Shining the Light in South Carolina

September 30, 2016 • United States
Homeowner Denise Mack is flanked, from left, by Bob and Ruthie Cooper and Kerryn and Ryan Reilly.
Homeowner Denise Mack is flanked, from left, by Bob and Ruthie Cooper and Kerryn and Ryan Reilly.

A New York couple, helped by Samaritan's Purse after Hurricane Sandy, recently worked with us to rebuild a home in Andrews

Volunteer with Samaritan’s Purse

An eight-person Samaritan’s Purse team invested four days of work during July 2013’s sweltering heat to clear the Reillys’ yard of a massive debris pile left by Hurricane Sandy (2012). New Yorkers Ryan and Kerryn were not however content in just thanking the group, giving them hugs, and saying good-bye. The Island Park couple wanted to stay in touch with these folks and forge long-term friendships.

The connection started with email exchanges, then Facebook posts, and next phone calls. As valuable—and fun—as these were, they weren’t enough. Ryan and Kerryn wanted to visit their North and South Carolina friends. But not just to catch up. That wouldn’t be enough either. They wanted to work and minister alongside them.

Destination: Andrews

Just where and when needed to be determined. After a flurry of back-and-forth planning, the location and dates finally crystalized: they would spend a week together in August 2016 in Andrews, South Carolina.

Ryan Reilly and Diego Acosta make sure the kitchen cabinets are ready to be installed.

Ryan Reilly and Diego Acosta make sure the kitchen cabinets are ready to be installed.

South Carolina is the home of Bob and Ruthie Cooper, two of the eight volunteers who helped with the cleanup at Ryan and Kerryn’s home. The Coopers live about 2 hours from Andrews, which was slammed in October 2015 by historic rainfall and devastating floods—and homeowners there needed help from Samaritan’s Purse to rebuild their homes.

Several team members from the New York trip could not make it to Andrews. So some new friends joined the Reillys and the Coopers: Alyssa Urban and Diego Acosta, both from Michigan. Their team leader was Frank Antes of the Eastern Shore in Maryland, who on his very first deployment with Samaritan’s Purse did work one day at the Reilly home.

“We wanted to ‘pay it forward’ for what we were given and what was done for us,” Kerryn explained. “We wanted to contribute to a local community, and Andrews was a great place to do that.”

Ryan added: “I work in construction, and so after the group left our home, I had the privilege of volunteering with Samaritan’s Purse on weekends and working on maybe six different houses in the Island Park area and helping those families rebuild their homes. That was a great experience. But going to Andrews was our first mission outside of New York. It was fantastic.”

Denise’s Story

This crew was one of many volunteer teams that came alongside longtime Andrews resident, Denise Mack, over the course of several months. Her rebuilt home will be completed in mid-October (and all of our work in the area finishes in November). She is one of 29 homeowners for whom we’ve done a rebuild in the Andrews area. [In our initial response, we helped nearly 180 homeowners with mud-outs.]

Site leader Frank Antes double-checks his measurements.

Site leader Frank Antes double-checks his measurements.

“I’m two and a half miles from the Black River, but when floodwaters overflowed its banks, it hit me and kept going,” Denise said. “I had over five feet of water in the yard and just less than two feet in the house.

“My Heavenly Father took care of me,” she quickly added, a smile beaming on her face. “He first brought a church group to mud out the house, then led Samaritan’s Purse to rebuild it.”

From the outset, Frank was encouraged by Denise’s confidence in God’s protection and care. “Her house was in ruins, but her courage, stamina and faith to come through this have been phenomenal,” he said. “Even when things were tough, she’s never questioned the Lord.”

We put in new flooring, walls, bathrooms, windows, gutters, kitchen cabinets, and a sliding glass door. We also retrimmed everything and performed other outside work.

“I knew about the Christmas shoeboxes [Operation Christmas Child], but once I researched Samaritan’s Purse and saw all the other different ministries and outreach programs, I was amazed and praised God,” Denise said. “What’s been encouraging about how Samaritan’s Purse came alongside me in Jesus’ Name was the love that the people have shown me…And, for some, God met their needs in their storms and then [they’ve] gone out and helped other people.”

From Darkness to Light

Our volunteer teams begin their day in prayer.

Our volunteer teams begin their day in prayer.

The Reillys are among those Denise described—once on the receiving end, now on the giving side. Their lives started to change the day our volunteers arrived, and now they are playing a part in changing the lives of others as well—exemplifying 2 Corinthians 9:11: “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God” (ESV).

Just before the Samaritan’s Purse team arrived to help them three years ago, Kerryn and Ryan surveyed their property. Telephone poles, fence posts, interior walls, boat cushions were strewn across the yard. Despair was written on their faces. The 105-degree temperature—the hottest on record—only added to their misery.

“Before Bob and Ruthie and the others showed up, I was in a very dark, dark place,” Kerryn said. “I was an emotional wreck.

“Upon meeting Ruthie and Bob, I knew they were endearing and caring people,” she also said. “When they and the others cleaned out our yard, when nobody else was going to do anything for us, their act of kindness showed me that God was there. He used them to restore our faith.”

“Their act of kindness showed me that God was there. He used them to restore our faith.”

Ryan agreed. “I used to observe all the sacraments and go to church on the major holidays,” he explained. “Not only did God use Bob and Ruthie and the rest of the volunteers to point us to Him, He especially worked through Dave Pertl (a Samaritan’s Purse team leader). Dave and I spent a lot of time together on many jobs, and he really inspired me. Now I’m reading the Bible on a regular basis.”

Ruthie and Bob saw the transformation. “We saw a turn toward the Lord and a joy coming back to them in the midst of a horrific personal storm,” Ruthie said. “That was God who did that.”

Indeed, Bob said. “Our whole team connected with Ryan and Kerryn,” he said. “We talked a lot about the Lord as we walked around in the heat.”

Turning toward the couple, Bob said directly to them: “We saw during the week a spark had been ignited. It was more than just cleaning up your yard. It was people loving on you and exposing you to a God who loves you. His light came on within you.”

And now they’re letting it shine.

Just as we did in South Carolina, we’re looking for volunteers to assist us to in rebuilding homes in West Virginia and Louisiana. Both were hit hard by massive floods, and you can make a difference for Jesus Christ in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, and East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana. You may or may not have construction skills. That doesn’t matter. We’re trying to get as many homeowners as possible back into their homes by Christmas. Will you volunteer?

U.S. Disaster Relief Samaritan's Purse mobilizes and equips thousands of disaster relief 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.

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