By Donna Thornton/News Editor
Volunteers from across the country and the world work to meet the needs of people facing disasters through Samaritan’s Purse.
Several members of Southside Baptist Church volunteer with the organization, heading out for a few weeks at a time when their help is needed.
Dan Childs and Tim Weeks are based in Toms River, New Jersey now, helping people still struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Interviewed by phone last week, Childs said he was working on the tool truck that day – seeing that the teams working on people’s homes had what they needed for their jobs.
The work done in the wake of a storm and the kind of flooding seen in the New Jersey area, he said, ranges from assessing property to see if they can provide help to “mud outs” at homes.
Pam Weeks and Childs described what is involved in a mud out: Tearing out sheet rock after flood damage and spraying a bleaching agent to kill mold to make a home ready to be rebuilt.
Childs said the cold weather after Hurricane Sandy is helping to curb the growth of mold. He’s seen much worse mold growth in warm areas after storms.
Like the Weeks, and Ginger and Denny Sanders, Childs goes often on mission trips with Samaritan’s Purse. Before Christmas, he and the Weeks and the Sanders were in Toms River for a two week assignment. After the shooting in Newton, the Sanders were sent to be with families there, before they all came home for Christmas. Then Childs and Tim Weeks were asked to come back to New Jersey, where many people remain without electricity, running water or heat.
“There are whole sections of town that were devastated,” Childs said.
In late July and August, the Weeks, Childs and Royce Chambers were in Japan, working on a “rebuild” project in areas an earthquake and tsunami more than a year before. They spent about a month there.
“I had this idea of what I was going to do in Japan,” Pam explained. “I planned to love on these Japanese people and show them God’s love.”
“There was nobody there. Our place was devastated,” she said “You didn’t see any cars or people,” because the houses were still unfit to live in.
“I had my ideas,” Pam said, but God had other work in mind for her. “Tim and I actually built floor joists, put down sub flooring and hung sheetrock.”
Pam said she’d had experience on prior building trips with the church. As the volunteers finished work rebuilding a home, she said, there is a dedication ceremony and they always present the homeowner with a Bible, signed by all the volunteers.
“The Bibles are in Japanese,” Pam said, so that they can leave the Word of God with the homeowners after they leave. She said they found the Japanese people to be very receptive to spiritual counseling.
Pam said they stayed at an old Christian camp and at one point there were some Japanese women who came there to stay. She said after working on homes, she would come in an they would gather at her feet “like I was Santa Claus” and asked her about being Christian, about being saved.
Through an interpreter, she was able to share the Good News. Waiting for an interpreter did make it more challenging. “For them, just hearing you say Jesus’ name seemed to make them happy,” Pam said.
In mission trips, she said, you sometimes encounter people who don’t want to hear about Jesus. “They just want you to do the work and they don’t want to hear your testimony.”
But that wasn’t the case in Japan, and Childs said in many homes in the northeast, it hasn’t been the case after Hurricane Sandy.
Going into these areas, Childs said, and doing the hard work needed to repair homes and rebuild lives opens a door to share the Gospel.
He said at one home, the owner posed the question “Why are you here?” and it gave him the opportunity to share testimony.
For the volunteers, there is always a “share” time, when they can talk about the “God moments” they’ve experienced, Childs said.
Some of those who volunteer indicate there are many of those moments in each trip they make.
“We get a bigger blessing than we give,” Pam said.
In addition to trips to these locations, Pam said Tim has been to Eskimo villages in Alaska on mission trips, and Southside Baptist members Jack and Marilyn Chambers went to Alaska to work at a Wounded Warriors facility this past year. Pam said she hopes to be able to volunteer at that facility in the future.
Ginger said she and Denny have been to Haiti more than once – and one year were there to help distribute Christmas Child boxes.
“People have asked me what the children’s faces were like when they got their boxes,” Ginger said. “I couldn’t see for the tears in my eyes.”