A New Jersey couple affected by Hurricane Sandy receives physical and spiritual support from Samaritan’s Purse
Maybe it was fear, or stress, or loss. Maybe it was the combination of all those emotions. In any case, it had been a rough week for Bernice Reichelmann to say the least. Her home in Toms River, New Jersey, had been battered by Superstorm Sandy—the hurricane that ravaged the northeastern coast on October 29, 2012.
When a Billy Graham Evangelistic Association chaplain arrived at her door the Sunday after Sandy hit, she lost it.
“She was so distraught, she didn’t know what to do. She was in tears,” said Bruce Govett, the volunteer BGEA chaplain from Devon, England who met Bernice.
Bruce reassured Bernice of God’s presence and let her know that Samaritan’s Purse volunteers were in the community to help in Jesus’ Name.
Bernice’s husband, Robert, had been underneath their home working to clean out the crawl space. He came up and Bruce prayed for the couple.
“It made my husband and I feel a lot better,” Bernice said.
A Samaritan’s Purse volunteer team leader immediately went through the house, assessing damage and determining what actions were needed. Unfortunately, the Reichelmanns did not have flood insurance on their home of 12 years. But by late afternoon, about 20 volunteers were hard at work cleaning it out.
Over the next several days, volunteers stripped the lowest four feet of insulation and sheetrock on the first floor, removed large appliances ruined by the flooding, pulled up tiling and flooring, and helped clear out waterlogged insulation and debris from the crawl space. Volunteers came from several states to help. Bernice said she was impressed that some local residents were helping even though they still had no power at their own homes.
“These are hardworking guys [and ladies],” Robert said. “It’s phenomenal. It’s my first taste of disaster and you’ve helped me out.”
Reflecting on the huge pile of ruined items sitting at his front curb, Robert said he was saddened but grateful.
“All the stuff I’ve bragged about for years is out on the street,” he said. “[But] I can’t thank you all enough. This tear down would have taken me a week and a half.”
“I don’t know what we or the other families here would have done,” Bernice added. “Thank God for your organization.”
When the job was finished, Kevin Swart and his group of 15 volunteers from Buffalo, New York presented Robert and Bernice with a new Billy Graham Training Center Bible and prayed over them. It was signed by many of those who had worked on their home. Robert was grateful, saying that their Bible had been destroyed in the flood.
The Reichelmanns’ experience with Hurricane Sandy, the Samaritan’s Purse volunteers, and the BGEA chaplains encouraged them to more actively pursue their Christian faith. They are thankful they did not try to ride out the storm in their home and credit God for giving them the wisdom to leave.
“God was looking out for us. He told us to get out,” Bernice said.
Bernice also said she used to complain about professed Christians who only showed up at worship services on holidays—that is, until she become one herself. But after talking with Robert, the couple decided, “This is it—we’re going back [to church].”