The financial crisis of 2008 hit my family hard.
We lived in Massachusetts at the time and had money, vacation homes, fur coats, horses, even a wine cellar — all the earthly possessions we could want. We thought life was so good…
…until we lost it ALL.
The homes, the money, some fair-weather friends, and even the wine cellar — gone. It was so very difficult. My husband had to take a job in the laundromat of a local VA hospital to keep us going.
We pulled ourselves up and moved in with family in Virginia, bringing two Pods full of furniture and two old cars. Paying $1,000 a month for rent was a welcome change to our budget and helped us start all over again.
Literally, all over again.
I grew my career back and managed to get a leg up in my professional world while raising our son, and my husband flew back and forth to New Bedford, Massachusetts to work on a fishing boat like he did when he was in his 30’s and 40’s. Now in his late 50’s, he had to go back to doing young man’s work to get us back on our feet. Eventually we bought a house and my husband found a job as a Sea Captain here in Virginia. Who would have thought a Sea Captain would find a job in Central Virginia? But he did. God was working! He had a plan for us all along.
In September 2017, I was at work and heard the news about Hurricane Harvey hitting Texas. The devastating damage and personal loss weighed so heavily on me. In that moment I felt God pulling at me. He pulled so hard that I literally jumped out of my seat at work and said out loud, “I am going to Texas to help the hurting people!” I had no idea how to go about something like that, so I started looking online.
I found that the Red Cross would pay for me to fly there, but I needed to commit to two weeks. I looked again and came upon Samaritan’s Purse — the shoe box people with Billy Graham — a Christian organization. I had seen Billy Graham in Providence, RI, during a church youth group event when I was a kid. I also found out that Truist Bank, my employer, offered paid volunteer time off. Between that, the vacation time I had left and a terrific manager, I was able to make it work.
That very day I called my husband, booked a flight for myself and my 16-year-old son, and $2,000 later (only two months worth of the rent I used to pay) we were headed to Texas with no idea how to do the work or what to expect. But we knew that God was working. Everything fell into place in one day! He is so good all the time.
When we arrived in Texas, we were sent to a host church that became our home base for the week. The people were kind and so happy we were there. They found us space to put our blowup mattresses and sleeping bags, welcomed us in, and invited us to join about 150 people for worship and a hot meal before heading off to bed.
The next day was overwhelming. I felt God’s presence so clearly within me. My son was scared as we drove to the work site. When we got there, it was a complete disaster zone. I had never seen anything like it. Even the drive in from the airport displayed debris piled on the side of the roads, homes that were completely gone, and people’s belongings blown around, wet, damp, moldy, and destroyed. My heart went out to the people. I could feel their pain so clearly. After all, I could relate to them — I had lost everything once, too.
Everything except God’s love.
That trip was when I realized how good God is all the time! The loss I experienced in my own life allowed me to help others through their own time of loss. I had the opportunity to serve them and show them the love of Jesus through my actions, words, and sometimes even just silence.
When I volunteer, I go beyond myself. Knowing that God is using me — me! — of all people is such a great reward. After that trip to Texas, I deployed alone, with groups, and with a couple different organizations. It didn’t matter when, with whom, or how, I just went when God asked me to go. I obeyed His command to go “Do Good” and “Be the Change.” On every trip I’ve been on, the homeowners can’t believe that people would come from all over the country just to help them.
THAT is how God works. THAT is how we show love.
My favorite part of the week is when our team presents the homeowners with a Bible that we’ve all written a favorite quote in and signed. After our job is done, we gather around them in a circle and pray over them while they hold hands. Before we leave, we make sure they are aligned with a local church so they can continue on their path to gaining faith. We encourage them and guide them to a local small group to continue their growth in the Lord. We follow up with them — even months later — to make sure they’re okay. Best of all, because of the love they’ve experienced, some people even begin a relationship with Jesus!
No matter what your gifts and skills are, you can participate in a disaster relief trip. Housing and food are provided for free, so the only cost is what it takes for you to get there. If that feels like too much, please pray about serving or donating with your campus Do Good team. There are plenty of ways to help with far away and local projects, even if all you can do is pray. When we love our neighbors, the gift we receive is truly like none other.
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” -Philippians 3:7-8 (NIV)
To learn more about disaster recovery at PCC, contact Lynne at email@example.com.