More than 100 people accept Jesus Christ as Savior as Samaritan’s Purse volunteers and Billy Graham chaplains serve together after Hurricane Matthew.
Anytime somebody reaches his or her 100th birthday, there’s cause for great rejoicing. Samaritan’s Purse staff and volunteers in eastern North Carolina are celebrating a different kind of century milestone. Our disaster relief teams serving there—along with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains deployed to the area—recently witnessed the 100th person make a spiritual decision for Jesus Christ. On Thanksgiving Friday, a retired nurse in her 70s seeking peace and comfort decided by faith to trust Jesus Christ as Savior.
Our volunteers deployed to Pinetops—about 70 miles from Raleigh—in mid-October when the Tar and Neuse rivers overflowed their banks after Hurricane Matthew dumped 10 to 15 inches of rain over eastern North Carolina. Residents in low-lying areas were forced to evacuate as record-setting floods devastated towns along these rivers. Catastrophic damage was widespread, and 26 people in North Carolina lost their lives.
We also responded to Hurricane Matthew damage in Beaufort and Horry counties in South Carolina. We completed our work there in mid-November with a total of 485 homes.
Samaritan’s Purse volunteers and Billy Graham chaplains are based at the Pines Chapel Missionary Baptist Church. We’re coming alongside distressed homeowners not only in Pinetops but also among residents in nearby Tarboro and Princeville.
Additional volunteers are still needed as we continue to serve in Jesus’ Name. More than 35 work orders need to be completed, and our deployment is expected to run through December 17. To date, 705 volunteers have assisted 201 families in their time of need. And now 101 people have surrendered their hearts to Christ.
“We may be based in a very small town, with a population of 1,446 people, but God is doing a great work there and throughout the whole county,” said Lorenzo Torres, Samaritan’s Purse assistant program manager overseeing this deployment.
Carolin Perez, who, along with husband Desi, is coordinating the Rapid Response Team response, agreed.
“God is drawing people to Himself in so many ways, from homeowners to people we meet in convenience stores or over lunch,” she said. “God is using the circumstances created by this devastating flood to orchestrate divine appointments in order to enable our chaplains and Samaritan’s Purse volunteers to talk about Jesus Christ. It’s always exciting to see.”
The Spirit of Christ is Present
As a 5-year-old attending Sunday school, Michael always paid attention to Bernice Anderson’s lively lessons on Adam and Eve and their first sin, the prophets, Mary and Joseph, and the life and ministry of Jesus Christ—and ultimately His death and resurrection. But as Michael grew older and entered high school, his interest in spiritual things waned. Over the years, he would run into Bernice at the grocery store or elsewhere in Pinetops, and she would gently ask him if he would be returning to Pines Chapel Missionary Baptist Church. He would always answer “soon.”
Michael’s grandmother’s house was one of the many that flooded following Hurricane Matthew. He lives next door, and he opened her house to Samaritan’s Purse volunteers, who tore out waterlogged walls and flooring and sprayed for molding. Bernice was among our orange-clad team members who assisted on that mudout. She was off to lunch when some of our volunteers engaged Michael in a personal conversation about Jesus Christ. Memories from Sunday school came flooding back. After hearing the Gospel, Michael knew his time to commit his life to Christ had come. When Bernice returned to his grandmother’s home, Michael told her of his decision.
Bernice pulled him aside and whispered into his ear, “Are you serious, Michael? You really are serious?”
Nodding his head and smiling, Michael responded, “I’m very serious. This commitment is real.”
“Tears came to my eyes,” Bernice said. “I was tickled to death.”
Shannon Givens and Verna May Jones, across-the-street neighbors, also gave their hearts to Jesus during this deployment. Shannon grew up knowing about God but had never prayed to receive Christ, while Verna May didn’t know much about the Christian life while growing up.
After our volunteers cleared out their homes and took care of the mold—and presented them signed Billy Graham Study Bibles—the Billy Graham chaplains talked with both women and explained how God had sent Jesus Christ into this world to die on the cross for their sins and that they could have a personal relationship with God through His Son. Each asked Christ to take control of her life.
Verna May’s son, Xyquevious, had accepted Christ a few days earlier and had witnessed to his mom. The very moment when Verna May told the chaplains, “I feel like a breath of fresh air has come into me,” a physical wind kicked up and blew over the group—highlighting to them the renewing power of the Holy Spirit.
Volunteer Shawn Cummings from Burlington, North Carolina, alluded to this same energizing power of the Holy Spirit.
“The Spirit of Christ has been present as we’ve reached out to help our neighbor in His Name,” he said. “He helped us show His love and compassion.”