The pastor of St. Augustine Church recounts his personal experience.
As Hurricane Matthew approached the east coast of Florida, first responders were notified with the order, “Be ready.” Once the hurricane hit, it was immediately obvious that damage was significant, and clean-up would be extensive in St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest city.
The majority of destruction hit the downtown historic district and southern shoreline through Palm Coast. Many residents were displaced and devastated with the surge that flooded their homes. After assessing the situation, the members and I knew we had to do something.
Through contact with Conrad Duncan, Florida Conference Adventist Community Services director, I received a call from David Canther, CEO and founder of GR3 (Global Rescue, Relief, and Resilience; formerly ACTS World Relief), who connected us with first responders in Jacksonville. We gave them a status report on the area situation and offered our church as an option to house as many first responders as they could send.
Within two days, the church fellowship hall/gym quickly became a command center as Adventist first response teams were bussed in from Tri-City Academy (North Carolina), Heritage Academy (Tennessee), Harbert Hills Academy (Tennessee), and Fletcher Academy (North Carolina). We were impressed by the professionalism and organization of the faculty and students who came highly trained in the field of emergency response.
It was such a blessing to work alongside these volunteers as they touched so many people in the community with everything from removing fallen trees and yard debris and mucking out homes devastated by the surge, to the very touching moments of praying with discouraged residents, sharing tracts of hope, or just offering a listening ear.
Jim Ingersoll, Southern Union Conference associate director of education, and his wife, Becky, guided volunteers and provided the organizational leadership needed to get as much work accomplished as possible in 10 days, as the students rotated through the St. Augustine Church site. Our church and volunteers came together to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a hurting community.
Ryan Amos, pastor of Jacksonville Southpoint Church, provided experience and resources as he assisted in leading and networking within the community. We were also thankful for a large donation of Little Debbie products from McKee Foods which were distributed throughout the community and several volunteer sites established by the local Emergency Operation Center.
Because of serving the community in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew’s devastation, I witnessed friendships develop and a relevance in ministry that I have never experienced before!
Florida | February 2017