This Kentucky Homeowner Isn’t Giving Up After the Flood

March 16, 2021 • United States

Samaritan’s Purse volunteers have come alongside Melissa Bryant and others in eastern Kentucky after catastrophic flooding.

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A couple hours passed one morning and Melissa Bryant found herself homeless.

Melissa was distraught when we first met her.

Melissa was distraught when we first met her. The flood had come quickly and wrecked her home.

The floodwaters came suddenly and showed little mercy to her community in Breathitt County, eastern Kentucky. Her trailer home and everything in it, except for one small air-conditioning unit, was completely destroyed in the deluge.

“The water was coming in so fast. It was above the bottom of my windows, all the way through my house. The water was waist-deep coming out of the house,” Melissa said. “Everything is lost.

Melissa had nowhere to go, and no way to keep herself and her faithful dogs safe and warm. So, she bought a tent and a camping stove.

For nine days, that tent—set up in a nearby parking lot on higher ground—served as her only shelter.

  • The historic flooding in eastern Kentucky devastated hundreds of homes.
    The historic flooding in eastern Kentucky devastated hundreds of homes.

Moving Out of the Tent

When Samaritan’s Purse volunteers arrived at Melissa’s mobile home, they saw the wet, muddy remains of personal belongings scattered across the yard.

She wasn't sure what to do next, but she was grateful to God that she and her beloved dogs were spared.

Melissa wasn’t sure what to do next, but she was grateful to God that she and her beloved dogs were spared.

They were also greeted by Melissa’s dogs, who are only alive because Melissa worked quickly during the flood to get them all to safety. She carried out the newborn puppies first and then moved on to the 15 other dogs.

“I wasn’t going to leave them. They were lined up at the door, waiting. Scooping them up, you could feel their little paws holding onto you.”

Despite losing everything, Melissa is in good spirits. She told our volunteers that she is more worried about others in the community who need help than herself.

Melissa was finally able to move out of her tent when a neighbor brought over a small trailer once used as a food truck and parked it on the street in front of her property. For now, she is still living there, but is anxious for the truck to be used by someone else in need.

Melissa is unable to move back into her trailer home because the damage is beyond repair. She hasn’t even been able to remove all the destroyed belongings because the waterlogged floor threatens to cave in under minimal pressure.

The flood came quickly to Melissa Bryant, but so did our volunteers who helped her clean up.

The flood came quickly to Melissa Bryant, but so did our volunteers who helped her clean up.

A two-room shed behind the trailer home was Melissa’s only viable option for long-term housing, but a lot of work had to be done before it was anywhere close to move-in ready, since the shed also sustained extensive damage during the flood.

“I’m not good at asking for help. I’ve always had to do things myself,” Melissa said. “It’s overwhelming. It makes me feel bad to ask for help. But sometimes you just have to.”

Samaritan’s Purse volunteers worked hard in the shed removing furniture, flooring, insulation, and spraying for mold. Then, they carried everything from there, behind the house, to the road; loaded it up in a truck; and unloaded it at the nearby trash dump.

“I was wondering how we were going to get rid of it all,” Melissa said. “The volunteers have taken so much out…and that will help get us closer to being back in. I’m grateful for everything you’re doing.”

Pray that Melissa will be able to move into that two-room space soon.

Pressing On

In the 50 years that Melissa has called eastern Kentucky home she’s never experienced such a catastrophic natural disaster. Although the flooding has brought intense loss, she refuses to dwell on it.

Melissa says she's not giving up, and she's been strengthened and encouraged by the hard work of our volunteers.

Presented a new Bible by our team, Melissa says she’s not giving up. She’s been strengthened and encouraged by our volunteers’ hard work.

“There have been days I’ve wanted to give up. But I don’t know how to give up—I don’t. I don’t even know where to begin to give up,” she said. “I just keep doing what I can each day and see what tomorrow brings.”

Melissa’s sweet personality is still shining bright after the storm. She remains kind and resilient. She enjoys laughing and joking around. Melissa is remarkably selfless, ready to do anything to help others when she’s endured so much herself.

Melissa attributes her continued fortitude to one source: God.

“The good Lord above—He’s all I can depend on. I’m waiting on Him to get us to where we need to go,” Melissa said. “Without Him, what are we? Who are we? We’re nothing without Him. I trust in Jesus.”

Volunteers Serve at Home

Among the volunteers who worked on Melissa’s home is John Ramsey, a retired prison chaplain who was born and raised in eastern Kentucky. Although he moved to Indiana several years ago to be closer to grandchildren, he still considers Kentucky home. “I have a kinship with the people here. When you go home, you know you’re home. That’s the way I feel here.”

Volunteer John Ramsey says this part of eastern Kentucky feels like home to him.

Volunteer John Ramsey says this part of eastern Kentucky feels like home to him. He lives an hour north. “I have a kinship with the people here.”

John knows that life can change suddenly due to unexpected natural disasters. A deadly tornado missed his home in West Liberty, Kentucky, by half a mile. He watched as the storm hit a modular home and then a house trailer. Two of his neighbors were killed. “That was a wake-up call for how quickly things can change,” he said.

John volunteered in Breathitt County alongside his niece Kathy Lefevers, also a native of eastern Kentucky. Kathy is a dentist in the region and was first introduced to the work of Samaritan’s Purse through medical volunteer trips to Bolivia. She has also served on disaster relief deployments to Texas, Florida, and Tennessee.

Kathy said that volunteering so close to home is difficult, as it’s “especially hard to see the devastation. You know how hard it’s going to be for them to rebuild.”

Kathy Lefevers says she is blessed by helping her hurting fellow eastern Kentuckians.

Kathy Lefevers says she is blessed by helping her hurting fellow eastern Kentuckians.

In an area with a long history of economic insecurity—with many coal miners now out of work and looking for other employment—the situation is even more heartbreaking.

“There’s a lot of poverty, hopelessness. There are so many people who are unchurched in this area,” Kathy said. “They need to see the love of Jesus in action. Eastern Kentucky is a mission field.”

Kathy encouraged people to come out and volunteer and not only bless people in need, but to also be blessed.

“We’re helping homeowners when they’ve lost everything and their lives have been turned upside down. We’re here to show them the love of Jesus with hands-on help. Once you volunteer one time, you want to keep doing it.”

SUPPORT
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.

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