by Public Relations Office—Cedarville, Ohio
Cedarville, Ohio-“Miss Kitty” is a charming, outgoing, elderly resident of the hurricane-devastated region of Port Arthur, Texas. Besides salvaging the wreckage of her newly purchased home, she also has had to discontinue cancer treatments after catching pneumonia, mourn the deaths of two of her adult children, and care for one son in the hospital. “She felt like Job from the Old Testament,” recalled Jon Purple, student life dean at Cedarville University.
Purple met Miss Kitty during Cedarville University’s fall break. He and 15 students drove 1,100 miles in 20 hours to work alongside Samaritan’s Purse in hurricane relief.
Purple explained, “Instead of just mourning the situation, we knew we had to take action - God wanted Cedarville University to be a part of the solution. We needed to be God's hands and feet. The fact that 60 students applied for the trip speaks volumes about the spirit of service our students exhibit. The 15 that were chosen for the team spent time not just cleaning up houses, but also ministering.”
When they arrived, they were greeted by “piles of ruined memories,” as junior Rachel Bowers described. Another junior, Rachel Slagh, said, “The garbage piles wrapped around the block and were five feet tall. As I began to look closer, I saw not only drywall, tiles and carpets, but also TVs, refrigerators, beds, dressers full of clothes, and toys. It wasn’t just trash, but people’s lives.”
The main task consisted of removing all drywall, insulation and flooring from houses. Several team members said they’d never be able to forget the sight or smell of black mold spores etching a vine-like pattern in the crumbling house walls. Between the nauseating smell and face masks, it was hard to breathe. Students took turns carting debris outside to the curb, making more than 100 runs in one day.
Some enjoyed brief breaks from the hard, muscle-tiring labor. Junior Diana Basford recalled, “I had the pleasure of hand-washing a stain glass collection. A few team members and I sang hymns as we washed the scum off the pieces. It was such a precious time, lifting our voices and admiring the beauty of the craftsmanship in the midst of devastating loss.” Others enjoyed listening to homeowners’ stories while washing personal possessions like records and keepsakes.
The team members were deeply humbled by the joyful gratitude and bravery of the homeowners. It was obvious that the Port Arthur residents still had their most valuable “possessions” - their priceless memories and relationships. Bowers said, “Overall, I learned that I should not build up treasures here on earth. If I would be devastated about losing earthly things, I need to reevaluate where I am placing my efforts and focus.”