Widows Give Thanks for Help with Hurricane Cleanup

September 21, 2018 • United States
Homeowner Carolyn Seeley thanks volunteers for helping her clear debris from her property in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
Homeowner Carolyn Seeley thanks volunteers for helping her clear debris from her property in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

Samaritan’s Purse volunteers served two women in Jacksonville, North Carolina, whose homes were hit by Hurricane Florence.

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Mary Kerns wasn’t taking any chances. The last time, almost 20 years ago, a major hurricane threatened her hometown, she ended up being rescued out of waist-deep water in her home. So, a week ago, when Hurricane Florence roared into Jacksonville, Mary packed some clothes and went to stay with her son several hours away.

Volunteer Angela Bostic speaks with homeowner Mary Kerns as she and other volunteers help Mary clean up her flooded home.

Volunteer Angela Bostic speaks with homeowner Mary Kerns as she and other volunteers help Mary clean up her flooded home.

Mary returned a few days ago to find that Florence had dumped four feet of water into her home, and the extensive water damage would require a mud-out; the same as required after Hurricane Fran’s powerful hit 20 years ago.

“I thought Hurricane Fran was bad—this beat it. This was a whole lot worse,” Mary said. “The roads looked like rivers.”

For the second time in her life, Mary faced a painful mud-out process and an attempt to move on after the storm.

Grace in Time of Need

Mary, 80, was first widowed nearly 40 years ago after her husband died of a brain tumor. Mary has lived alone ever since her second husband died of cancer in 2005.

Volunteers clear wet walls and flooring from Mary Kerns' flooded home.

Volunteers clear wet walls and flooring from Mary Kerns’ flooded home.

She struggles with constant back pain, making it impossible for her to do the storm cleanup on her own. She couldn’t stop thanking the Samaritan’s Purse volunteers who removed damaged belongings and ripped out waterlogged walls, sheetrock, and floors. The mud-out process helps prevent the spread of mold and is a critical step in helping homeowners prepare for contractors who will do needed repair work.

“This helped me out a whole, whole lot,” Mary said. “I sure appreciate it. I would have just done a little bit at a time.”

Mary had to stay with her son for nearly a week, and when she finally returned home, Mary said Jacksonville looked like a ghost town. Many of her neighbors who also evacuated still haven’t returned.

Mary continues to trust that God will carry her, and her resilient community, through the storm’s ugly aftermath. “He’s been with me,” she said.

The remains of floodwater still fill many streets where our volunteer teams are cleaning out flooded homes in Jacksonville, N.C.

The remains of floodwater still fill many streets where our volunteer teams are cleaning out flooded homes in Jacksonville.

Angela Bostic, a first-time Samaritan’s Purse volunteer, worked on Mary’s home. Angela has participated in numerous disaster relief trips with her church, but “this one hit close to home,” she said.

Angela lives about 15 minutes away in Richlands, near where some people had to be rescued out of their homes by Coast Guard helicopters.

“It pulls at your heart to see that in your community. It’s devastating,” Angela said. “It was only a day ago that we could even get through on the roads.”

Angela and her family had yard damage, yet Angela chose to put that work on hold and to spend time serving others.

“I want to give back as much as I can,” she said. “I’m excited to be able to help make a difference.”

‘I Had Faith God was with Me’

Carolyn Seeley felt lost the entire first year after her husband’s death. He was a lineman for a local power company, and at age 42, he was electrocuted.

Volunteers remove damaged fencing and other debris from Carolyn Seeley's property.

Volunteers remove damaged fencing and other debris from Carolyn Seeley’s property.

“God gave me one of the best. When I lost my husband, it was the most tragic thing,” Carolyn said. “I didn’t know whether I was coming or going.”

But Carolyn, now age 80, clung tightly to God then, and she’s holding fast to Him during her most recent trial. “It was me and the Lord [during Hurricane Florence]. I did a lot of praying,” she said. “I had faith God was with me during this storm.”

Carolyn couldn’t sleep at all the night Florence came to Jacksonville. “It was very loud outside; a lot of roaring,” she explained. “I kept moving from room to room in the house to try and get somewhere that wasn’t as loud.”

In the morning, Carolyn was greeted with lots of yard debris and fallen tree limbs that would have taken many months for her to clean up. Yet, with a team of hard-working Samaritan’s Purse volunteers, the task was finished in no time.

Volunteers pray with homeowner Carolyn Seeley before presenting her with a Billy Graham Study Bible signed by each team member.

Volunteers pray with homeowner Carolyn Seeley before presenting her with a Billy Graham Study Bible signed by each team member.

“You don’t know what this means. It’s just a blessing,” she said, tears welling in her eyes. “It’s so special. I’m overwhelmed.”

Carolyn came to faith in Jesus Christ at age 11 and ever since she has seen God take care of her and protect her—just as He did during Hurricane Florence.

“We all need the Lord. I don’t know where I’d be without Him.”

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Samaritan’s Purse is also at work in Wilmington and New Bern, both on the North Carolina coast. Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains are working alongside us. Please keep praying for affected families and ask God to grant our teams great boldness for Christ in word and deed.

For a little more background on the storm and our response, go here.

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Hurricane Florence Relief Florence's record-breaking rains have caused devastating flooding. Our staff and equipment have been deployed to the North Carolina coast; we've established relief bases in New Bern, Jacksonville, and Wilmington. Volunteer teams are helping affected homeowners by cutting downed trees, clearing debris, tarping roofs, and working on mud-outs. Please pray for residents as they recover from the storm and also for our volunteers as they serve in Jesus' Name.

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