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Thursday
Nov152012

Sandy Blog: Clearing trees and sharing Christ

 

Arkansas Baptist disaster relief volunteers clear a downed tree. Photo by Caleb YarbroughEditor's Note: Caleb Yarbrough, media specialist for the Arkansas Baptist News, is working alongside Arkansas Baptist volunteers serving in New York in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. He is blogging his experiences as the team travels to the Empire State to help those in need.

DEER PARK, N.Y. – For most of the week I have worked with the feeding team cleaning cambros and food trays. Today I got the opportunity to travel out and around with the “recovery” unit from Arkansas.

The recovery team’s biggest job is safely clearing trees damaged during severe weather or other disasters. Today the team had three different projects to complete throughout Long Island.

Caleb YarbroughThe first project was a small tree that needed to be removed from behind a woman’s home in one of the areas hardest hit by Sandy. The recovery unit’s chainsaws made quick work of the tree and I had a chance to sit down and speak with the woman who owned the home.

The woman’s name was Marie and she was a Haitian immigrant to the United States who was recently retired from the U.S. Army. Marie’s home was completely flooded, up to the second floor during Sandy. All of her and her son’s belongings, including automobiles in their driveway, were destroyed by salt water and sewage that escaped from the sewer during the storm.

Marie said that since the storm she and her son had been living out of their one unharmed vehicle, her church and her office. She said that even with her insurance it would probably take months before she could actually move back in and live in her home. 

Marie is a believer and went back to her native Haiti for the first time since she was a child after the country experienced a devastating earthquake in 2011. Marie, along with the sponsorship of her friends and family, started two orphanages for Haitian child who had nowhere to go after the earthquake. The orphanages now house hundreds of children.

Marie, who is used to being a servant, was incredibly gracious for our small part in getting her home back to normal. After we finished cutting down the tree and clearing it from her backyard we prayed with her and gave her a hug before heading on to the other projects we had lined up for the day.

Disaster relief volunteers pray with a homeowner.The next project took much longer as it consisted of a larger tree that had to be tied and anchored in order for it to fall away from the home and avoid damage.

The woman who owned the home was Jewish and one of our team members took a few minutes to shared the gospel with her. She did not make a profession of faith, but she was obviously touched by the work that the team did for her as she was in tears as she hugged us after we prayed with her. The woman, Gil, was given a New Testament to read and a seed was planted.

Our third and final project of the day was a large fallen tree that landed on a shed and barely missed a window on the side of a home. The homeowner was excited when we showed up, but thought that we were just going to assess the damage and come back to clean things up. He was surprised when we got to work right away as well as with the speed at which the chainsaw unit was able to cut and clear his tree.

As we left the last project, the homeowner, named Brian, told us that he had been trying to get someone out to clean up the fallen tree since Sandy first happened and had not been able to get anyone to even come look at it. He was astounded that we would not only do the job, but did it well and free of charge. Brian said that our work was like “Southern hospitality on steroids.”

After traveling out into the numerous communities that make up Long Island, it made even more aware of the incredible devastation that is present here. It will be a long time before many people will have homes to live in or places to work and many still do not have electricity or gas.

Please ask God to have his hand on New York as it goes through this very difficult time. Pray that God would, in his own providence, use the desolation of Sandy to bring many to a saving knowledge of Him.

Caleb Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

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