Samaritan's Purse aided hundreds of storm victims after a powerful twister hit the Hattiesburg area
Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief efforts in Petal, Miss., came to a close March 8, leaving behind houses once again fit to live in, cleaner yards, and a renewed sense of hope for many victims.GiveWe responded to the tornado that swept through the Hattiesburg area on Feb. 10 by sending a Disaster Relief Unit from our North Carolina headquarters. Volunteers worked out of our base at Petal Harvey Baptist Church to help storm victims by cutting up and removing downed trees, clearing debris, and tarping damaged roofs.
A total of 624 volunteers donated over 10,500 hours of their time to aid in the cleanup efforts, helping 225 homeowners affected by the disaster. Hundreds of lives were touched by the selflessness of Samaritan’s Purse volunteers.
“Many praises have been shared by the families that [Samaritan’s Purse] efforts touched,” said Warren Miller, President of the Mississippi branch of the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster network. “[Their] setup and presence at Petal Harvey Baptist Church parking lot in one of the hardest hit areas will be missed.”
The love of God was proclaimed in word and deed by Samaritan’s Purse volunteers and chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Rapid Response team, and 62 people came to faith in Jesus Christ.
“Words could never describe what it is like to see how the Lord is moving over this community and working in such a powerful way,” said Tony McNeil, program manager for the response. “We have been witness to the Holy Spirit moving in the hearts of those in need, and we will forever be thankful for the opportunity we have been afforded here.”
Daniel Dykes was among the many storm victims helped by Samaritan’s Purse.
The tornado that swept through his quiet neighborhood in Petal was gone in a matter of seconds. But those terrifying moments will forever be etched on his memory.
“It sounded like a train coming,” he said. “There’s a little power plant down the road and it just blew up. My kids were screaming. I gathered them (a 12-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter) and went to the hallway at the center of the house. The glass started shattering and the pressure from the tornado was pulling us towards the windows and throwing mud on our faces at the same time.”
Daniel was thankful his family survived.
“I feel blessed that we made it out okay,” he said. “Someone was watching over us.”
But when the winds stopped and he stepped outside his home, reality hit. The extent of the damage—and the work that would be required to repair it—was overwhelming.
“It looked like a war zone,” he said. “I was in shock. I didn’t expect when I walked out the door to see this. Trees were everywhere and water was pouring through the roof. Lots of glass was shattered. I had a shed on the side of the house. The tornado picked it up and slammed it against my car. I was fine until I laid down that night. Then I broke down crying.”
Within a couple of days of the storm, a Samaritan’s Purse damage assessor was in the neighborhood. When Daniel was asked if he needed assistance, he didn’t hesitate to say yes.
“I could use all the help I can get,” he said.
In one day, a team of volunteers hauled off the debris and cleaned up his yard.
“It was awesome, “ he said. “They did a great job. They did more than enough. One of the guys was from Ohio. For him to come all the way down here and help me—I don’t know what to say. I’m just very thankful.”
The team told him they were there because they wanted to let him know that God cares for all the storm victims. When the work was finished, the volunteers prayed with Daniel and presented him with a Bible.
“They helped me out so much, I can’t thank them enough,” he said. “They came and did it for free out of the kindness of their heart.”
Our teams finished their work on Friday, March 8, and the Disaster Relief Unit left early the next morning.
“Yes our work here is complete, but we also realize that this does not mean the pain and suffering of those affected is over,” McNeil said. “We want to please remember these wonderful people in our prayers in the days, weeks, months, and even years to come as they struggle to get back on their feet.”