hurricane Matthew has nearly disappeared from national media coverage, for thousands of homeowners in Beaufort County, South Carolina, the clean-up and rebuilding continues. Samaritan’s Purse, basing its operations out of LowCountry Community Church in Bluffton, has received well over 500 work orders from those in the county recovering from the storm. More than 200 of these orders already have been completed by our 600-plus volunteers.Volunteer in the Carolinas
A number of homeowners served live on Confederate Avenue in Bluffton, where two tornadoes touched down amid the hurricane-force winds. Marty Mauldin, a homeowner on this street for 14 years, chose not to evacuate and stayed in his garage during the storm with his Doberman Pinscher Adger Lee. Observing things outside from time to time, Marty said, “The tree [branches] just went straight up.”
When daylight came, Marty was shocked by the devastation he found. So many trees were down that he could see through large areas previously completely blocked by foliage. “There was nothing but generators and chain saws running around here for a whole week,” Marty said. There was also no cell phone or internet service during this time as well.
But when about 10 Samaritan’s Purse volunteers arrived and started clearing downed trees and debris, Marty said, “You guys are like angels. It is such a blessing. I can’t tell you how grateful I am.”
Marty’s neighbor Ben Banks found a tree uprooted in front of his home that left an eight-foot root ball jutting up in his yard. When asked about the help he received from Samaritan’s Purse, he choked up and said, “It was more than I could deal with by myself. They just came in and cleaned it up in a matter of an hour. I’d been working on it for three days and hadn’t really accomplished a whole lot. They came and it was like a vacuum cleaner just went through the yard.”
As volunteers finish cleaning up every property, they present the homeowner with a Bible signed by the entire crew and also join hands in a circle to pray for them.
Overwhelmed by WaterFor residents on Mill Pond Road, Bluffton, the worst of the damage came through water rather than wind. Homeowner Annette Rolt evacuated to Santee, South Carolina, with her husband Steve on Wednesday, October 5. When they returned on Saturday night, October 8, they had to walk through three feet of water in the street to get to their home. Three inches of water covered her first floor.
When neighbors began putting their couches and tables out on the curb for trash pick-up due to water damage, Annette was in denial. Her carpets were wet, but she thought they would dry out without issue. Not until she viewed the mud-out Samaritan’s Purse volunteers did for her neighbor—complete with drywall removed four feet up from the floor—did she realize she needed to do something or mold would set in. Chaplains from the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team prayed with and ministered to Annette as she dealt with this loss.
As Samaritan’s Purse volunteers began removing drywall from her living room, Annette was overwhelmed. But she was grateful for the expertise of the volunteer site team leader Carl Martin. “I just want to learn,” she said. “He’s been doing this for so long and I’m inexperienced.”
Annette’s daughter Taylor, a junior at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, came home to help her parents sort through the mess. She said, “I’m just very thankful. I’m not thankful for the damage, but thankful that it’s not worse. I’m thankful for LowCountry Community Church (the church we’ve been going to the last nine years), Samaritan’s Purse, and the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team. I’m feeling blessed because we know how much worse it could be.”
Shouldering Disaster for Another
Volunteers who worked to remove the water-damaged items in the Rolt home came from states ranging from Alabama and North Carolina to Texas and Utah.
Herbert Rainy, 84, and his wife Janet, 79, drove 900 miles from Tyler, Texas, to be able to help out. They have served at various U.S. disasters through Samaritan’s Purse for the past seven years. Janet said, “God has done so much for us. My heart goes out to people. I want to bless them as Jesus has blessed me.”
Janet became a believer in 1949 when she heard Billy Graham preach in Baltimore, Maryland.
After years as a housewife and a part-time missionary in Peru, Janet is excited to have this opportunity to serve—sometimes alongside their grandkids. “We’d rather do this than go on a vacation,” Janet said. “It’s more satisfying.”
Tim Hines, originally from Sugar Land, Texas, now serves with the United States Marine Corps in Beaufort County where his work supports the F35 joint strike fighter jet. He learned about the opportunity to volunteer with Samaritan’s Purse through his church, LowCountry Community in Bluffton.
“The gravity of the situation isn’t something one person should have to shoulder. I’m grateful to get out and serve,” Tim said.
Being Christ’s Hands and Feet
Rachel Holbrook, 37, of Portland, Oregon, concurs with Tim. Just before the storm, Rachel had prayed, “Lord, I’m ready to be your hands and feet.” She knew people would need help following Hurricane Matthew. The opportunity to volunteer with Samaritan’s Purse opened up on Wednesday, October 12 and the next day, Rachel booked a flight across the country so she could serve in the Beaufort Country relief efforts.
“It’s totally worth it,” Rachel said, “to bring joy to people in need—especially when it brings people to the Lord.” The homeowner of one property she worked hard to clean did just that and accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior through the help of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains.
For Matthew and Sherry Hurst of Rio Rancho, New Mexico, there were a few more stops on their journey to volunteering in Bluffton, South Carolina. After driving to Pennsylvania for Sherry’s grandmother’s 90th birthday party, they decided they wanted to visit the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove in Asheville, North Carolina. There, representatives encouraged them to visit the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte. During their visit at the Library, volunteer Ruthie Cooper told them about the opportunity to assist in disaster relief. They took the suggestion, bought boots at a discount store, and started working in Bluffton a couple days later. They loved it and are thankful that they leave their vacations open-ended for opportunities like this.
Through all these volunteers and the others who have served in Beaufort County, South Carolina, homeowners are getting a glimpse of God’s care for them. They are given the opportunity to see some of the truths that were sung at LowCountry Community Church the first Sunday they gathered after Hurricane Matthew: “Through the storm, He is Lord, Lord of all.”
At that service, Pastor Jeff Cranston reminded his congregation that the name Matthew means “gift of God.” In light of the destruction the meaning seemed ironic, but storm recovery is actually giving the church unique opportunities to share Christ with their community. As Pastor Cranston suggested, Hurricane Matthew may have been a gift from God after all.
Editor’s Note: Samaritan’s Purse is at work in three locations in the Carolinas. In addition to Beaufort County, we’re also serving in Horry County, South Carolina, and in Edgecombe County, North Carolina. The video at the top is from our response in Horry County. In total, we have helped more than 300 homeowners as of October 28. More than 75 individuals have received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.