Strong Hands Clean Up After Alabama Twisters

March 26, 2018 • United States

Samaritan’s Purse has disaster relief crews working in northeastern Alabama, which was hit hard by multiple tornadoes on Monday night, March 19.

April 9 UPDATE: Our responses in Jacksonville and Southside have concluded. We were able to assist more than 230 homeowners and more than 20 individuals made decisions for Christ.

When Gene Lockette surveyed his property with downed trees and debris strewn all about, he grew anxious.

An EF3 tornado had torn through northeastern Alabama and devastated hundreds of homes throughout Calhoun County. The city of Jacksonville—home to Jacksonville State University—was especially hit hard.

Our volunteers present homeowner Gene Lockette with a Bible signed by the volunteers who worked on his home.

Our volunteers present homeowner Gene Lockette with a Bible signed by the volunteers who worked on his home.

Lockette lives in the Jacksonville area, and boards, two-by-six, were wedged in the ground like spears in one part of his property. Initially he thought the lumber came from his own house, but then he realized they weren’t from his home. “I don’t know their former address, but they were stuck in the ground a foot or so,” he said. “Just tremendous, the force that comes with 140 miles-per-hour winds.”

Lockette wondered how he was going to clean up the mess. Would life return to any semblance of normalcy?

Then about two dozen orange-clad Samaritan’s Purse volunteers showed up at his home, ready to serve in Jesus’ Name. A mighty weight was lifted off Lockette’s shoulders.

Our team chainsawed trees, removed debris, and tidied up his yard. “It was just amazing,” Lockette said. “It was such a tremendous relief.”

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Tommy Smith was there serving as our team lead. He said the presence of Samaritan’s Purse volunteers helps relieve homeowners as we come alongside them. “To pray with them, to show that compassion, to show that they’re not forgotten, it’s such an awesome privilege,” he said. “It almost humbles me to tears to be able to serve on these deployments. I thank God for the opportunity.”

Our volunteers are trained to be sensitive to the spiritual needs of homeowners. One team showed up at a house to assess the damage and how we could help, but they saw that the work had already been completed. As they talked with the homeowner, though, they realized he clearly had a spiritual need that needed to be addressed. They called for a visit by the chaplains serving in Jacksonville with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team.


Two chaplains came and talked with the homeowner. As the three chatted, they discovered they were all veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. When the conversation turned toward spiritual matters, the homeowner said he had grown up in church and he desired to turn his life around but didn’t quite know how.

The chaplains proceeded to explain the Gospel of Jesus Christ. After sharing, they asked the homeowner if he would like to accept Jesus, and he said, “Yes.” They prayed together and moments later as his daughter entered the room, he exclaimed, “I just asked Jesus into my life!” They all embraced each other.

Also at Work in Southside

Tornadoes also ripped through Southside in Etowah County, a more rural area south of Gadsden. Dozens of homes suffered damage from the powerful storm.

Samaritan’s Purse volunteers are active there too. In addition to chainsaw and skid-steer work, we’re tarping roofs. The partnership with our host church, Southside Baptist, continues to deepen as their members become even more involved with the work throughout the community.

One of our teams assisted and encouraged the Loscos family. After we served at their home, the older couple came to a team dinner Saturday evening, along with their daughter and husband. Mrs. Loscos is a woman of faith and was delighted when her daughter and son-in-law attended services at Southside Baptist Sunday morning.

“God is using our team effort between Southside Baptist Church, our Rapid Response Team chaplains, and our volunteers to draw people to Christ and the church,” said Lorenzo Torres, our program manager overseeing our Southside deployment.

Please be in prayer for our teams as they continue working and serving. And pray that many will come to realize their need for Jesus Christ as their Savior.

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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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