Recovering Belongings, Rebuilding Hope

July 10, 2012 • United States

Samaritan’s Purse teams responding to wildfires and flooding are conveying the message that God cares

The volunteers methodically sifted through the debris that once was Pauline Ingold’s home, looking for anything that could be salvaged or was meaningful.

The house was one of 22 destroyed in Estes Park, Colorado, and one of 259 claimed by the High Park Fire, which burned nearly 88,000 acres in an area west of Fort Collins.

Samaritan’s Purse responded to multiple disasters in June—wildfires in Colorado and New Mexico, and flooding in Minnesota and Florida. Our staff and volunteers are still based in Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, Colorado; in Ruidoso, New Mexico; and in Moose Lake, Minnesota. We recently completed our response in Crawfordville, Florida.

Whether sifting through a home destroyed by fire, or removing damaged drywall, water, mud, and debris from flooded homes, the volunteer teams make it clear that they are working in the Name of Christ. By their actions and their words, they convey the message that God cares. The message is reinforced when the volunteers pray with the homeowners when the job is finished, and present a Bible signed by all the team.

The message was understood by Carolyn Haack, Pauline’s daughter. The pain of losing her house was still too real and raw, so Pauline wasn’t there. But Carolyn looked on as volunteers patiently went through the house, shoveling debris onto sifting screens, letting the ashes fall through and seeing what remained.

“I am just totally amazed that people are so willing to give so much of themselves for so long,” she said. “The thing that’s so amazing is how respectful they’ve been, and how careful and gentle they’ve been with everything. If we’d had a contractor come in, they would just have bulldozed everything and every little piece that means something to my Mom would have been gone. But as a result of them taking their time, and sifting through every little piece of the property, they’ve been able to recover one of the most important things.”

“Miss Pauli” served as a missionary in Indonesia for over 20 years with her husband, who died in February. The Samaritan’s Purse team was able to salvage precious belonging and memories, including a wedding ring and photos that should have been consumed in the fire.

“We found so many things,” said John Garrison, the volunteer team leader. “I felt God’s protection over the house.”

Similar stories are told at the other locations.

In Ruidoso, where the Little Bear Fire burned more than 44,000 acres and 254 houses and businesses, a homeowner named Jo was present when her high school and wedding rings were found.

“Her husband died last year, and she was truly relieved when her wedding ring was recovered,” said Brent Graybeal, program manager for the New Mexico response. “The volunteer that found the ring ran into her in Ruidoso this afternoon and Jo was proudly wearing it.”

In Moose Lake, where record rainfall flooded more than 180 houses in a town of 2,750 people, a homeowner named Kathy had something more important to be thankful for. She looked on as the volunteers mudded out her flooded house.

“She told the team she had never seen God’s people work like this,” said Todd Taylor, program manager in Minnesota. “She did not understand His grace. She went on to tell the team she had not been to church in years.”

As the volunteers worked, Rapid Response chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association arrived and told her about salvation through faith in Jesus. She accepted Him as her savior.

“Kathy joined us for supper that might to express her thanks, and as she did you could see her thankfulness in the countenance of her face,” Taylor said.