Edward Graham Encourages Volunteers Serving in Florida Panhandle

March 15, 2019 • United States

Samaritan’s Purse continues to bring relief to Florida homeowners devastated by Hurricane Michael.

U.S. Disaster Relief

UPDATE (May 1, 2019): Our disaster relief response has concluded, with nearly 3,000 volunteers serving more than 1,200 homeowners. We praise God that 125 people came to faith in Jesus Christ during this response. We will also soon begin rebuilding homes in the Panhandle.

Edward Graham in Panama City, Florida

Edward Graham works to clear debris on a job site in Panama City.

Edward Graham, son of Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham, recently traveled to Panama City, Florida, to encourage our teams as they help homeowners still struggling to recover after Hurricane Michael.

“As you look around these neighborhoods, it’s complete destruction. It’s like a bomb went off,” Edward said. “The work is still here. We still need volunteers.”

Since we started work in Panama City in early October, more than 2,000 volunteers have served more than 700 homeowners in Jesus’ Name. We praise God for the 87 individuals who have come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior through this response.

Edward spent time in Florida working alongside a volunteer team from the ALERT Academy in Texas. ALERT is a program for young men that provides discipleship training as well as emergency response training.

The ALERT Academy in Texas regularly sends young men to volunteer with Samaritan's Purse.

The ALERT Academy in Texas regularly sends young men to volunteer with Samaritan’s Purse.

“We love serving with Samaritan’s Purse,” said Marv Behr, director of ALERT. “We have built into our program a week deployment for every 10 weeks of the program, so we often contact Samaritan’s Purse.”

Matthew Wearden enrolled in the academy to learn skills that will be helpful for serving in international missions. Matthew, who plans to one day become a doctor, enjoyed the opportunity to meet Samaritan’s Purse staff and volunteers.

“They want to show God’s love to all the people they work with,” he said.

Carried Through the Storm

One of the couples the ALERT team helped was Gracie and Leo Maddox. They had lived in their Panama City home for 40 years and had never seen a storm with as much force as Hurricane Michael.

The couple knew they were in trouble when a tree crashed through their roof.

“It scared us to death,” Gracie said. “The rain started pouring in. We thought, ‘We’ve got to get out of here.’”

Marv Behr presents a Bible to homeowners Gracie and Leo Maddox.

Marv Behr presents a Bible to homeowners Gracie and Leo Maddox.

Gracie, Leo, and their adult grandson didn’t know where to go, but they knew they couldn’t stay in their house. They drove slowly through town, dodging downed power lines and trees. Michael’s powerful winds blew out the back window while they were driving.

“I was praying the whole time,” Gracie said.

The family finally came to the mall parking lot and stopped the car near the back wall of one of the buildings. They buckled their seatbelts in case the car flipped over and waited until the worst of the storm passed.

Gracie, 76, knows God carried her family through the storm, just as He has carried her during the darkest times of life. Gracie’s first husband died when they’d only been married for five years. And she recently survived a battle with cancer that doctors said should have killed her.

Once again God provided for her as Samaritan’s Purse volunteers came to help after this latest crisis. The team ripped out ceiling insulation and did chain saw work to remove downed trees.

“It means the world to have Samaritan’s Purse come,” Gracie said. “I’m really amazed.”

Next Generation Leaders Step Up

Spring break is already drawing young adult volunteers to the Panhandle, and we praise God for their commitment to serving Jesus Christ.

Brianna and the team from Westminster worked hard clearing yard debris.

Brianna and the team from Westminster worked hard clearing yard debris.

Brianna Winston is a high school senior who came to volunteer with students from Westminster Christian Academy in Opelousas, Louisiana.

“I thought we were going to just help clean up, but there’s a spiritual and emotional aspect to it,” she explained.

Brianna said she’s always been shy and sharing her faith isn’t easy. But volunteering in Florida helped her grow. “This was a big step for me,” she said.

Makenzie Ellis is also a high school senior who volunteered with Samaritan’s Purse for the first time. Makenzie attends Millers Creek Christian School in western North Carolina, and every year the graduating class chooses a mission project in which to participate.

Makenzie's volunteer experience encouraged her faith in the Lord.

Makenzie’s volunteer experience encouraged her faith in the Lord.

Makenzie had no idea the hurricane’s destruction was so widespread until their group crossed the Florida line and she saw all the trees snapped in half.

Makenzie and her team spent the week clearing yard debris and moving damaged belongings out of homes.

“My favorite part is giving the Bible to the homeowner. I’ve never seen anything like that before,” she said. “It makes it all worth it.”

Makenzie enjoyed working alongside volunteers from across the country who love God and are dedicated to sharing the Gospel.

“It’s tough trying to be on fire for God when society tries to put that out,” she said. “This has been so reviving. I’m thankful to Samaritan’s Purse for doing this.”

U.S. Disaster Relief Samaritan's Purse mobilizes and equips thousands of disaster relief 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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