Finding Family Time in Volunteering

December 12, 2012 • United States

A father and daughter travel across the country to work with Samaritan's Purse to help Hurricane Sandy victims in New York

Grace Hayes was on the other side of the United States in Sacramento, Calif., when Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast. But even at that distance, she felt the effect of the storm. Although none of her family or friends had been affected, she was impacted in a powerful way.

“I felt like God was calling me to go, and it was really strong in my heart,” she said.

Many 21 year olds wouldn’t know how to get across the country to help disaster victims, but Grace knew where to find an excellent source of information. Her father, Brent, has been working on short-term missions since before she was born, including volunteer stints with Samaritan’s Purse.

CONTINUING TO HELP: Samaritan’s Purse is aiding storm victims in New Jersey and New York in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

When she called, he told her that he had already booked a flight to join Samaritan’s Purse in New York. Grace trusted God and applied to volunteer with her father. She posted a status on Facebook, saying that she needed funds for the trip. The next morning, she woke up with a text from a friend who was willing to supply all the money necessary for the flight.

Brent had volunteered with Samaritan’s Purse in other locations, but Grace knew almost nothing about the organization. She was amazed to see hundreds of volunteers in orange T-shirts when she arrived at our base in Nassau County. At first she felt overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do. But as her time with the team progressed, so did her knowledge.

“Emotionally it’s really hard because I feel like I’m at a loss of words sometimes, and I don’t know what to say to [the homeowners] because they’re at a loss and they’re so overwhelmed,” she said. “That’s the hard part, so I’ve just been praying that the Lord gives me wisdom and that He speaks through me.”

Much of her support came from the sea of orange around her. The other volunteers encouraged and taught her. That support was crucial during her first few days.

“The first couple of days I was getting really homesick, but these people have taken me in,” Grace said. “I feel like these are my family members.”

Brent and Grace Hayes work together

Grace became close with the other volunteers as they worked together during the day, dined together in the evening, and shared stories. She watched as her father led the team each day, and she saw how God was able to work through him.

“I just love to see the Lord move,” Brent said. “I love to see Him work. I especially like it when He works through me. I get to see His hand; I get to see His blessing. He uses me to touch other people’s lives that just wouldn’t happen any other way.”

Brent is a police chaplain in California, and he quickly found that his training was useful in talking with the homeowners in New York. The first house he worked on belonged to a disabled Long Island policeman. The man had been struggling to provide for his family and play with his children, and Brent could see the despair on his face.

“The Lord placed me in that home,” Brent said. “The Lord put me there just to share with him and connect with him in a way many other people can’t.”

Brent and Grace saw the impact the work had on the policeman. As they finished the home, they prayed over him and his family and gave him a Bible.

“The dedication is one of the best experiences,” Brent said. “Being able to dedicate that home and to bless that home and to know that the Lord is there and the impact that you have made and all the volunteers have made in those lives is …”

“It’s so overwhelming in a good way,” Grace finished his sentence with tears in her eyes.

Brent Hayes presents a Bible to a homeowner

As Brent used his skills as a team leader, Grace found that her abilities could be used back at camp HQ. Although she worked with her father on gutting out homes, she also spent several days learning from the office manager. Her heart for missions grew as she found different ways to be involved.

Brent started working in missions in 1986 in Mexico. Since that time, he has volunteered in places all over the world. During this trip in New York, he saw that same passion ignited in Grace.

“If there was one word of encouragement that I give to someone that’s considering volunteering, it’s bring your kids,” Brent said. “Watch them grow. You get to see the Lord work in their lives in such a powerful way. It’s such a blessing.”