Samaritan’s Purse Extends Hope to Middle Tennessee Families This Christmas

December 14, 2023 • United States
Samaritan’s Purse volunteers are working hard to clean up downed trees after deadly tornadoes struck Middle Tennessee last week.

Teams of volunteers are responding after multiple deadly tornadoes tore through neighborhoods on Dec 9.

U.S. Disaster Relief
A heartbreaking scene unfolded on Dec. 9 when twisters wreaked havoc in Middle Tennessee communities and claimed the lives of six people, including two young children. Scattered among the pieces of splintered homes were colorful Christmas decorations, which stood in stark contrast to the joy that the Christmas season usually brings.

“It’s one of the worst times of the year for something like this to happen; it makes it heavier,” said Clarksville, Tennessee, resident Allison Hodge. “We’re not the only neighborhood that got hit like this. My heart is just bleeding for these communities.”

The tornadoes that tore through Clarksville, Tennessee, on Dec. 9 left a path of utter destruction.

Allison and her husband, Michael, are both wounded service members who participate in Operation Heal Our Patriots, a Samaritan’s Purse ministry to military marriages that begins with a week-long retreat in Alaska. The couple felt crushed under the burden of recovering from the storm’s wreckage. With physical and mental challenges to overcome daily, the removal of debris, broken fencing, and several large fallen trees was a daunting task.

The morning after the storm, Samaritan’s Purse deployed disaster response teams to the area to assess damage and needs among homeowners like the Hodges. We sent two Disaster Relief Units—tractor-trailers stocked with tools and equipment—to two Tennessee locations: Clarksville and the Nashville area.

Veterans Serving Veterans

Serving alongside our teams were members of Team Patriot, a band of Operation Heal Our Patriot participants who deploy to the frontlines of storms and other disasters. Akin to what some of them may have experienced in battle, the Clarksville area looked like a war zone.

The EF3 tornado that tore through the Hodges’ neighborhood traveled 11 destructive miles across town with 150 mph winds. The couple had left the area during the storm, only to return home to streets and property piled with debris.

Volunteers worked to clean up the Hodge family’s yard.

“It was terrifying not knowing what I was going to come home to or who in the neighborhood we lost. I was thanking God the whole way home that my kids were OK,” Allison said.

She said that within a day or two, the paralysis of fear and uncertainty were replaced with the relief of a familiar sight—seeing a Samaritan’s Purse truck arrive with an army of volunteers. It had been nearly 10 years since their time in Alaska, but it still felt like seeing family in a moment of immense need.

Team Patriot came to the aid of fellow Operation Heal Our Patriots participants when they served the Hodges.

One volunteer couple, Leila and Scott Restivo, knew exactly why God placed Allison and Michael in their path. They participated in Operation Heal Our Patriots this past summer, and were inspired by the kindness and care of Samaritan’s Purse staff in Alaska. After returning home, they were eager to serve their local community and share the love of Christ.

This particular tragedy struck home for Scott and Leila because they once lived in the same neighborhood as Allison and Michael.

“When we first pulled up, Allison looked like she needed a hug,” said Leila. “She told me, ‘Thank you. I don’t want to cry anymore. I’ve cried all week.’ Watching the storm and seeing the devastation is heartbreaking for anybody but living in the middle of it all around you, that has to be full of so many mixed emotions.”

A volunteer signs the Bible that the team presented to the Hodges when they finished working on their property.

Leila took the opportunity to encourage Allison and Michael to attend the next Operation Heal Our Patriots reunion to provide encouragement and refreshment during this tough season. Leila and Allison even swapped phone numbers to provide additional support for each other.

“It was very special showing up here and finding out that we we’re serving another Operation Heal Our Patriots couple. That’s definitely God working,” Leila said.

As volunteers hauled debris to the street, a relieved Alison said, “I don’t know what we would’ve done without you guys. I’m praising God. He was really looking out for us.”

Michael and Allison Hodge gratefully received the Billy Graham Training Center Bible from the team.

Helping in the Healing Process

When it came time for the volunteers to leave, they gathered with the Hodges to present a Billy Graham Training Center Bible signed by the team. Palmer Pisle, a longtime member of our U.S. Disaster Relief team, shared with the family.

“It’s our privilege to be here,” he said. “We don’t come because of your house, we don’t come because of your stuff, we come because of you. It’s an honor to serve you and do something for you to give you hope and help you in the healing process.”

So far, more than 170 Samaritan’s Purse volunteers have served over 30 families in the Middle Tennessee area. Please join us in praying for these communities as families start to piece their lives back together in the midst of the Christmas season. Pray that the hope of Jesus Christ will shine brightly through our volunteers and touch the hearts of those we serve in the Volunteer State.

Samaritan’s Purse volunteers circle up to pray while working on the Hodge property.

U.S. Disaster Relief Samaritan's Purse mobilizes and equips thousands of volunteers to provide emergency aid to U.S. victims of wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. In the aftermath of major storms, we often stay behind to rebuild houses for people with nowhere else to turn for help.

U.S. Disaster Relief 013622