Saving a Life in Shuqualak

April 22, 2013 • United States
Bernadette Roberts receives a cross carved from a tree stump from Dennis Robinson and Suzanne Galvin, a BGEA chaplain

What started out as a standard disaster relief repair job turns into a rescue mission of a different kind

Bernadette Roberts became emotional as she spoke to the group of Samaritan’s Purse volunteers who were all gathered for dinner after a long day of disaster cleanup. Each word meant more than the last and was heavy with the weight of sincerity.

“I just want you all to know, we are instruments of God,” she said. “…and if you are obedient, you never know whose life you might save.”

Bernadette was a victim of the destruction wrought by the recent tornado in Shuqualak, Mississippi. GiveThe life that was saved was her own. The “instruments of God” used in her own story included Dennis Robinson, a Samaritan’s Purse volunteer leader, the members of his team and chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

RESPONDING TO MISSISSIPPI TWISTER: Samaritan’s Purse is helping residents of Shuqualak after a tornado swept through the town

The group started their workday with a small tarp job for a mother of two on a brick home with roof damage. It seemed like a pretty standard job. Little did they realize, a 30-minute task would turn into a rescue operation of a different kind.

When Dennis first came to Bernadette’s damaged house, he was immediately aware that his was the last face she wanted to see that morning. Her mission was to get her drug fix as soon as her children left for school. When Dennis knocked on her door, she was unable to look him in the eye. “He sees me for who I am,” she told herself.

“I felt something that I didn’t want to deal with,” she said. “I wanted to run.”

Mississippit tornado response Bernadette RobertsDennis told Bernadette that the volunteers would like to pray with her before they got to work. While holding hands with the team, she felt a “vibe”—a filling of the spirit inside her. She knew then that she couldn’t run. She described feeling a yearning, but at the same time, she thought there was a difference between desire and reality. Trying to ignore the feeling, she went back inside her home after the group prayer.

Once the job was completed, Dennis knocked on the door again.

“We have a gift for you,” he said. “We’d like to give you a Bible.”

Dennis explained how there were topics listed in the front with scriptures speaking to each one. The first topic Bernadette noticed when she opened the Bible was “addictions.” She slammed the cover shut, but when she opened it once again her eyes caught the words “chemical dependency.”

This was the breaking point. She cried out to volunteers, which included chaplains from the Billy Graham Rapid Response team, that she was hurting, addicted to crack cocaine. She told them that she was a Christian who had “fallen down.” She recognized that she “can’t be inside doing devilish things when outside I have so many angels”—referring to the Samaritan’s Purse volunteers.

Our volunteers hugged her, prayed with her, and shared their own stories.

Dennis told of his an eight-year battle with depression and the alcoholism and addiction that came with it and how God gave him the strength to overcome.

“These people did not leave me until I felt comfortable enough to say, ‘I can, I am, and I will,’” she said.

The prayers were specific, and they were answered. Bernadette shared how hurt she felt that people in her church weren’t checking on her or visiting. Shortly after prayers that addressed the issue, a church member called her—a friend who had helped her in the past.

In another answer to prayer, God removed a dangerous temptation when the police arrested a person who was her biggest drug enabler.

Bernadette told the team they had given her the courage to finally go to rehab to transform her life and live for God once again.

“Today I have strength because someone came to my house,” she said. “The Lord sometimes sends you something that’s unexpected.”

Please pray for Bernadette, that God will give her the strength to overcome her addictions. Pray that everyone helped by Samaritan’s Purse will encounter God and receive spiritual encouragement in addition to the physical help.

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U.S. Disaster Relief Samaritan's Purse mobilizes and equips thousands of volunteers to provide emergency aid to U.S. victims of wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. In the aftermath of major storms, we often stay behind to rebuild houses for people with nowhere else to turn for help.

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