Most people know southwestern Florida is filled with retiree communities, many of whom have moved down in the last several years to enjoy the milder weather. But it has been five years since that area saw a major hurricane pass through, and lots of people weren't prepared. Many of the families that ReachGlobal Crisis Response is currently working alongside are new to the hurricane zone, and they don't know how to begin recovering from a storm like Hurricane Ian. They find themselves with lots of questions, lots of confusion over the process, and are easy prey for scams and price gouging. By working with local churches, other NGOs, and community leaders, our staff are working to provide true answers and walk people through an overwhelming process.
Our staff and volunteers bring the gift of experience, helping teach homeowners and communities about how to use moisture meters, how to gut a flooded home, and what is salvageable and what is not. In fact, two of our partner churches that hosted their own hurricane responses, One Harbor Church in Morehead City, NC and Trinity Church in Covington LA, have sent teams down to serve in Fort Myers. These teams are uniquely positioned to bring help and hope because they have experienced this kind of community trauma firsthand.
In addition to being older, many of the homeowners we are serving are also widows. One woman asked our staff, "Why do I have to go through this alone?" Our staff, volunteers, and local church partners have an opportunity to bring the gift of presence. Just being with people as they process through the loss from the hurricane can be a huge ministry opportunity. And God calls us to mourn with those who mourn. This picture shows one of our staff going through and laying out old photos in the hope of salvaging some from the flood waters. Simply taking the time to recognize the scale of what was lost, to listen to the stories and memories attached, and to hear a person's story can be a gift, a ministry of presence.
The weeks right after a storm are frantic and chaotic, trying to balance the physical, emotional and relational needs of our homeowners with the people we have available to serve. The needs will always be bigger than our power, but God multiplies our offerings to heal hearts and change lives. Recently one of our staff dropped by Miss Sue's for a couple minutes, and got there just as the trash trucks were picking up the debris. She hugged Miss Sue and together they watched the trucks haul away all of her destroyed possessions. The next day our staff got a message, “Thank you for your presence yesterday. Your arm around my shoulders meant more than I can find words for.” Praise God for his wisdom and his perfect timing, to have someone there so Miss Sue didn't have to be alone in that moment.
We are so blessed and humbled to be used by God in the mission field that was created by Hurricane Ian. Our partner churches, our volunteer teams, and all of our staff are serving to offer real help and real hope to families and communities who are just beginning their recovery. And we need your help.
Pray with us: for more staff to serve in this new mission field, for teams to come with a heart to serve, for our partner churches to find a healthy rhythm in this long-term ministry.
Give to support the response in Florida. We know times are hard for many families, but we will need financial gifts to sustain a response.
Serve with us: there are opportunities to serve for a week, a month, or longer. Click here for more information on how to bring a team from your church to serve in Florida. Or email us to get information on serving as staff in Florida or at one of our other response sites.
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