Liberty University Students Repair Homes in Eastern Kentucky

March 18, 2022 • United States

Samaritan’s Purse welcomed Liberty University staff and students to Breathitt County, Kentucky, this week to repair homes damaged in historic flooding last year.

Johnny Collins has lived in the same home in Jackson, Kentucky, with his wife, Barbara, for over 30 years. It’s where their children grew up, and now they enjoy spending time watching their grandchildren play on the swing set and drive around in electric toy cars in their big backyard.

Liberty Students sand the walls at Johnny Collins home.

Liberty Students staple insulation into the walls of Johnny Collins’ home.

A year ago this month, though, the couple was watching a disaster unfold in that same beautiful space. The river near their home rose more than 30 feet, seeping into the basement where his son and two grandchildren live.

Furniture, flooring, and walls became waterlogged. Precious family belongings were damaged or destroyed.

Johnny and Barbara were one of hundreds in Breathitt County who watched as their homes were inundated by floodwaters in March 2021 in eastern Kentucky. Many had to flee. Some needed rescue because they waited too long.

Many left behind a lifetime worth of memories created in homes they found dilapidated and rotted when they returned.

A Well-Constructed Week of Working in Jesus’ Name

For a few months now, new carloads of Samaritan’s Purse volunteers have arrived weekly to join our rebuild efforts in the region. This week, students from Liberty University’s Serve Now program joined the work.

Liberty Students enjoyed helping in Jesus' Name while learning new skills on the job.

Liberty Students enjoyed helping in Jesus’ Name while learning new skills on the job.

The Serve Now students traded in a week at the beach to assist homeowners who are still picking up the pieces of their lives even a year later.

The students spent the week sanding down walls, painting, placing fill dirt, and laying block for foundations.

“They’re good people,” Johnny said. “I really appreciate what they do. I’ve never had any help before doing anything, and I couldn’t do all of this by myself. We’re tickled to death.”

Sophomore nursing student Jasmine Kane spent hours sanding down bathroom walls in the Collins home. The walls had to be overhauled where muddy water had infiltrated and mold started to grow. Despite exhausted arms and dust-covered clothing, she said this was exactly where she wanted to be.

“Everybody deserves to have a home,” Jasmine said. “It’s nobody’s fault the flooding came, so I think it’s amazing that we have the opportunity to help, and I’m glad to be a part of it. It’s not taking away my spring break. This is how I want to spend it.”

A Firm Foundation for a Life of Ministry

When students weren’t working at the home painting the walls in the Collinses’ basement or stapling in new insulation to help retain heat during cold Kentucky winters, they were busy shoveling dirt and moving heavy cement blocks to help lay the foundation on the property of Treva King and her 92-year-old mother, Monail.

Students help prepare the foundation for Treva's  new home.

Students help prepare the foundation for Treva’s home.

“All you could see was water,” Treva said, describing the day of the flooding and pointing through the trees to where she saw the water approaching–a distant green field that a year ago had become a small lake of brown river water. “I was born and raised here. I have put up with water, but I had never seen anything like it in my life.”

For Treva and her family, what they lost to the floodwaters was so much more than just a roof over their heads. It housed decades of rich family history. “I was born in the bedroom in there. My brother was, too. I grew up in that house.”

As Liberty students hoisted cement block after cement block, the edges of a foundation began to take shape, and Treva expressed gratitude for the young men and women helping them start the next chapter of their lives.

“They gave of themselves this week while they were working on my home,” Treva said. “When I move into this house with my mother, I know for a fact a part of those volunteers will be here. It’s amazing to see the love that’s going into building this home.”

Mechanical engineering student Joseph Krahn says he's learning ministry and construction skills he'll carry with him for a lifetime.

Mechanical engineering student Joseph Krahn says he’s learning ministry and construction skills he’ll carry with him for a lifetime.

Pam Trowbridge, Liberty Serve Now’s student development coordinator, said her students jumped at the opportunity to serve.

“Every single one of them has a heart to serve,” she said. “They are motivated to share their faith and serve hurting people who are in need. That’s why they are here.”

While students worked at different sites, they also had the opportunity to learn new skills from Samaritan’s Purse construction staff. They used saws, drills, staple guns and other tools as they helped build decks or install insulation.

“I’m doing a lot of things with woodworking and carpentry I don’t have experience in,” said freshman mechanical engineering major Joseph Krahn. “Not only are we coming to work and minister to homeowners, but I’m hopeful that through this trip I’ll be able to take home technical skills that I’ll be able to use for the rest of my life.”

We praise God that at the conclusion of our work in this flooded part of eastern Kentucky, 13 families will be living in homes repaired or replaced by the Samaritan’s Purse project in Breathitt County.

Please be in prayer for the people of this community as they continue to recover and for our teams in the area as they serve.