Last week 48 students worked alongside Samaritan’s Purse volunteers in East Baton RougeVolunteer in Louisiana
“This is the greatest gift,” Dusty said as Liberty University students presented her and her husband, Brian, with a Bible and then gathered to pray.
Dusty said “thank you” over and over and Brian pumped his fist in the air. The smiles on their faces looked nothing like that of a couple who lost nearly all their belongings in catastrophic flooding that affected more than 100,000 homes in 20 parishes across south Louisiana.
Every homeowner Samaritan’s Purse helps after a disaster is given a Billy Graham Training Center Bible signed by volunteers who worked on their home. The Bible meant so much to these long-time Louisiana residents because the day before, through the work and witness of our staff, volunteers, and chaplains, Dusty and Brian Caschio prayed to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
“Dusty told me this was the happiest day of her life,” said Liberty student Sarah Wicker.
Sarah was one of 48 students who volunteered last week with Samaritan’s Purse and worked on homes throughout East Baton Rouge Parish.
Sarah and the team at the Caschio home worked long, grueling days. Before they could begin the mud-out, they had to remove all personal belongings and furniture from the home, including a piano dear to Dusty because of her passion for music and singing.
Sarah labored hard tearing out moldy drywall and insulation in the kitchen, so much so that she used an overturned wheelbarrow as a backrest during a lunch break and closed her eyes for a few minutes. But rest didn’t last long and Sarah was right back to work, smiling and encouraging others along the way.
“I love serving and getting my hands dirty,” she said. “We need to be working harder and more joyfully because we have Christ. I prayed for Christ to give me extra strength so we can go above and beyond.”
Thanks to Liberty students and other Samarian’s Purse volunteers, the Caschios are a lot closer to going home. Since their home is now gutted, contractors will be able to begin restoring the home quicker and cheaper. This time when the Caschios move in, it will be with changed hearts.
“With the salvation they now have, they’re going to have a whole new life,” Sarah said.
Sending Students in Jesus’ Name
The army of 48 student volunteers came through Liberty’s Send Now initiative, which mobilizes students to quickly respond during urgent disaster relief and humanitarian needs. Students accepted to the program are allowed excused absences from class and to make up their coursework.
Kelsey Baker works in Liberty’s Office of Residence Life, and the Louisiana deployment is her third time helping lead a Send Now disaster response with Samaritan’s Purse. Earlier this year, she led a team in Mississippi, and in April, she was in Texas after flooding hit Houston.
One reason Kelsey enjoys volunteering with Samaritan’s Purse is working alongside “older believers who are still committed to sharing the Gospel and serving. It’s so encouraging,” she said. “They teach us and love on us and listen to us.”
For sophomore Sarah Searle, Louisiana is her first Send Now trip, but she’s not unfamiliar with Samaritan’s Purse. Sarah has packed Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes for years.
Sarah said serving through Send Now and Samaritan’s Purse is an opportunity for students to practice obedience.
“When you are available and willing. you should go without hesitation,” she said. “As long as you have a willing spirit, God will use you.”
God is using the willing hearts of our volunteers to make a difference in Louisiana. So far, our more than 1,700 volunteers have helped remove debris, mud, and insulation; clean floors; and spray for mold. Among our three bases of operation in East Baton Rouge, Gonzales, and Lafayette, 112 people have come to faith in Jesus Christ.
Homeowners Grateful and Encouraged
No matter the heat, sweat, and aching muscles, last week was worth it for this group of Liberty students because of the homeowners God allowed them to serve.
“Ya’ll are a godsend,” said homeowner Karen, who escaped the floodwaters because her brother-in-law waded through the water with a raft. “I was sitting here calculating how long it would take me just to go bit by bit to get everything out.”
Karen is a breast cancer survivor, and her husband is a heart transplant patient who struggles with Parkinson’s Disease.
Liberty students also served newlyweds Kay and Dave and Dave’s uncle who lives next door. Kay told how she packed a suitcase with a few clothes but didn’t expect the water would continue to rise and eventually flood their home. The couple escaped in a small canoe.
“I can’t tell you the relief I felt,” Kay said about the day she found out Samaritan’s Purse would be working on her home. “I started crying.”
Testimonies from these and other homeowners of standing firm in Christ during the storms of life tremendously blessed the students.
“You see pile after pile of peoples’ things, and it’s heartbreaking,” Kelsey said. “But when you go and actually talk to the homeowners, it’s a completely different picture from what you see at a distance. You see the Lord’s provision, protection, and goodness. We’re left encouraged and full of faith.”
More volunteers are needed in Louisiana. To volunteer, visit the SP Volunteer Network.