God’s Faithfulness in Key West After Hurricane Irma

October 30, 2017 • United States
Samaritan's Purse volunteers have been working hard in Florida since Sept. 14 to help homeowners devastated by Hurricane Irma. To date, more than 2,700 volunteers have responded to nearly 730 work orders and 165 people have come to faith in Jesus Christ.

A woman who survived the powerful storm comes to faith in Jesus Christ days before her death.

Volunteer Roxy Cornea-Torres and Leona Smith

Volunteer Roxy Cornea-Torres helped work on Leona Smith’s home in Key West.

Roxanngely “Roxy” Correa-Torres was sitting at the dinner table with her mom in Boston when she was blindsided by a text from Cameron Clark, a fellow Samaritan’s Purse team leader who had also volunteered in Key West, Florida. Roxy started crying.

“What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” her mom asked.

“Leona has passed away,” Roxy replied.

Roxy had regaled her mom with story after story about the 83-year-old Filipino woman she had met in Key West while volunteering with Samaritan’s Purse earlier this month.

“I was in shock because we were just there. Leona was excited because she had accepted Christ,” Roxy recalled.

Though devastated, Roxy and Cameron still rejoiced in Leona’s homegoing to be with Jesus.

Leonarda A. Smith, affectionately known as “Ms. Leona,” was born in Pangasinan, Philippines, on June 6, 1934. She moved to the U.S. almost 50 years ago.

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Leona was well known throughout the Florida Keys for her knowledge and care of rare and exotic trees, flowers, and plants in her spacious yard. She had been recognized several times by the Key West Citizen for growing fruits and vegetables not found in the Keys.

Unfortunately, her yard sustained severe damage when Hurricane Irma tore through the Florida Keys on Sunday, Sept. 10, as a Category 4 storm. It uprooted and snapped off trees and filled waterfront streets with surging seawater.

Roxy, a lieutenant with the U.S. Army, served as a site leadership team member in Key West. One day, while her team was working in a hard-hit neighborhood, two people recommended checking up on an elderly woman living at the end of a street.

Though no work order had yet been written, Roxy went by any way. She’s so glad she did.

Compelled by Love

When Roxy rang Leona’s doorbell, she heard the sound of dogs barking and approaching flip flops shuffling on the floor. The 4’11” Leona greeted Roxy with a huge smile.

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Roxy asked if they could help clean up her yard and chainsaw some of the downed trees. Leona was overwhelmed with joy and her eyes filled with tears.

During their two days working on Leona’s home, volunteers were mesmerized by her life in the Philippines and America. They in turn shared personal testimonies and the difference Jesus Christ had made in their lives.

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Leona was overwhelmed that people from Massachusetts, Washington, West Virginia, and Georgia would come and help Floridians they had never met. Our volunteers told Leona that Jesus’ love had compelled them to volunteer.

Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains also talked with Leona. They shared how much God loved her and how Jesus died on the cross for her sins.

On Oct. 3, Leona prayed to receive Jesus Christ as her Savior. We praise God that Leona’s commitment is one of more than 75 such decisions during this deployment.

Roxy took other teams to meet Leona and they enjoyed lunch on her back patio. “When I went down to Key West with Samaritan’s Purse, my intention was to serve and do God’s work and be a blessing, but it was the other way around,” Roxy said. “I received the greater blessing.”

A Miracle After the Storm

After praying to receive Jesus, Leona wrote her name in the Steps to Peace with God Gospel booklet.

After praying to receive Jesus, Leona wrote her name in the Steps to Peace with God Gospel booklet.

About two weeks later, site team leader Cameron Clark was asked to do some follow-up work at Leona’s house. When he arrived, he was met by Leona’s best friend, who had moved to Georgia but returned to Florida when she heard of Leona’s death on Oct. 9—less than one week after she had prayed to receive Christ.

The friend told Cameron about Leona’s recent passing and asked if our volunteers could help move some furniture and set up a tent that would be used for a special celebration of life service the next day. Cameron and the team gladly helped.

“I then received a phone call from the friend around lunch time asking if we pass out Billy Graham Bibles and ‘Steps to Peace with God’ booklets,” Cameron explained. “I told her we surely did. She told me they found both among Leona’s possessions.”

Cameron returned to the home, and Leona’s friend and daughter showed him the Bible that had been signed by our volunteers, including Roxy. They also showed Cameron the booklet that Leona had signed after accepting Jesus Christ as her Savior.

“That’s when [her friend] described how Leona had called soon after and told her about her decision, and that she was the happiest she had ever been and was at peace,” Cameron said.

“She was the happiest she had ever been and was at peace.”

Cameron texted Roxy to notify her of Leona’s death.

“What a beautiful miracle of how God used the storm and Samaritan’s Purse and the Rapid Response Team chaplains to bring Leona to faith in His Son,” Cameron said.

Roxy is grateful to have witnessed God’s power in Leona’s life.

“We had no idea those would be Leona’s last days,” she said. “I’m so thankful God allowed us to be a part of His faithful work.”

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Hurricane Relief Samaritan's Purse responds to the urgent needs of families devastated by the wind, rain, and storm surge of catastrophic hurricanes. Whether in the United States or abroad, we come alongside hurting people to bring emergency relief and practical help in the Name of Jesus Christ.

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